By: Abdelbaset Khalaf
Exclusive to Environment and Development Horizons:
The Palestinian Water Authority explained that the first dam in Palestine formed an experimental model; the project of Al-Far’a Valley that was funded by the Netherlands was unable to collect water to feed the aquifers as was planned but rather it turned into a swamp of sewage.
Afaq Environmental Magazine opens the subject of Al-Far’a dam and searches the causes behind the water leakage and the mixing of sewage water with rain water.
The growing demand of water for agricultural needs that require extra amount of water has led to a drop in the water level. For this reason, the solution was to utilize the flood water following the rain and gather part of it in the underground water reservoirs, which forms the main idea of Al-Far’a dam.
Designing the Dam
A Dutch engineer, who had never previously visited Al-Far’a Valley, designed the Dam based on studies he received from field experts. This was considered to be a problem for the Water Authority as they explained that a dam couldn’t be designed from a far distance.
The authority’s objection reached the donors and they explained that all the required studies, pictures and maps have been sent to an expert and for this reason they continued the implementation.
Following the completion of the construction, we were surprised to discover that the sewage water had been flowing into the dam lake, causing pollution and destroying the project’s goal of taking advantage of flood water and gathering it in the aquifer.
The Palestinian Water Authority began solving the problem of sewage in Al-Far’a refugee camp by creating a line that transfers sewage water to the other side of the dam until the pipes were destroyed by a bulldozer, which led to the sewage gathering back into the dam lake.
The Palestinian Water Authority followed up with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA), and provided 40 thousand dollars to work with the help of experts on the rehabilitation of the line transferring sewage water and the rehabilitation of the side area where water leakage occurs.
The head of the village council of Al-Far’a Valley Hussein Al-Hamoud confirms that the dam has turned into a swamp of sewage. He also explained that the project failed because of bad implementation and lack of experience despite previous demand of the Water Authority to hire a Jordanian expert. He explained that he tried to contact the project manager, the Water Authority and different media channels but he received no reply. In the end he added “we would like to raise our issue and defend ourselves because we are harmed by the dam”.
A quarter million dollars, funded by the Dutch government and another fifty thousand dollars for the rehabilitation of the area were lost. Wires have been installed around the dam but they were stolen and destroyed.
Al-Hamoud added if the Dam project succeeded we would have protected it but it was not successful and after the first winter all the water was gone. The biggest issue now is that we do not want the dam to collect the water but rather we want to get rid of the swamp that has been created. We regret building the dam that has created a lake of sewage, bad smells, and diseases and attracted pigs and monsters.”
The head of the village Council explained that before the building of the dam, many surveys had been carried out and different locations were identified. A proposal was raised to remove the dam back by 20-30 meters in order for it to collect larger quantities of water, but the Dutch donor controlled the selection of the location.
Sami Dawood, the Director of the north branch of the Palestinian Hydrology Group explained that the selection of the dam site is not easy as it needs an accurate study of the rocks formation to see if it’s permeable or are if it has faults in it in addition to the purpose of the dam and how to build it.
Ali Al- Hammoud, a farmer from the region, said that the springs of Al-Far’a used to run in the valley that had 12 flour mills operating on water; three of them worked until 1972 (Al-Daboreya, Al-Zakya, and Al-Mashaqya) and he described how the families of the region used to catch fish out of these springs and how his older brother died after falling in one the mills due to the severity of the water power.
Translated by: Ghadeer Kamal Zaineh