Friday, November 27, 2020

Sebastiya: Agricultural lands under threat from nearby settlement

By Calum Toogood - February 12, 2013
Section: [Main News] [Life under Occupation]
Tags: [Sebastiya] [sewage] [agriculture] [Olive Trees] [Settlers]

In recent weeks the agricultural lands of the village of Sebastiya have become under threat of damage by the release of sewage onto them from a nearby settlement.  

Since the beginning of summer in 2012 the settlement of Shavei Shomeron has been releasing its sewage into Sebastiya’s lands.  At first only a small amount was reaching their lands but over the past couple of weeks large amounts have been flowing into lands used for agriculture, also reaching the groves of olive trees and threatening their existence.

The sewage is currently flowing through around 2 kilometers of the village’s land.  Qadree Gazel, secretary of the municipality of Sebastiya, estimates that around 100 dunams of the village’s land has so far been damaged by the sewage (one dunum is equal to 1000 square meters).  Around six families from Sebastiya rely on this land for income.

The greatest concern for the village is the health of the olive trees which the sewage has now reached.  It has already become visually evident that the trees are being affected by the sewage and Gazel claims that they may be dead within two or three months.

The greatest concern for the village is the health of the olive trees which the sewage has now reached

Ahmed Kayed, a resident of Sebastiya speaking on behalf of the municipality, says there are several factories located within the settlement of Shavei Shomron.  These deal with processing materials such as plastics and aluminium.

“The Palestinian Authority Ministry of Health brought some people to check what the [contents of the] water and what effect it will have,” Kayed said.

If the sewage also contains waste from these factories it could have much worse repercussions for the farmland. 

Since the sewage has become an issue the village council has also contacted the governor in Nablus to try resolve the issue.

This is not the first problem Sebastiya has encountered with the nearby settlement of Shavei Shomron.  In 2001 settlers destroyed more than 200 of the villagers’ olive trees, and in 2006 a fence was constructed by the settlers, preventing farmers from reaching their land. However the fence has now been removed.

The lands of Sebastiya are some of the most evidently historic within the West Bank.  Roman ruins situated within the village date back to thousands of years.

These historical ruins bring many tourists to the village but due to the situation of the area the potential of the tourism industry here cannot be reached.  

“Sebastiya in 1965 was number one for tourists in the Middle East,” Ahmed Kayed said. “But now not so many tourists have been coming because of the situation here.”

The ruins are located within land designated as Area C.  No further excavations can be made within the area and local businesses are struggling to operate.  

Currently several buildings around the ruins have demolition and eviction orders placed upon them by the Israeli authorities.  This includes a café and souvenir shop.

On occasion, access to the ruins is completely prohibited to residents of the village and visitors by the Israeli military.  According to the municipality this occurs when the settlers are visiting the site.

The village of Sebastiya is currently trying to organise a peaceful protest against the destruction of their land.

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