Palestinians face dire water shortage: World Bank

Palestinians face dire water shortages because of both bad Palestinian management and Israeli restrictions, the World Bank said in a report on Monday.

The report, the first of its kind, noted the "complete dependence" of the Israeli-occupied West Bank and the blockaded Gaza Strip "on scarce water resources shared and largely controlled by Israel."

It also underlined that "the joint governance rules and water allocations established under the 1995 Oslo interim agreement, still in effect today, fall short of the needs of the Palestinian people."

The report, entitled "Assessment of Restrictions on Palestinian Water Sector Development," said that "limited access to natural resources" impedes Palestinian economic development.

"Because of asymmetries in power, capacity and information between parties, interim governance rules and practices have resulted in systematic and severe constraints on Palestinian development of water resources, water uses, and wastewater management," it said.

"Furthermore, since 2000, the movement and access restrictions, consisting of physical impediments... have further impaired Palestinian access to water resources, infrastructure development and utility operations."

The report blamed both the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Israel.

"Even though the PA and many donors have invested in establishing a sustainable and equitable water sector, access to water resources, water infrastructure and institutions remain inadequate."

"The sector continues to operate in a very inefficient emergency mode, with far reaching economic, social and environmental consequences," it said.

As a result, the World Bank said, "water-related humanitarian crises are in fact chronic in Gaza and in parts of the West Bank."

The World Bank also noted the "highly disparate availability of water resources" between Israel and the Palestinian territories.

"Fresh water per capita in Israel (is) approximately four times that of the West Bank and Gaza," it said.

Israel, according to the World Bank, "has established efficient water infrastructure and management" while the PA "is struggling to attain the basic level of infrastructure and service of a low-income country."

The World Bank recommended adopting an agenda to address "shortcomings in water resource development and management, a low and declining investment rate, and weak management of water services."

The study was carried out by international and local experts at the request of Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas between September 2008 and February 2009.

Abbas accused Israel of forcing Palestinians to live in a state of chronic water scarcity in a statement read in March at the Istanbul World Water Forum, and said that a "rightful share" of water should not be tied to a peace deal.

20 April 2009 — Return to cover.