Tuesday, February 03, 2009

The Water Project: Peace in Israel/Palestine through cooperation on sustainability

Peace in the Middle East through cooperation on water infrastructure projects

The question of how to create a true, just and sustainable peace in Israel and Palestine (I/P) is now firmly at the top of the international agenda. There is a political agenda to be pursued by diplomats, on which Greens have much to say, but there is also a uniquely ecological issue that we can add. This paper proposes that the approach taken by Friends of the Earth Middle East should be adopted and expanded, and placed on the table of peace negotiations.

It is right and necessary for European Greens to take a constructive interest in I/P matters, since everything on the surface of the Earth is interconnected, and the deep division of opinion there is reflected in tension within our own society. Also, if the conflict escalates to a major war, we will be affected, especially if the war progresses to the use of nuclear weapons.

The proposal is that GPEW, the European Green Party and the US Green Party draw together a coalition of green NGOs in I/P with the aim of persuading funding organisations, primarily the EU and the USA, to put significant amounts of money into a cross-community Water Management Project in I/P.

There are two established principles in conflict resolution: first, find common ground that is of benefit to both parties, and second, introduce a displacement activity to divert attention away from conflict to co-operation, from destruction to construction.

The common ground for both communities is, literally, their common ground: they need to win a sustainable living out of an arid land. The population in the Land has increased since 1946, and this means that the productivity of the land must be increased to meet the needs of the people there. Water is needed to increase agricultural productivity, and at present water is in short supply throughout the Middle East. This scarcity is itself a potential cause for conflict, but intelligent action can transform water into a cause of resolution of conflict.

We are aiming for a massive programme of investment and employment in water conservation, water harvesting, and afforestation. This will require significant financial investment, and the EU is one potential source for such, although other agencies could be tapped also. We know that peace in Northern Ireland came about after massive infrastructure investment in that country.

The Water Project programme has three arms: water conservation, water harvesting and afforestation.

Water Conservation

1 Recycling of grey water.
We can be sure this is happening already, but it needs to be universal, and in towns some technology – such as filters – may be needed.

2 Composting toilets should be used instead of water-mediated sewerage systems.
There are many working models for this approach which we can tap into. The Water Project can trial the many technologies on offer, and the most successful models can be rolled out across the whole ME. Composting toilets replace the conventional water- and energy-intensive system with a natural system which actually enhances the fertility and structure of the soil.

3 In places where boreholes are used, attention should be paid to the levels of water, and if these levels are falling, conservation measures in the locality should be intensified.

Water Harvesting

Every roof should be a water collecting point, and every building should have a water holding cistern appropriate to the size of the roof. This will create many thousands of jobs in both communities, work that requires little training. It will require a large amount of guttering and cisterns, probably made of plastic, preferably recycled. Some of this may come from established and new factories in both communities, some may come from the EU.

This activity will stimulate worthwhile production and good jobs in line with Keynesian policies as a response to the global recession, and will therefore help to relieve the poverty that is endemic in Gaza.


Forests act as aerial aquifers, conducting water inland from the sea in the evapotranspiration cycle. Wangari Maathai of the Green Belt Movement finds that an area of trees in Kenya of 15 square kilometres will create its own rain cloud.
Please see the Desert Rose Project for an outline proposal for (re)creating coastal forests, using water from solar desalination plants, and gradually working inland. Forests moderate the local (and, eventually, global) climate, and provide many other goods and services that are advantageous to the local community.

There are already projects of this nature taking place in Israel. The aim should be to expand them with new investment.

By putting in place these – and other – measures, there will be plenty of work for all people in both communities, with a resulting increase in general prosperity, and a decrease in available time and energy spent in ruminating on injustices and planning of revenge for same.

There is a wealth of experience in these matters within Friends of the Earth Middle East, who have been working on this for many years. They have in-depth knowledge of these matters

The present proposal is that the Green Party here should adopt this proposal and put it to the European Green Party, to the Green Group in the European Parliament, and to the United States’ Green Party. Working in cooperation with FoEME, the Israel Green Party, the Israel Green Movement (when they can be contacted) and as many of the Palestinian Green NGOs as we can contact, we will press for funding to be made available for a serious and expanding approach to water management which will continue until no more can be done to improve the situation.

In working toward this goal, we will be
· assisting the peace process at street level with constructive and economically worthwhile activity
· alleviating water shortages
· producing more productive agriculture
· providing a model that can be applied throughout the Middle East and in other arid and conflict-ridden regions.

This is a preliminary paper, seeking support from within the GPEW International Community, and from the GPEW leadership.

Background Information on Water in IP.