The Right to Water in the Unrecognized Villages in the Naqab.

HCJ 3586/01, The Regional Council for Unrecognized Villages in the Naqab, et. al. v. The Minister of National Infrastructure, et. al.

A petition was filed in 5/01 in Adalah’s name and on behalf of the Regional Council for the Unrecognized Villages, the Association of Forty, the Galilee Society, Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, and Arab Bedouin citizens of Israel living in Abu Tlul, Shahbi, Wadi el-Neem, Em Tnan, Em Batin and Drejat (population 750-4,000). The petitioners charged that the Minister of National Infrastructure, the Water Commissioner, the Israeli Water Company, the Minister of Agriculture and Environmental Protection, and the MOI maintained a policy of denying clean and accessible water to thousands of residents of these villages. Most residents of these unrecognized villages obtain water via improvised, plastic hose hook-ups or unhygienic metal containers, which transport the water from a single water point located on main roads quite far from their homes. This situation poses health risks to the residents (e.g., dehydration, dysentery, etc.) as well as numerous daily hardships caused by lack of access to water. The petitioners maintained that water, like any other public good, should be divided in an equal, fair and non-arbitrary manner.

The State initially claimed that the villages were “illegal settlements” and that residents were trespassers on state land, who were not entitled to water network connections. However, as a result of the filing of the petition, an inter-ministerial Water Committee was formed in 10/01 to examine the water situation in the villages. Adalah provided numerous submissions to the Water Committee detailing the particular water situation in each village.

Result: The petition was dismissed in 2/03, after the state reported that water access points had been added for five of the seven villages named in the petition. Adalah stressed that these measures are still not sufficient to meet the residents’ needs or to achieve their rights, as distant water points and improvised access to water is not unlike the current situation. The appropriate solution is to connect the unrecognized villages to the water network. While entire unrecognized Arab villages are deprived of adequate access to water, individual Jewish Israeli families, living on vast, expansive ranches in the Naqab, are promptly provided with water access and other services.

Follow-up: To date, Adalah has filed two motions to the Water Committee in an attempt to gain additional water access points for the residents of the unrecognized villages. In 4/03, one motion was filed on behalf of 62 families from Drejat, 17 families from El-Gara, and five families from Abu Grinat. While most requests were denied, some water points were added for Abu Ginat. In 9/03, a second motion was filed on behalf of 18 families from Al Hawashle, 15 families from Abu Msaed, 11 families from El-Ganami; and 17 families from Al-Atrash. To date, no response was received to this motion.

(H.C. 3586/01, The Regional Council for Unrecognized Villages in the Naqab, et. al. v. The Minister of National Infrastructure, et. al., decision delivered 16 February 2003).