Press releases

Sunday 17 Feb 2002

Environmental Study Of The Occupied Territories To Be Undertaken By UNEP

A decision to assess the environmental situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories has been taken at a meeting of the Governing Council of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
A decision to assess the environmental situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories has been taken at a meeting of the Governing Council of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

Nairobi, 17 February 2002 - There are concerns about pollution of water, dumping of wastes, loss of natural vegetation and pollution of coastal waters.

As a first step, Israel and the Palestinian Authority have invited Klaus Toepfer, UNEP´s Executive Director, to visit the area.

UNEP experts are also to be mobilized to carry out a "desk study" of the area. Their findings will be used to pin point environmental hot spots that require, where necessary, on the ground studies to establish their likely effects on the environment.

It is planned to make recommendations on how areas of environmental concern can be improved, such as the appropriate clean up and disposal operations for wastes, for the benefit of all the peoples in the area. The decision also calls for existing agreements in the area to be implemented.

Mr. Toepfer said : "I am delighted that we managed to secure this important decision. I pay tribute to the countries who backed this proposal, and to the Israelis and Palestinians for their cooperation. Without their joint support, the likely success of any scientific visit to the area would be questionable".

"It is our sincere hope that our work will lead to an improvement in the environment and the quality of life for people in the area and that other wider benefits may also emerge as a result of this cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians", he added.

Yousef Abu Safieh, Minister of Environmental Affairs for Palestine, said: "The build up of hazardous wastes, the contamination of shared water aquifers and other environmental damage in the Occupied Territories threatens this generation and future generations in Palestine and in Israel. If we are to live together on this piece of land, we need to respect the shared natural resources here. We applaud UNEP in helping countries to reach this important decision and that the consensus of all nations was secured. This is unique in the Palestinian question".

Valerie Brachya, Deputy Director General of the Ministry of Environment in Israel said: The environment is a transboundary issue that affects us all. The task of preserving the environment is twice as difficult during times of conflict, when goodwill is at a premium. The outbreak of violence in September 2000 abruptly halted cooperation on environmental protection issues, which had been established on the basis of signed agreements between the parties".

"The decision taken by the GC at UNEP in Cartagena links scientific study of environmental issues with the implementation of existing agreements. We sincerely hope that the study will help to improve the environmental situation in the area and renew professional cooperation between the parties," she said.

Notes to Editors:
The decision to carry out an assessment of the environmental situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories was taken at the end of the seventh special session of UNEP´s Governing Council and third session of the Global Ministerial Environment Forum. Here over 120 countries and 90 ministers have gathered in Cartagena, Colombia.

A time- table, including the dates when the Executive Director will visit Israel and Palestine Authority, when a desk study will start and possible field visits to the area undertaken, will be drawn up soon.


The Decision

Environmental Situation in the Occupied Territories

The Governing Council,

Recalling its Decisions 20/2 and 21/16 on the environmental situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories;

Taking note of the report presented by the Executive Director (UNEP/GCSS.VII/4/Add.3);

Conscious of the need to respond to the Decisions of the Governing Council comprehensively;

Gravely concerned over the continuing deterioration and destruction of the environment in the Occupied Palestinian Territories;

Encouraged by the recent invitation extended to the Executive Director by the two concerned parties to visit the region;

1) Requests the Executive Director to visit the area as soon as possible with a view to establish a framework and modalities of the study requested by the Governing Council in Decisions 20/2 and 21/16

2) Requests the Executive Director to designate a team of UNEP experts to prepare a desk study outlining the state of the environment in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and to identify major areas of environmental damage requiring urgent attention;

3) Also requests the Executive Director to undertake field studies, as deemed necessary, with the objective of proposing remedial measures to improve the environmental situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and by implementing existing agreements for improving the environment in the area;

4) Urges the Executive Director to take all necessary steps, on an urgent basis, to:

a) Coordinate the activities of UNEP in the area, including the implementation of this decision;

b) Follow up the findings and recommendations of the UNEP study and assist the Palestinian Ministry of Environmental Affairs in its efforts to address the urgent environmental needs in the Occupied Palestinian Territories;

5) Invites all the parties concerned to cooperate with the Executive Director in the implementation of this Decision;

6) Requests the Executive Director to report on the implementation of this decision to the Governing Council at its 22nd Regular Session.


For More Information Please Contact: Tore J Brevik, Director of the Division of Communications and Public Information, on Tel: 254 2 623292, e-mail: tore.brevik@unep.org or Nick Nuttall, Head of Media, on Tel: 254 2 623084, e-mail: nick.nuttall@unep.org

UNEP News Release: 2002/11

Sunday 17 Feb 2002
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