UNEP’s intention in conducting the assessment was not to assign blame, but to present an accurate picture of the state of environmental affairs. UNEP will further actively share the findings and recommendations of this report with donors who have an interest in future environmental projects in the region.There was no real precedent for an assessment of this nature. UNEP developed its own methods, focusing on four objectives: First, to gather a baseline data set of the environment in the disengaged settlements. Second, to identify areas posing immediate risk to people. Third, to create an information base, including satellite images and maps, for future planning. Fourth, to provide training on environmental assessments to Palestinian experts. Using satellite imagery, reports and comments from Israeli, Palestinian and international sources, UNEP scientists – prior to commencement of the field work – identified approximately 100 areas of interest, including industrial buildings, waste disposal sites, agricultural plants and storage tanks. The field work was carried out in Gaza from 9-18 December 2005 by a UNEP team of 8 experts with expertise in the fields of hazardous waste, including asbestos, marine and coastal issues, soil contamination and water quality. The UNEP team was consequently able to cover all 21 disengaged settlements, as well as the Erez industrial site. Following the field work, samples were produced in triplicate, handed to the Palestinian and Israeli laboratories and sent to an independent, UNEP contracted laboratory in the UK.
This report presents the findings of the survey. Other than some localized pollution, the former Israeli settlements did not cause contamination of water, land or buildings posing a significant risk to the environment or to public health. Pollution at the former Erez Industrial Estate was also localized and could be mitigated by targeted clean-up action. The study thus finds that overall the environmental impact of the former Israeli settlements in the Gaza strip was limited – welcome news for everyone concerned with the region’s environment, long-term stability and economic progress. We hope that the findings presented in this report would bolster Palestinian resettlement plans and foster hopes for economic investment and peace in the region.