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19 July 2007
Mayors work across borders to stop pollution
JERUSALEM, 19 July 2007 (IRIN) - Two mayors - one Israeli and one Palestinian - signed a joint declaration on 19 July agreeing to improve cooperation between their towns in water and waste management as well as conservation.
Baqa al-Gharbiya (Western Baqa) and Baqa A-Sharqiya (Eastern Baqa) lie on either side of the green line border between Israel and the West Bank, and the mayors agreed to cooperate on issues of health and environment, despite the political divide between them.
A polluted river, Wadi Abu Naar, runs through the two towns.
"The sharing of air and water requires cooperation between the two sides," said Moayed Hussein, the Palestinian mayor of Baqa a-Sharqiya.
The drinking water in his village of 4,500 people has become severely polluted due to the dumping of solid waste in the river as well as the lack of a sewage system and treatment plant.
"The first and main health hazard the villagers face is pollution in their drinking water," said Yousef Sadeq, an environmental health expert with Friends of the Earth (FOE), a UK-based charity.
"Children get sick from the water. Diarrhoea, vomiting and other symptoms sometimes appear," Sadeq said, adding that he was concerned about outbreaks of dysentery and other water-borne diseases.
The Israeli mayor of Baqa al-Gharbiya, Yitzhak Wald, has agreed to allow his neighbours to connect to his town's sewage system and its water treatment plant, which they lack.
The Good Water Neighbors project, funded by the European Commission and run by FOE Middle East, has brought together 17 municipalities from Israel, the oPt and Jordan.
"The mayors are acting to prevent a health hazard and the spreading of diseases," said Gideon Bromberg from FOE.
However, the villages still need more funding to fully connect the systems. Hussein said he would like to pay for the connection, but his village has suffered economic loss since the outbreak of violence in 2000. "People used to work in Israel and now they can't," he said.