Israel’s plan to improve conditions in East Jerusalem will not include neighborhoods beyond the separation barrier, Jerusalem Affairs and Environmental Protection Minister Zeev Elkin said on Monday – even though sanitation levels in those areas are extremely poor.
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It is estimated that more than a third of East Jerusalem residents, some 140,000 people, live in these neighborhoods.
Addressing the Knesset Interior and Environment Committee, Elkin said there is no point investing money in places without a regular garbage collection. “An investment of this type requires a platform of regular maintenance,” he said.
The plan “to reduce hazards and upgrade infrastructures” at a cost of 177 million shekels ($49.5 million) was approved at a special cabinet session held in honor of Jerusalem Day. The plan is to address household waste disposal, construction debris and sewerage infrastructures.
According to Elkin, the cabinet discussed how to deal with neighborhoods beyond the separation barrier. “We certainly think there has to be a solution for this,” he said, adding that when a solution is found, the cabinet will then make a decision on dealing with waste and sewage outside the barrier.
There are two very large East Jerusalem neighborhoods left outside the barrier – Shoafat refugee camp and its environs, and Kafr Aqab. Ever since the barrier was erected a decade ago, the authorities – principally the Jerusalem Municipality – stopped providing regular services to those areas. Many people moved to the neighborhoods because of the low housing prices, which made them even more crowded and increased sanitation problems: the garbage piles up, sewage flows in the streets and the water supply is problematic. In Kafr Aqab, where some 60,000 people live, there has been inconsistent water supply for two months, residents say.