Palestine's most fertile meadow 'at risk'
Published Tuesday 10/12/2013 (updated) 12/12/2013 12:13
JENIN (Ma’an) – The West Bank's most fertile meadow is shrinking gradually as a result of construction licensed by the Palestinian ministry of local governance, according to the head of a local committee in Jenin.
Mousa al-Badawi, who chairs a committee representing the public in Jenin, told Ma'an Tuesday that "Palestine’s food basket Marj Ibn Amir is at risk because of corruption."
The meadow’s fertile land, he added, is being "bitten" by construction expansion which is "killing the agricultural land without any supervision or control despite all appeals and religious recommendations."
Al-Badawi urged President Mahmoud Abbas and interim Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah to save the meadow. He quoted a remark by the minister of agriculture who once said that Marj Ibn Amir was a Palestinian national treasure without which food security in Palestine can’t be maintained.
"Any meter of fertile soil we lose is a loss to the Palestinian people which neither this generation nor future generations can compensate," Badwai added quoting the minister.
According to statistics by the Jenin office of the Palestinian ministry of agriculture, Marj Ibn Amir produced 70 percent of the overall agricultural production of Jenin district in 2012. More than 100,000 dunams (25,000 acres) of land is cultivated in the meadow.
The Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics reported that during the agricultural year 2009-2010 Jenin district had the highest amount of cultivated land in Palestine constituting 19.4 per ent of cultivated area in the Palestinian territory.
Al-Badawi highlighted that the Palestinian Legislative Council approved in 2003 a bill allowing citizens who own more than five dunams of agricultural land to build a 180-square-meter structure for agricultural purposes. However, he said, that law was used by many as a pretext to build residences.
In response to al-Badawi's complaints, the director of the ministry of local governance’s office in Jenin Raed Muqbil confirmed to Ma'an there were violations against fertile land.
The ministry, he explained, "grants construction permits only in certain areas excluding fertile land."
The ministry has been doing its best to go after violators, but "frankly speaking, there is no law at hand."
Even police, he added, fail to do anything about the complaints we submit, because there is no clear law that governs the phenomenon.