Flood-prone Palestinian town of Jaba’ gets drainage
Protecting Palestinian towns from life-threatening flood waters
Taleb Hammour has seen it all. Seventy-seven-years-old, Taleb has lived his whole life in Jaba’, a Palestinian town located between Nablus and Jenin.
Taleb is very proud of his town. “We’re known,” Taleb says, “for our green landscapes and olive and fig trees, which need a lot of water. Rain for us means abundance, prosperity, fertility, and life. But sadly, it also means flooding.”
The name, Jaba’, comes from a Roman origin meaning springs of water. True to its name, the town has several springs. Part of the town lies in the steep valley of Wad Al-Majjor, which makes it vulnerable to rainwater flooding.
Taleb has personally witnessed the long history of flooding events his town has endured over the years. He can list the worst flood years from memory.
“I have lived in Jaba’ since the 1940s and I’ve seen terrible floods hit the town – in 1943, 1953, 1973, and 2012.”
He also talks about how the town has changed.
“Since I renovated my home in 1998, Jaba’ has witnessed great population growth. Many families have moved here and built new houses near this valley. It’s nice to see, but it means the physical and financial losses during floods are now even bigger.”
Taleb describes how flooding has affected him and his family.
“I remember once when I was young, I was playing down in a field when a storm hit. Water suddenly came out of nowhere and I was stuck. Luckily, my father came, threw me a rope, and pulled me to safety. When I finally reached him, my father grabbed me by my ear and scolded me, yelling, ‘This will teach you to never play outdoors when it rains!’”
This was not the only close call the family experienced. “My son, Malek, would have drowned if it hadn’t been for his older brother, Tarek, who pulled him out of a deep pool of water that formed in a matter of minutes,” Taleb says.
“I remember, once, our neighbor was returning home with his donkey carrying crops. Rainwater flowed down out of nowhere, and almost drowned the two of them.”
He chuckles, “Those were such moments of adventure! My sons were able to find a tree branch and we held the branch from one end and told my neighbor to hold it from his end, pulling all the while until he finally reached our side! Don’t worry, we saved the donkey too!”
In 2012, the town witnessed one of its most devastating rainstorms. Jaba’ Municipality reported nearly $47,000 worth of damage to commercial properties alone, not to mention the damage to agricultural lands, homes and public roads as well as the loss of crops.
Taleb saw the impact of the damage himself. “My neighbor, Hussam, who lives a few houses away, lost all his crops. The flooding wiped out most of his land, and his house was heavily damaged by the water. He had to do serious rehabilitation work afterward.”
Through the USAID-funded Palestinian Community Infrastructure Development program, Anera installed a new rainwater drainage system in Jaba’ to prevent dangerous floodwaters from forming.
The concrete drainage channel will help protect about 4,000 residents and their properties in the Wad Al-Majjor valley from annual flooding. Direct rainfall and accumulated stormwater will now be channeled and directed to flow away from houses, shops, and other public and private properties in the valley. Residents will now be able to safely access shops and services in the town during the wet winter months.
“Every time I remember the winter of 2012, I shiver,” Taleb says. “I expected the flooding this winter to be even more destructive. But I’m relieved now knowing that we have a new rainwater drainage channel just in time for the winter!”