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24 January 2003

Governing Council
of the United Nations
Environment Programme

24 January 2003

Twenty-second session of the Governing Council/
Global Ministerial Environment Forum
Nairobi, 3-7 February 2003
Item 4 (a) of the provisional agenda*

Policy issues: State of the environment


Report of the Executive Director**


Environmental situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories


The present document contains information on the steps taken to implement decision SS.VII/7 of 15 February 2002, of the Governing Council of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), on the environmental situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. The document also contained, in the annex, recommendations by the UNEP desk study team which have been produced as submitted without any formal editing.

* UNEP/GC.22/1.
** The document was submitted late to the conference services without the explanation required under paragraph 8 of General Assembly resolution 53/208 B, by which the Assembly decided that, if a report is submitted late, the reason should be included in a footnote of the document.


1. In February 2002, at its seventh special session, the UNEP Governing Council unanimously adopted decision SS.VII/7 requesting the UNEP Executive Director to designate a team of UNEP experts to prepare a desk study outlining the state of environment in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and to identify areas of major environmental damage requiring urgent attention.

2. The decision also requested UNEP to undertake field studies, as deemed necessary, with the objective of proposing remedial measures, to follow up on the findings and recommendations of the study and to assist the Palestinian Ministry of Environmental Affairs in its efforts to address urgent environmental needs.

3. High priority was given to the implementation of the decision, and one month later, during the preparatory ministerial segment of the fourteenth session of the Arab League in Beirut in March, 2002, the Executive Director presented the decision in his address to the ministers of finance and economy, and invited all the member States of the Arab League to cooperate with UNEP in working towards achieving a scientifically sound desk study with a forward-looking approach.

4. The geographical scope of the Occupied Palestinian Territories is addressed in several resolutions of the United Nations General Assembly and the Security Council. The main focus of the UNEP desk study was the areas where there are acute environmental problems.

5. The desk study iss based on a review of available, relevant studies and interviews with officials, experts, academics, municipal officials and non-governmental organizations. It lists priorities and proposes recommendations for solving environmental problems. The desk study addresses environmental issues identified as the most vital for the environment in the region: water quality and quantity; solid waste; waste water; hazardous waste; biodiversity; land use and land-use change; and environmental administration.

6. The Executive Director of UNEP visited the Occupied Palestinian Territories and Israel from 13 to 16 July 2002. He met with Mr. Yousef Abu Safieh, Minister of the Palestinian Higher Agency for the Environment and with the Israeli Environment Minister Mr. Tzachi Hanegbi. He also met with the President of the Palestinian Authority and Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Palestinian Liberation Organization, Mr. Yasser Arafat and with the Israeli Prime Minister Mr. Ariel Sharon. A framework for the desk study was agreed on with both parties.

7. It was agreed that the desk study would list priorities and propose recommendations for solving environmental problems, based on a forward-looking approach.

8. The Executive Director of UNEP invited Mr. Pekka Haavisto, former Minister of Environment and Development Cooperation of Finland, to lead the desk study team of eight highly qualified experts.

9. Following the visit by the Executive Director, a preparatory UNEP expert mission to Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories took place from 15 to 22 August 2002.

10. As part of the desk study, UNEP convened a one-day advisory meeting on 23 August 2002, to gather information from a range of sources, in a neutral setting. The objective of the meeting was to provide information to participants on the UNEP desk study, and to obtain information from other organizations, including organizations within the United Nations system, on their past and ongoing relevant activities. Participants included representatives of international organizations, international non-governmental organizations and environmental experts.

11. The UNEP desk study team visited the Occupied Palestinian Territories and Israel, between 1 and 11 October 2002. The team included in-house experts, as well as experts contracted from UNEP’s collaborating centres and other international environmental institutes. The experts covered the following topics: water quantity, water and soil quality; waste water; solid waste, hazardous waste; environmental administration; land use and biodiversity.

12. During the mission, the desk study team met a broad range of Palestinian officials, non-governmental organizations, academics, as well as municipal officials working on environmental protection at various levels. The team was also received by Mr. Yasser Arafat in Ramallah. In addition, the team met with Israeli officials and representatives of non-governmental organizations. By sometimes splitting up into five different groups, the team was able to visit many sites, ranging from solid waste dumps and waste-water treatment plants, to rangeland rehabilitation projects, and many other sites where there has been damage to environmental infrastructure as a result of the conflict. The team stayed in Jerusalem (Al Quds) and in Gaza, and was also able to visit Bethlehem, the Emek Hefer area, Halhoul, Hebron (Al Khalil) and its environs, Jenin, Ramallah and Tel Aviv.

13. Despite the fact that the desk study focuses on the Occupied Palestinian Territories, UNEP has emphasized that it should engender a positive environmental outcome for the whole region. Therefore, in its chapter 11, the desk study makes clear recommendations on how to improve the environment in such a fashion that it will be beneficial not only to the Occupied Palestinian Territories, but to the region as a whole. The full study is presented in document UNEP/GC.22/INF/31 ─ Desk study on the Environment in the Occupied Palestinian Territories: Note by the Executive Director.

14. Prior to and during the visits to the region by UNEP officials, consultations were held with the key United Nations agencies in the region including the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), the Office of the United Nations Special Coordinator in the Occupied Territories (UNSCO), the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). In addition, other UNEP specialists contributed to the analysis of satellite images and cartography work in the report.

15. The secretariat hereby submits, in annex, the recommendations of the UNEP desk study team to the Governing Council/Global Ministerial Environment Forum for its consideration and recommendation on the way forward. The full text of the desk study is contained in document UNEP/GC.22/INF/31.


Recommendations proposed in the Desk Study

Among other factors, the occupation, policies of closure and curfew and incursions of the Israeli military have had significant negative environmental impacts. Many of the findings in this UNEP Desk Study are alarming, and need to be addressed immediately.

In the current phase of the conflict, the absence of even minimal cooperation is worsening the situation on a daily basis, with impacts not only on the environment but also on human health.

For these reasons, the Israelis and Palestinians, as well as the international community, should do their utmost to put an end to the conflict. All efforts at seeking a peaceful solution should include parallel attempts to re-open channels to address environmental protection, which could be facilitated by an independent third party, when needed.

The alarming conflict-related environmental problems are adding to existing pressures on the environment, which include population pressures coupled with scarcity of land, weak environmental infrastructure, inadequate resources for environmental management, and global environmental trends such as desertification and climate change.

Transboundary and international cooperation

As a result of the occupation and the escalation of the Israel-Palestinian conflict since September 2000 (second intifada), only minimal cooperation between the Israeli and Palestinian authorities is taking place. However, a document signed by the water authorities of both parties aims to keep water and wastewater issues out of the conflict, but even this has proved to be difficult. In particular, almost all projects relating to wastewater have been on hold since autumn 2000, although the Israelis have reported positive news on the meeting of the Joint Water Committee in December 2002. Given the alarming findings of the Desk Study, cooperation between the parties on acute environmental issues should be immediately revitalized. There is need for an institutional framework to negotiate these issues, especially during times of conflict. The specific recommendations are listed below.

1. Keep the environment out of the conflict.
At the beginning of the second intifada, an agreement between Israeli and Palestinian water authorities was made to keep water and wastewater issues out of the conflict. This agreement should be supported and respected by all parties, and should be extended to all environmental issues, including solid waste management, hazardous wastes and protection of biodiversity. The international community should give its full support to keeping the environment out of the conflict. Israel’s role as a valuable partner in any regional and international cooperation should be recognized.

2. Reactivate the Joint Environmental Experts Committee established by the Oslo agreements. 3. Build on regional solutions. 4. Revitalize the cross-border cooperation between environmental authorities, experts, scientists and NGOs.
5. Facilitate the Palestinian Authority’s participation in international environmental cooperation.
6. Make environment a priority.
7. Coordinate environmental laws and regulations regionally.
8. The international community and donors should support sustainable development and environmental cooperation.
9. Active role for the Global Environment Facility (GEF).
10. Develop environmental cooperation as a confidence-building tool.

National Environment Action Plan (NEAP)

The Palestinian Authority needs a scientific and clearly prioritized plan to work with the most acute environmental problems. This work plan can be developed from the existing National Environment Action Plan (NEAP).

11. Review and update the National Environment Action Plan (NEAP).
12. Include all stakeholders in the revised NEAP.
13. Develop sectoral environment policies based on the NEAP.
14. Develop capacity-building for the NEAP.
15. Promote environmental education.
Environmental Quality Authority (EQA)

The Palestinian Environmental Quality Authority (EQA) has the main responsibility for environmental administration in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. It still lacks a clear mandate, and financial and human resources to fulfil its tasks. An additional problem for EQA, as for all other bodies of the Palestinian administration, is that the work is conducted in two geographically separate entities, the West Bank and Gaza.

16. Strengthen the mandate of EQA.
17. Build capacity for intersectoral cooperation.
18. Improve the controlling capacity of EQA.
19. Use environmental impact assessments (EIA).
20. Strengthen the enforcement of environmental laws.
Land-use planning

Land-use planning is one of the most difficult issues in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. The Oslo agreements divide the territory into areas A, B and C, where Israeli and Palestinian authorities have different mandates and responsibilities. Once the Palestinian Authority received full powers and responsibilities over land-use planning in areas A and B, according to the Oslo Accords, Israel has not been involved in land-use planning processes in those areas. In the current conflict situation, the Israeli military has re-occupied various parts of the areas A and B at different times, and therefore the Palestinian Authority has had difficulty in carrying out its responsibilities on land-use planning.

It is also evident that many environmental improvements – building of new wastewater treatment plants, upgrading the quality of landfills or relocating them, etc. – are pending, and may not be resolved before there is an end to the conflict.

As a consequence of the occupation, the security demands make land-use planning a very complex process and an additional burden on the environment by having existing settlements and the land areas divided into different sectors. This leads to a situation where double-infrastructure often exists in an area where land is already scarce (e.g. security roads to settlements).

21. Improve cross-border cooperation in land-use planning.
22. Take environmental considerations into account in land-use planning.
Non-governmental organizations (NGOs)

One of the negative aspects of the current conflict is that very few non-governmental organizations in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and in Israel have cross-border cooperation. The role of the civil society and NGOs is vital and therefore cooperation between NGOs should be encouraged. Also, inside the Occupied Palestinian Territories, the NGOs should be given more room to influence policy-making.

23. Encourage NGO cooperation between Palestinians and Israelis. 24. Support the role of NGOs inside the Occupied Palestinian Territory.
Discussing environmental issues, the presenting different opinions and challenging the authorities are normal functions that NGOs carry out in democratic societies. The Palestinian National Environmental Action Plan also recognizes the important role of the NGOs. A strengthening of the capacities and the role of NGOs, and preserving of their independence, should be encouraged. An important aspect related to NGO activities is access to all information, and this should include full transparency on donor-funded environmental projects.

Private sector

The private sector has become a crucial player in environmental policies, due to commitments and environmental standards adopted voluntarily by the business community. The private sector should be made an ally in the much-needed environmental changes in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

25. Open an environmental dialogue with the private sector.
The private sector should be fully engaged in environmental policy-making in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. This would enable it to continue working proactively on environmental management and to further facilitate the work of the Environmental Quality Authority.

26. Introduce voluntary environmental standards in the private sector.
Environmental quality standards, such as ISO 14001, should be introduced in the private sector.

Freshwater management

Due to the water scarcity in the region, freshwater is the most crucial aspect of environmental management in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Water is also one of the important issues addressed in the Oslo Accords. Even since the escalation of the conflict, attempts have been made to follow the lines of the Oslo Accords with regard to the establishment of new wells and management of quantities pumped.

According to the information available to UNEP, both the quantity of water that may be extracted on a sustainable basis and the quality of the groundwater should be addressed. The overall quantity of water that may be pumped on a sustainable basis has to be critically reviewed based on the newest data available. The quality of water is rapidly deteriorating, and proper protection measures have to be implemented as soon as possible.

Finally, desalination of sea water seems to be a long-term solution to increase the amount of water for households and industry. However, the resulting higher costs of water may present social challenges in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

27. Strengthen the capacity of the Palestinian Water Authority (PWA).
The capacities of PWA staff should be strengthened, in particular in the fields of aquifer modelling and analyses.

28. Activate the National Water Council.
In the Occupied Palestinian Territories, the National Water Council, comprising representatives with membership of different ministries and stakeholders, should meet on a periodic basis to manage all freshwater and wastewater issues in a comprehensive way.

29. Approve and implement a National Water Plan.
A National Water Plan should be a tool for the Palestinian Authority to improve the management of water resources and plan water issues.

30. Carry out regular updates of the National Water Plan.
The National Water Plan should be updated regularly.

31. Continue the technical Palestinian-Israeli water cooperation. 32. Create transparency with regard to shared aquifers. 33. Review the water extraction practice and plans. 34. Improve water monitoring. 35. Develop local springs (West Bank). 36. Identify the pollution risks for freshwater. 37. Tell people how to protect freshwater sources. 38. Save water. 39. Replace freshwater in irrigation. 40. Promote regional exchange on agricultural technologies. 41. Stop the leakages. 42. Implement desalination projects (Gaza). 43. Continue water modelling of the Coastal Aquifer (Gaza). 44. Increase knowledge of the mountain aquifers (West Bank). 45. Revive hydrological monitoring. Wastewater management There are only a few wastewater treatment facilities in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, and due to the conflict and/or inadequate management most of them are not functioning properly. This is an alarming issue since the untreated wastewater is polluting the aquifers and the seashore in Gaza. As the freshwater and sewage networks are in poor condition, there is also cross-contamination from wastewater to freshwater, causing negative health effects.

In addition to the wastewater from the Palestinian towns and villages, the Israeli settlements in the West Bank and Gaza are adding to the problem of untreated wastewater.

46. Prioritize wastewater issues. 47. Include wastewater issues in Israeli-Palestinian water cooperation. 48. Strengthen wastewater management. 49. Improve wastewater legislation. 50. Improve law enforcement.
51. Implement the polluter pays principle.
52. Repair the cesspits.
53. Use cesspits only as a temporary solution. 54. Improve wastewater management in the refugee camps.
55. Include the wastewater treatment plants in land-use planning.
56. Expand the wastewater system to the whole population.
57. Establish wastewater treatment plants. 58. Treat industrial wastewater.
59. Separate the hazardous substances and waste from wastewater. 60. Monitor and control direct pollution to the Mediterranean. 61. Settlements should treat all their own wastewater.
62. Increase reuse of treated wastewater.
63. Establish standards for reuse.
64. Treat immediately the Beit Lahia (Gaza) wastewater lake. 65. Establish standards for treated wastewater effluent and sludge Solid waste

There were several critical findings with regard to solid waste management in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. On the one hand, the solid waste management sector has suffered from the Israeli occupation in many ways. For example, curfews and roadblocks have hindered transport to the municipal disposal sites, resulting in the establishment of temporary disposal sites.

On the other hand, most of the permanent disposal sites are not sanitary landfills, and groundwater is threatened by pollution from the landfills. Existing landfill management is not optimal. At all the landfills UNEP visited, the environmentally dangerous practice the open burning of waste was taking place. For example, if any PVC is contained in the solid waste, hazardous dioxins will be released. There is no separation of hazardous and non-hazardous waste, except for medical waste in selected circumstances.

The proposed mitigation measures are divided into short-term (3 years), medium-term (10 years) and long-term (20 years) actions.

One critical assumption for implementation of all action and follow-up is an easing of restrictions on motorized transport within the region (curfews, roadblocks). The easing of import restrictions concerning spare parts and necessary new and replacement equipment is also required. Without these measures, any upgrading and improvement of the situation will be very difficult.
Short-term recommendations

66. Strengthen the role of EQA in the waste sector. 67. Improve donor coordination in the waste sector.
68. Re-establish Israeli-Palestinian waste cooperation.
69. Separate hazardous and non-hazardous waste.
70. Establish regional solid waste councils.
71. Introduce solid waste fees.
72. Improve collection of wastes.
73. Keep the Occupied Palestinian Territories clean.
74. Stop the open burning of waste.
75. Remove the debris from damage due to the conflict.
76. Recycle metal, glass and other materials.
77. Introduce composting.
78. Close and cover all temporary and emergency disposal.
79. Specific recommendations for solid waste management in Gaza.

· Access to the three existing disposal sites must be opened as soon as possible, enabling the use of the normal collection fleet.
· The containers throughout Gaza should be replaced if the systems are functioning once more.
· Available municipal workshops should be upgraded and spare parts provided. In view of the short distances involved, necessary maintenance in Gaza could be carried out in three or four municipal/council workshops.
· A relevant revised institutional arrangement might include three regional councils and the Gaza city municipality.
· The waste from northern Gaza should be brought to the Gaza city site.
· The measures and operations at the disposal sites must be reviewed and improved, and training provided if necessary, for instance the use of daily soil coverage of disposal sites.
· Further site development must maintain an agreed minimum distance to the Israeli border. New sites should be coordinated to minimize environmental impact.
· Available equipment must be utilized to the maximum according to modern practices.
· If not already in place, operational plans must be prepared and introduced.
· Bulldozers should be supplemented by compactors, with a minimum of one compactor for each site.
· Leachate control should be improved 80. Specific recommendations for solid waste management in the West Bank.

· An immediate assessment should be conducted to map the sites that pose a great threat to human health and to the environment.
· The current waste disposal site in Ramallah/Al Bireh should be closed. Closure restrictions should be eased to allow use of the previous disposal site. However, the site and the access road would need to be slightly relocated to a more isolated adjacent location. Operational practices should be improved, for instance, the use of daily cover.
· The access should be re-established to the disposal site used prior to September 2000 in Jenin. The operational practices at this site should be improved.
· An immediate assessment should be conducted to identify which of the previous disposal sites can be used if/when curfew and closure restrictions are lifted, in a transitional phase until a planned network of new disposal sites is established.
· A future disposal site plan should be developed for the West Bank as soon as practically possible to identify an optimized network of sites, coordinated to minimize environmental impact. Previous proposals for three to five sites for the West Bank should be taken into consideration, and attention paid to vital aquifer recharge areas.
· Construction work should begin at the Jenin site as soon as access for the contractors has been provided. This site may cover Jenin, Tulkarm and Tublas districts.
· The site in the Jordan valley could be used for the Nablus district or a new site identified, possibly a regional site for Nablus, Qalqiliya and part of Salfit districts.
· A single site should be used for Ramallah, Jericho (Ariha) and part of Salfit districts. With an appropriately adjusted location, the Al Bireh site may be at least an interim solution for this region.
· If continued to be used as up to now, the Abu Dis site should be upgraded.
· A new site should be developed for the Bethlehem (Beit Lahm) district.
· A new site should be developed for Hebron (Al Khalil) district (or one common site for Bethlehem (Beit Lahm) and Hebron (Al Khalil)).
· Other sites could be developed if found to be feasible (e.g. north-western West Bank, Jericho (Ariha)).
· Israel should ensure that settlements are equipped with appropriate treatment and disposal facilities, which meet internationally accepted standards for municipal and industrial solid waste.
Medium-term recommendations

81. Introduce privatization gradually.
82. Make improvements throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
83. Upgrade the collection system to cover most of the population.
84. Remove debris.
85. Introduce gas utilization and treatment of leachate at landfills.
86. Provide incentives for recycling.
87. Introduce full-scale composting plants.
88. Separate collection system for hazardous waste.
89. Introduce collection and disposal fees.
90. Reduce the number of disposal sites in Gaza.
91. Limit the number of disposal sites in the West Bank.
92. Envisage cross-border cooperation in waste collection and treatment.
Long-term recommendations

93. Use state of the art technology in all solid waste treatment 94. Establish state-of-the-art sanitary landfills. 95. Increase the level of recycling.
96. Apply the Polluter pays principle.
Hazardous waste

Currently, hazardous wastes are not separated from other wastes, nor stored or disposed of safely. At most of the solid waste disposal sites, there is a practice of open burning, which releases toxic substances, such as dioxins. Also liquid hazardous wastes enter the soil, thus polluting the groundwater. These existing practices may result in solid waste disposal sites being closed in the near future, with major clean-up operations of polluted soil then being needed. To minimize or avoid these very expensive risks, immediate action should be taken to separate the hazardous wastes and handle them properly.
Short-term recommendations

97. Classify and separate hazardous waste.
98. Introduce regulations and other policy tools.
99. Minimize the amount of hazardous waste.
100. Adopt a regional approach to the treatment of hazardous waste.
101. Develop local solutions for selected types of hazardous waste.
102. Establish a cleaner production centre.
A cleaner production centre should be set up to provide training and
103. Introduce economic incentives.
104. Use the Basel Convention notification process.
105. Increase knowledge.
106. Launch public awareness campaigns.
107. Develop and implement a collection plan.
108. Take precautions with regard to asbestos.
109. Sample and clean up illegally dumped hazardous waste.
110. Establish a collection system for used oil.
111. Ensure that settlements manage their hazardous waste.
112. Measure the activity of radioactive materials.
Medium- and long-term recommendations

113. Set up a pilot project for medical waste management. · Full inventory of medical waste generated in medical centres, clinics and laboratories;
· Testing of the separation and packing process in two or three representative medical centres;
· Interim storage at a temperature below 7° C;
· Transport of waste using specially designated refrigerated vehicles;
· A small-scale unit for the sterilization and solidification of medical waste (recent technologies include thermolysis, microwave treatment and steam sterilization – the best should be chosen for local conditions). Once damage from the conflict has been repaired, the installation next to the Gaza landfill could be used for this;
· Landfilling of treated waste in a pilot area, for example the Gaza landfill.

114. Set up a pilot project for the recycling of tyres.
(a) Recycling asphalt

(b) Thermal treatment of used tyres in cement kilns

115. Organize a workshop on capacity-building.
116. Pay attention to tanneries.
117. Re-use oil.
118. Process used batteries.
119. Take care of sewage sludge and septage.
Conservation and biodiversity

Biodiversity is under threat from a variety of pressures, which are further worsened by the ongoing conflict. During times of conflict, the political focus and resources are shifted away from sustainable management of natural resources and nature protection to other issues. The conflict presents difficulties for those on both sides who need to work together and to exchange information to achieve goals of nature protection.

120. Continue cooperation on management of protected areas and desertification.
121. Strengthen the regional cooperation to combat desertification.
122. Enhance the protection of migratory species.
123. Strengthen the cooperation to protect the Dead Sea.
124. Increase nature protection.
125. Ensure proper management of the existing protected areas.
126. Restart capacity-building activities on conservation management.
127. Prepare an educational book of Palestinian flora and fauna.
128. Reconsider the ecological impacts of the separation wall.
129. Enforce the prohibition on hunting.
130. Stop deforestation.
131. Diminish pollution of wetlands.
132. Improve solid waste management.
133. Stop uncontrolled clearance of farmland.
134. Improve the protection of rangelands.
135. Improve caostal zone management.
136. Stop overfishing.


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