Sewage Polluting Desert and Sea With No Solution in Sight

Sewage from East Jerusalem and Palestinian communities near Bethlehem are polluting the Judean Desert and Dead Sea, but Israel and the Palestinian Authority have not been able to agree on a solution.

Last year, Israel drafted a special program for diverting the Kidron Stream into the Jordan Valley. However, a senior official at the Environmental Protection Ministry said the plan has yet to be authorized, and in any case fails to address the sewage problem.

Millions of cubic meters of waste from East Jerusalem and communities around Bethlehem flow into the Kidron Stream Valley and are eventually dumped into the Dead Sea. Last year the Jordan Valley Regional Council's water association released a proposal for building facilities to divert the waste for purification and irrigation.

Shoni Goldberger, the ministry official in charge of the Jerusalem area, said the facility cost tens of millions of shekels, was built without authorization and has flaws that damage the environment. It also is unable to absorb all the sewage flowing into the stream, he said.

Dov Kuznetsov, the head of the water association, rejects Goldberger's claims. "The facility was erected with all the necessary authorizations, and it has no hitches. It's true that we absorb only 70 percent of the waste, but that's because during planning we were given smaller figures for waste flow than what it really is."

Israeli experts have been trying in recent months to cooperate with their Palestinian counterparts to draw up a plan to deal with the problem.