East Jerusalem Water Crisis Persists While Government Authorities Trade Blame


June 12, 2014 ACRI

Several agencies and authorities filed responses to the High Court of Justice yesterday in accordance with a court order issued in a petition filed by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) seeking a solution to the water crisis in the Jerusalem neighborhoods east of the Separation Barrier. The Israel Water and Sewage Authority, the Ministry of National Infrastructures, Energy and Water Resources, Hagihon (Jerusalem’s water utility), and the Jerusalem Municipality filed updates regarding steps taken so far to solve the crisis.

The responses filed by the Water Authority and the Ministry of Infrastructure stated that several high level meetings were held with the goal of “working out solutions to the problem from planning and engineering perspectives, from a legal perspective … from a financial perspective and a security perspective.” They each requested 90 additional days to continue examining the situation.

Hagihon’s response strongly criticized the Water Authority and the Ministry of Infrastructure for failing to deliver answers regarding the resolution of the problem, highlighting that the treasury and water authorities have been discussing how to find the financing for the necessary infrastructure work for over two years. Hagihon estimates this work will cost 189.5 million shekels.

The Jerusalem municipality response stated that it is not responsible for delivering water to city residents and that it has no authority in the matter, because “under existing laws, it has no practical ability to control the water within its boundaries.” The municipality stated outright that its ability to provide daily ongoing services to the neighborhoods east of the wall is very limited.

ACRI Attorney Keren Tzafrir: “Sadly, just weeks after the celebrations marking the ‘unification’ of the city, the municipality doesn’t even hide its sweeping repudiation of Jerusalem residents living on the other side of the separation barrier. Just a month ago, we saw the mayor rush to the Hagihon control room following a water supply problem in West Jerusalem. In the eastern neighborhoods beyond the barrier, this problem has persisted for four months, and it seems no government body deems it urgent enough to solve.”

Jamil Sanduka, Chairman of the Ras Khamis Neighborhood Committee and one of the petitioners: “Life has become unbearable over the past few months. The water crisis limits our ability to shower, clean, and launder clothes – basic things. If this happened in the west of the city a committee of inquiry would have been established. We can’t stand it any longer.”

ACRI Petitions High Court: Restore Water to East Jerusalem

March 25, 2014 ACRI

For some three weeks now, tens of thousands of residents of Jerusalem neighborhoods east of the Separation Barrier have been without running water. In response, local residents, community leaders and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) have filed a petition to the High Court of Justice.

In the petition, ACRI Attorney Karen Tzafrir noted that most of the homes in the neighborhoods of Ras Hamis, Ras Shahada, Dahyat a-Salam, and the Shuafat Refugee Camp (all inside Jerusalem’s municipal boundaries) have either no water or at all or water pressure so weak that it stops periodically. Families have had no choice but to buy bottled water or large containers and limit their consumption – drinking, showering, laundry and cleaning – to absolute minimums.

The petitioners demand that the responsible authorities – the Israel Water and Sewage Authority, the Ministry of National Infrastructures, Energy and Water Resources, Hagihon (Jerusalem’s water utility), and the Jerusalem Municipality – take all necessary action to ensure that Hagihon supplies running water to all of the homes in the area. The right to water is a fundamental right bound with the rights to health and dignity.

The water problem is the latest and perhaps most acute example of the authorities’ neglect of the neighborhoods on the eastern side of the wall. Educational, welfare, transportation, waste, infrastructure, and even police services are all almost completely absent from the area. Hagihon representatives admit that presently the water infrastructure can support 15,000 people; the area’s population is estimated to be between 60,000 and 80,000.

Jamil Sanduka, Chairman of the Ras Hamis Neighborhood Committee: “As a result of the situation, residents are forced to buy bottles of water at exorbitant prices – and this is a population in which eighty percent of people are living under the poverty line. There are elderly, babies, and people with disabilities, and the situation has become unbearable. Anywhere else, if thousands of people were without running water, this problem would have been solved quickly. In our case, the problem is first and foremost that all the responsible parties simply do not care.”

ACRI Attorney Karen Zafrir: “These are residents of Jerusalem, totally under the responsibility of the municipality and the government. The separation barrier that cuts these neighborhoods off from the rest of the city does not in any way absolve the authorities of their failures.”

Excerpts from the petition in English (pdf).

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