Environmental Geography

Though the natural geography of Jerusalem is slightly different based on which of the three Jerusalems is being discussed, there are some defining characteristics of all three. Being centrally located both with regard to Israel and the West Bank, Jerusalem is surrounded by rolling hills and valleys and does not lie on any of the bodies of water that surround Israel/Palestine.

The environment in the Jerusalem area is a problematic issue. One of the major environmental issues for both Israelis and Palestinians in Jerusalem is water pollution due to poor sewage treatment. In 1999 the Soreq sewage treatment plant was opened in Israel. While this plant purifies sewage from West Jerusalem, there is no treatment plant for East Jerusalem, the settlements or the surrounding areas of the West Bank. Furthermore, in West Jerusalem there are far fewer inhabitants per kilometer of sewage pipe than there are in East Jerusalem. Because of the poor sewage system in Jerusalem, much of the waste that leaves the pipes gets carried out to streams and valleys in the West Bank and enters what is called the Mountain Aquifer. The Mountain Aquifer supplies water to many major population centers in both Israel and the West Bank. The lack of more treatment plants leads to water pollution for all the residents of Jerusalem and its surrounding areas.

Water itself is one of the major sources of tension between Jewish residents and Palestinian residents of Jerusalem. Israel/Palestine is a desert climate and water resources are scarce. Jewish settlements in the Jerusalem area use four times the amount of water that Palestinian residents use. In the surrounding Jewish areas/settlements of Maale Adumim, Gilo, Har Homa, etc, the cost of water to residents is one quarter what Palestinians in the West Bank pay for the same water and is consumed in larger amounts.

Another environmental issue is related to the building of the areas surrounding Jerusalem. The land around Jerusalem has historically been the location of some of the only forest area in that part of the country. The destruction of these forests for buildings has effects on air quality and rain water retention. The destruction of these forests also eliminates recreation areas for everyone in the Jerusalem area.

Finally, solid waste removal and the lack thereof is a problem in Jerusalem. The Palestinian Local Authority collects solid waste in 21 East Jerusalem communities. Various other means are employed to collect waste in another 24 communities in East Jerusalem. There are at least 3 communities in East Jerusalem in which no party is responsible for the collection of waste.