Exclusive to Environment and Development Horizons:
Wade Qana is one of the most fertile areas in historic Palestine. Wadi Qana area is an extension of the Jordan River. It is a natural, stable watercourse. It has 5 springs Ain Haya, Ain Fuwara, Ain Bassa, Ain Jawza and Ain Al- Muasra. It is one of the last oasis’s left for Palestinian tourism and natural conservation. There is an abundance of biodiversity. The farmers who own most of the property in the valley live in Deir Estia village.
There are six Israeli settlements surrounding the valley from all sides built after 1967; they are Karni Shomron, Immanuel, Revava, Yakir, Nufem and Ma'ale Shomron.
A new plan is at hand to take over Wadi Qana by the Israeli Ministry of Tourism in conjunction with the Israeli Nature and Parks authority. The two occupation entities have prepared the valley for inclusion as Israeli tourist areas. Wadi Qana has also been declared an Israeli conservation site. Israelis now have access to its new tourist sites and bike paths.
The Israeli Government is looking to populate the West Bank settlement blocs. In addition, they are converting vast tracts of land in the area to nature parks and tourist areas. The new demarcated “tourist sites” are a new method of annexation. It prohibits Palestinian farmers to work their fields by “conserving” the area. They no longer can farm in safety and freedom. The new roads that pass through the valley to connect the settlements to Wadi Qana pass through Palestinian farms. The past Palestinian contributions and future prospects for the area have been disregarded.
The Israeli Parks authority plans to transform all agricultural areas to Israeli conservation sites in preparation for annexation of those areas into the Jewish state.
“Wadi Qana Restoration" is a project that had its beginning in 2010. It was implemented with a budget of more than nine million shekels by the Karni Shomron settlement, Israeli Environment Ministry, Israeli Nature and Parks authority and the civil administration.
This project will have an adverse impact on the farmers adversely in the valley area by restricting their movement and accessibility. It will legalize the annexation and exploitation of undeveloped and agricultural spaces.
Hasan Monsoor told Horizons/Afak magazine that more than 50 families lived in the vibrant, bustling valley before the occupation. Over the years, there have been ever-increasing restrictions the population will dwindle because they cannot make a living.
He added," The occupation’s methods have forced many to move out leaving only a family or two stayed and the rest abandoned the region and moved to the town of Deir Estia. The occupation has deprived the population of electricity and even water on one side of the valley as a method to make them desert the area. Farmers in the valley are under the constant threat of attacks by the occupation’s Nature and Parks authority. The water shortages and pollution from the settlemnts are significantly affecting the agricultural sector in the valley shrinking the cultivated land day after day.
Dr. Benan Sheikh expert on biodiversity in Palestine says that what is happening is a crime against nature. The occupation has drained most of spring water for the settlements. The settlements then in turn pump large quantities of sewage and pollution. The agricultural patterns will be disturbed by the large tracts of land being irrigated. The large tracts of land are converted and changed which sequentially changing the soil and the type of agriculture that can be cultivated.
Dr. Sheikh added that the area is being promoted heavily by the occupation. It is being advertised as a destination site for internal tourism. This will upset the area that is used as a source of livelihood for many Palestinians.
The Deir Estia municipality has spared no effort in protecting Wade Qana from the occupation. Mr. Ali Zeidan mayor of Deir Estia told Horizons/Afak magazine: “We have repeatedly tried to rehabilitate and cultivate the area along with a number of rural roads in Wade Qana…The occupation opposed the idea”.
Mr. Zeidan said: "During the past five years the occupation army has uprooted and destroyed more than 3,000 olive and citrus trees. It has destroyed tens of meters of fencing and water channels under the guise that it is damaging to the area’s ecosystem. The occupation then prosecuted farmers who farmed the area and imposed curfews under the pretext security.
Wadi Kana is desperately in need of action. The area is under the threat of occupation and disappearing. The duty of all those who can contribute to a solution should do it
Translated by: Kefah Abukhdeir