2016 Activities

Discussion Workshop on Implementing the Ramoun Landfill Project: Problems and Suggested Solutions

Discussion Workshop on Implementing the Ramoun Landfill Project: Problems and Suggested Solutions

In the wake of the increasing concern regarding the delayed implementation of the Ramoun landfill, which was due to objections raised by residents in the area, the Coalition for Integrity and Accountability-AMAN held a workshop to discuss the various dimensions of the project in question. Main questions include: How much of the project has been implemented, and if a plan has been developed with partners to implement the project on time, especially since the donors have expressed intentions of withdrawing funding of the project if competent parties do not come through.
Attendees’ recommendations focused on the importance of reviving communications between popular committees and official parties with the aim of ending this stagnant state of affairs, which has been described as “Dialogue of the Deaf” i.e., lacks effective communications between concerned parties. Attendees also warned against stopping or disrupting implementation of the project, especially since it may lead to donors withdrawal of allocated funds, hence depriving citizens from the project’s environmental and economic benefits. AMAN’s suggestion was to call on concerned parties to visit residents in the area and to arrange for meetings with them in order to inform them of the details of the project including its environmental and economic impacts.

Partial solutions have failed to solve the problem; transfer of waste costs Ramallah and Bireh nearly 7.5 million Shekels (NIS) yearly

Dr.Azmi Shuaibi, Advisor to the Board on Anti-Corruption Policy-AMAN, welcomed the attendees and stated the purpose of the workshop. He said that this dialogue aims to create a state of balance between the various parties concerned with the issue.  In this discussion, we intend to look into the distribution of burdens and profits while at the same time try to understand the divergent views and reasons behind them.  He said that this is vital due to the importance of the problem and its impact on health, the economy, and the environment, where responsibilities seem to overlap among multiple parties.
Dr. Shuaibi added that the aim of the Ramoun Landfill Project is to respond to the needs of the community by providing a service that is economically effective through an integrated and sustainable method of management for solid waste. However, the method has to be delivered in a way that ensures good service for the eastern region systematically and effectively, and at reasonable prices. In addition, it should be run on scientific basis that protects the environment as well as public health, especially since all partial solutions applied in the past have failed to solve the main problem, including waste transfer to other dumps.
For his part, Mr. Kamal D’aibis, Board Chairperson of the Joint Services Council, confirmed that the landfill project will benefit residents in the Ramallah and Bireh Governorate denying allegations that colonizers living in nearby colonies are benefitting from the landfill.
D’aibis also confirmed that today’s methods of dealing with waste materials faces many problems, most important of which is the high cost of transporting waste materials to other landfills. For example, this expense costs the Ramallah Municipality 3.5 million NIS and the Bireh Municipality 4 million NIS yearly.  The second problem is the indiscriminate dumping sites that are spreading despite all attempts to control this issue. In this regard, there are 60 landfills from a total of 85 that were previously used.
D’aibs said that residents of the area certainly have the right to object to the establishment of the landfill on their land, and it is just as important to respect this right.  In that respect, D’aibis said that the Council is careful to implement the project after reaching an agreement with all parties concerned. It is important to mention that the project was proven free of any breaches of health and environmental conditions needed for the implementation of the project, as confirmed by the competent authorities including the Environment Quality Authority. The landfill project is planned to be built on an area of 208 dunums, 42 of which are government land in addition to a small area that was purchased from residents and landowners for approximately $10,000 (ten thousand dollars) a Dunum.

The Ramoun Landfill Project: needs to be dealt with impartially while respecting the people’s right to object

President of the Environment Quality Authority, Ms. Adaleh Al-Ateereh stated that selection of the landfill site was based on multiple views from the competent authorities who examined it in accordance with international standards. In addition, serving the government’s interest in investing in areas categorized as C by the Israeli occupation, hence protecting the land from confiscation also played a role. The project’s design, according to Ms. Ateereh, to be adopted is based on international standards as well as being governed by strict high quality environmental conditions.  The project will also be under constant monitoring and control by the Ministry of Health and the Environment Quality Authority as well as other concerned bodies. 
Ms. Ateereh called for all concerned parties to deal with the issue with objectivity and impartiality, away from personal interests that can harm public interest.  This requires that the project be established within the timeframe specified by the German donor, otherwise we may risk loss of funding.
Deputy General Director of the Joint Service Councils in the Ministry of Local Government, Mr.Sulieman Abu-Mifreh, said that the Ramoun Landfill, if established will solve many of the problems encountered by other landfills such the landfills of Al-tamr and AL-Assareh. My statement is based on the fact that the Ramoun landfill project was subjected to extensive studies, which contributed to raising the level of environmental and health conditions in force in the landfill, he added.
In Abu-Mifreh’s view, protests and objections raised by the residents in the area of the landfill were based on false information provided by many different sources. Nevertheless, these people have a right to react as such in addition to their right to access the correct and comprehensive information, which in turn will clarify the picture differently than that being reported in the news and other media means, which at times may be correct and other times wrong.   

The project is Palestinian par excellence; no truth to allegations of benefiting the colonizers

General Manager of Projects and Infrastructure in Civil Affairs, Mr. Salah Badr, stated that the project includes opening a side road which extends from the main street that will be 2KM long, and will include all services such as water, electricity, and telephone. In addition, it will include lighting for the roads in the vicinity, hence leaving positive impacts on the surrounding land owners.
Badr also confirmed that the Civil Affairs are keen on implementing the government’s policy and vision to facilitate the establishment of the landfill. He also denied all rumors that the colonizers in the nearby colonies are benefiting from the landfill. In further clarifying this issue, he indicated that the German funder threatened to withdraw the funding if the colonizers benefit from project. He further explained that the funder’s stand stems from the German government’s decision not to finance joint projects despite the strong opposition encountered by the project from colonizers’ leaders who seek to exploit the region in every possible way to prevent Palestinian existence. 
In the same context, the General Director of Police in Ramallah, Lieutenant Colonel Taher Ghareeb, stated that police’s interaction with the protesters was rational at all times.  He said that the police tried very hard to prevent any confrontations between the protesters and the army. Police officers were instructed to withdraw from the scene if the situation was uncontrollable as a result of angry protesters. 

Re-connecting and convincing people through dialogue

Mayer of Deir Dibwan, Mr. Mansour Mansour, expressed his opinion by saying that the bigger problem, regarding the establishment of the landfill, is not in land sales but in the perspective of landowners and citizens who live in that area who view themselves as “sacrificial lambs” for the rest of the governorates. They also feel that they are forced to abandon their land. Mansour suggested that it is vital to reconnect with the people by talking to them seriously and clearly while providing them with extensive explanation of the environmental impact it has on their lives (i.e., to sell them the idea of establishing the project through peaceful means), especially since village councils failed in this mission.
Representative of the Popular Committee of Ramoun, Mr. Rabah Manna’ said that the land in question is an agricultural land and in fact is planted with a variety of crops. Mansour raised the question about the Palestinian official stand regarding agricultural land, which is known to be very limited. Mansour denied that he, the citizens of the area, or the popular committee have received any information clarifying the nature of the project and its negative or positive environmental impacts. He added that the committee expressed its objection to the site, but at the same time, it presented the competent parties with three alternative sites east of the current site; with state land constituting the largest part of it. However, these suggestions were not taken seriously.
Manna’ pointed out that the last meeting, which took place between the implementing parties of the project and the citizens was about 4-5 months ago.  He concluded by saying that the people support the establishment of the landfill project as long as it is constructed on land other than the one being discussed.
It is worth noting that session was attended by representatives from: the Environment Quality Authority, Joint Services Council, Ministry of Local Government, Civil Affairs, Customs Control, Ramallah and Bireh Governorates, Beitunia Municipality, Palestinian police, Deir Dibwan Municipality, and Ramoun Popular Committee. In addition, representatives from the various institutions also attended the session including Shams Center, Chamber of Commerce Federation, State Audit and Administrative Control Bureau, Palestine Standards Institution, MAS Institute, media outlets, and other journalists.

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