The conference was held at Birzeit University, during the period 24-26 February 2015, with the presence of representatives of academic staff and researchers from Palestinian and Dutch Universities in addition to various representatives of the Palestinian Water Authority, Ministry of Agriculture, Environmental Quality Authority, the Water Sector Regulatory Council, non-governmental organizations, donors, and the private sector.
On 24 February, the conference started with the welcome speeches by Henry Giacaman (Birzeit University), Mazen Ghunaim (Palestinian Water Authority), Peter Mollema (Netherlands Representative Office in Ramallah), Kasim Abdo (Ministry of Agriculture) and Meine Pieter van Dijk (Maastricht School of Management). Main messages of these speeches included the role of applied research and private sector; the need for expanding PADUCO by including partners from the Gaza Strip; and the importance of water in sustaining agricultural production.
The first session of the first day was entitled “Policy Needs of the Palestinian Water Sector” and chaired by Marwan Haddad (An-Najah National University). The panelists of the session were Abdulkarim As’ad (Palestinian Water Sector Regulatory Council), Hazem Kittani (Palestinian Water Authority), Issam Nofal (Ministry of Agriculture), Majed Hmoudah (Consulting Engineering Center) and Subha Ghannam (Netherlands Representative Office in Ramallah). Key issues raised in this session included the lack of assessment of existing policies and tools with a focus on local needs and conditions; the role of Israeli control on water and land as a limiting factor; the challenge of involving the private companies in the water sectors; the need for reconsidering the donors as “development partners”; and the lack of gender-sensitive planning in the water sector.
The second session was entitled “Water Management and Governance” and chaired by Nawaf Abu-Khalaf (Palestine Technical University Kadoorie). Monther Shoblak (Coastal Municipalities Water Utility) gave a keynote presentation on the water and energy needs of the Gaza Strip. Other contributors of this session were Marwan Haddad (An-Najah National University), Amer Marei, (Al-Quds University), Samah Jabari (Palestine Polytechnic University), and Mahmoud Rahail (Palestine Technical University Kadoorie) and Fadi Dweik (Applied Research Institute Jerusalem).
The third session was entitled “Non-conventional Water Resources” and chaired by Amar Kanan (Al-Quds University). The keynote presentation was given by Ahmed Yaqoubi on water resources management, use and sustainable development in the Gaza Strip. After contributions by Odai Joudeh (An-Najah National University), Maria Lousada-Ferreira (Delft University) and Rashed Al-Sa`ed (Birzeit University), Wala’a Abdallah (Birzeit University) and Abdallah Alamari (ICARDA), a special sub-session on managed aquifer recharge was held with contributions by Ebel Smidt (Delft University), Marwan Ghanem (Birzeit University) and Amer Marei (Al-Quds University).
The fourth and last session of the first day was entitled “Water Quality, Sanitation and Public Health” and chaired by Nidal Mahmoud. This session included contributions by Nawaf Abu-Khalaf (Palestine Technical University Kadoorie) and Hadeel Ikhmais (Al-Quds University).
The second day of the conference started with the session was entitled “Agricultural Production under Increasing Water Stress”. The session was chaired by Sameer Shadeed (An-Najah National University) and a keynote presentation on the opportunities and challenges of the water and agricultural sectors was delivered by Kasim Abdo (Ministry of Agriculture). This session included a set of presentations by Dia Radaydeh (Al-Quda University), Anas Abu Sada (Wageningen University), Atta Aboushi (Al-Najah National University), and Maher Abu-Madi (Birzeit University).
The second session entitled “Research, Education and Training Needs of the Palestinian Water Sector” was chaired by Abdulrahman Tamimi (Palestinian Hydrology Group). He started the session with a set of painful questions about quality of research in Palestine and its relevance. The speakers in this session were Sobhi Samhan (Palestinian Water Authority), Mohammed Hmaidi (Palestinian Water Sector Regulatory Council), Yousef Najajreh (Al-Quds University), Peter van der Steen (UNESCO-IHE), and Meine Pieter van Dijk (Maastricht School of Management). The session also discussed the means of involving the private sector in research through innovation, excellence, and suitability for future investment. The last session of the conference included presentations by Jamal Al-Dadah (Palestinian Water Authority), Sami Hamdan (Palestinian Water Authority), and Rinad Hamed (An-Najah National University).
On 26 February an excursion was organized in Hebron in collaboration with Royal Industrial Trading Company and Al-Ahli Hospital. Around 20 participants of the conference joined the excursion. Within the first part of the excursion participants received information regarding the business lines, which include among others water tanks and pipes, as well as the corporate social responsibility projects of Royal Industrial Trading Company. The second part of the excursion included a visit to Al-Ahli Hospital, where an EU project has been implemented through the collaboration of Palestinian and Dutch partners in order to develop solar-powered energy and heating solutions for the hospital.
The conference was concluded with a number of important recommendations:
- PADUCO has a good potential for serving the Palestinian water sector through focusing on local problems with the urgent need to include partners and stakeholders from the Gaza Strip,
- Palestinian universities need to consider revising its academic programs by emphasis on the skills that the students would acquire and in harmony with the market needs,
- There is an urgent need to improve the among universities, policy-makers and NGOs, with emphasis on a dialogue platform that responds to the research, training and educational needs of the water sector,
- National institutions are requested to increase interest and support to scientific research through adopting proper policies, funding, and provision of accurate data (both reliable and up-to-date), training programs should include practice and not only focus on theory.