Thursday, June 28, 2007

What's wrong with the springs of Ein Gedi?

The stream flows again... but with raw sewage | Jerusalem Post

Driving south along the Dead Sea on Route 90, from Jericho to Ein Gedi, one sees awe-inspiring, thundering waterfalls flowing from the desert plateau to the right, out of a canyon a road sign identifies as Nahal Kidron. The stream then runs strongly toward the salt sea.

But a few hundred meters from the road, the flow's stench becomes overwhelming. Its water is brown, and its banks littered with refuse.

The Gihon Spring's waters used to flow down the Kidron Valley, until they were diverted to provide water to local communities. Nahal Kidron is flowing again, but this time... with raw sewage.

And Jerusalem is once again central to a key environmental issue with serious political ramifications.

The beautiful wadi (desert stream) runs from east Jerusalem, where it cuts past the walls of the Old City (and the appropriately named "Dung Gate") and the Mount of Olives, becomes a deep canyon as it whirls eastward through the Judean Desert plateau, passes several Arab localities, and finally gushes into the Dead Sea.

But the stream is no longer beautiful, as every single drop of its 28,000 cubic meters (280 million liters) per day is comprised of sewage from Israeli and Palestinian urban areas. The spectacular waterfalls and the rock faces at its end are blackened by the brownish, scum-filled flow.

And a few dozen kilometers to the south, tourists bathe in a Dead Sea revered for its skin-enhancing properties.

Eighty-five percent of that sewage comes from east Jerusalem, according to the Jerusalem Wastewater and Purification Enterprises, a subsidiary of the Gihon Company (Jerusalem's water company), including Arab and Jewish neighborhoods on the far side of the Green Line, such as East Talpiot and Har Homa.

The remaining 15% originates from Bethlehem and Beit Sahur, both cities administered by the Palestinian Authority.

And since Israel has annexed east Jerusalem, it is responsible for treating wastewater from this area. A joint Israeli-Palestinian solution has been sought for years, but now Israel is looking for unilateral solutions.

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