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The Landscape of the northern West Bank

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The northern West Bank landscape

The northern West Bank, north of Jerusalem, is generally wetter and greener than the southern West Bank. It has been a 'land of milk and honey' for millennia, and the signs of ancient and historic agriculture and land-management lie all over its hills in the form of hillside terracing.

Some of the hill regions are quite high - largely limestone hills incised with, in places, deep valleys. They're a major source of water from the underground aquifers. Israeli settlements and occupied areas are deliberately located to gain and retain control of water, to feed 'Israel proper' with its Western-style water consumption patterns.

Meanwhile, Palestinians' access to water on their own land is restricted, and digging new wells is generally prohibited. What's also disturbing is that Palestinian insecurity over land tenure is causing water-conservation measures such as terracing and tree-cover to deteriorate.

This increases rain run-off and water wastage, as well as the defertilisation of the land through erosion and water leeching. Another problem is lack of proper treatment of sewage from both Israeli settlements and Palestinian towns. Settlements just dump their sewage on Palestinian areas below, while Palestinian towns and villages generally treat their own sewage, but often not as well as could be.

But the region attracts significant rainfall in winter, replenishing the water table. Still, water is a very political issue here, and its only solution is fair sharing of limited resources and a significant reduction of water consumption, allowing the underground aquifers to remain healthy and continue supplying the population of this country.

Rewooding and re-wilding of this landscape is very necessary to sustain its longterm future, as well as development of more sustainable dry-farming methods which do not need significant irrigation and which increase vegetation ground-cover, not just for agricultural produce but also for soil-replenishment. The existence of sub-acute conflict and the uncertainty this brings puts such constructive measures on hold, and a crisis is looming.

But the northern West Bank is beautiful, nonetheless.


NEXT: The Judaean desert

© Copyright Palden Jenkins 2011. All text and photographs on this website are copyright Palden Jenkins. You may not use these pictures in print or on websites without  permission of the author.  The book's website is at  www.palden.co.uk/pop

 
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