Middle East: UN agency to conduct environmental study of Occupied Territories
The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) today announced plans to conduct an assessment of the environmental situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
The decision, taken at a meeting of the UNEP Governing Council in Cartagena, Colombia, came in response to concerns about water pollution, waste dumping and loss of natural vegetation in the Middle East.
As a first step, Israel and the Palestinian Authority have invited UNEP Executive Director Klaus Toepfer to visit the area. He expressed hope that the work “will lead to an improvement in the environment and the quality of life for people in the area and that other wider benefits may also emerge as a result of this cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians.”
Yousef Yousef Abu Safieh, the Minister of Environmental Affairs for Palestine, said environmental damage in the Occupied Territories threatened people in both Palestine and in Israel. “If we are to live together on this piece of land, we need to respect the shared natural resources here,” he said, lauding UNEP for its contribution.
Valerie Brachya, the Deputy Director-General of the Ministry of Environment in Israel, said the environment was a trans-boundary issue affecting all people. “The task of preserving the environment is twice as difficult during times of conflict, when goodwill is at a premium,” she said, expressing hope that the study would help to improve the environmental situation and renew professional cooperation between the parties.