A plan to set up a landfill site in East Jerusalem on some 500 dunams of land, much of it privately owned by Palestinians, has been approved by a Jerusalem planning committee. This will be the first time since 1991 that Palestinian land in East Jerusalem has been expropriated.
The facility for construction waste, slated to be built at the eastern exit of the capital, will require largescale expropriation of land owned by Palestinians in the Shoafat and Issawiya neighborhoods of Jerusalem and eviction of 120 Bedouin living in an encampment between Jerusalem and Ma’aleh Adumim. Palestinians from other East Jerusalem neighborhoods say they are concerned about the noise and dust that will result from the establishment of the landfill site in close proximity to their homes.
The plan — approved by the the Jerusalem planning and building committee and prepared by the Jerusalem municipality and the Israel Lands Authority — calls for the site to be set up on the upper section of Nahal Og, near the old road to Ma’aleh Adumim. It will cover 520 dunams (130 acres), most of which is privately owned by Palestinians. The Og dry river bed is to be filled with thousands of tons of construction waste, which will be brought in from the entire Jerusalem area, over the next 20 years. Once it is full, a park is to be built on top of the landfill site.
Palestinian residents of the Shoafat and Issawiya neighborhoods of Jerusalem, who own most of the land for the project, submitted objections to the plan. “For the first time in over 20 years, a massive expropriation is being conducted in East Jerusalem,” said Sami Arshid, the lawyer representing the Abu Khdir family of Shoafat, which owns land in the area. “It is all based on the pretext that there is a need to build a site for construction waste. Such sites are usually established outside of cities and not next to houses. This is a dangerous plan, which once again views Palestinian property and land as ownerless,” he said.
The Palestinians say they will not benefit from the park that will eventually be built on top of the landfill because of the separation fence which cuts the site off from the Shoafat refugee camp and the neighborhoods of Ras Shehada and Ras Hamis.
The Bimkom – Planners for Planning Rights nonprofit organization also objected to the plan on behalf of the residents of the Ras Shehada neighborhood of East Jerusalem, noting that the landfill will be built only a few dozen meters from their homes and is expected to cause serious noise and dust pollution. It may also violate environmental protection regulations.
The entry road to the landfill, which passes only a few meters from homes and businesses, is expected to see about 168 trucks a day.
Both Bimkom and lawyer Arshid announced they plan to appeal the decision in the courts or at the National Planning and Building Council.
Some 120 Bedouin living in an encampment in the area will have to evacuate the site. Most are an offshoot of the Jahalin Bedouin tribe, called Jadua-Kabua.
Jerusalem city council member and right-wing activist Aryeh King also objected to the plan because some of the land at the proposed site is owned by Jews.
The regional planning committee dismissed the majority of the objections, ruling that the landfill is necessary to allow continued construction in Jerusalem and the region and concluded that the plan meets environmental protection regulations. The committee also decided that it cannot take into consideration the needs of people living in the area illegally without building permits. The committee partially accepted the objection concerning the ecological aspects of the plan including the need to save plants in the area before work can start on the site.
Jerusalem city council member Yosef “Pepe” Alalu also criticized the plan, saying that its approval was the first stage on the road to the development of the so-called E-1 area between Jerusalem and Ma’aleh Adumim. Development of that area, a controversial issue between Israel and the American administration, would create a contiguous Israeli strip between Jerusalem and Ma’aleh Adumim, and cut off the West Bank from East Jerusalem.
”Of all the places there are in Jerusalem and outside it — and there such [places] — the city found it proper to dump all the waste over the Green Line on private lands. That is how they want the Palestinians to understand us, and believe our intention is to reach an agreement?” said Alalu.
“These areas were almost the last hope of Issawiya and Anatot to rehabilitate the younger generation. One of the ideas that was acceptable to the city was to set up a light industrial area on these lands, which practically doesn’t exist in the eastern neighborhoods of the city,” said Alalu.