Environmental data accessible for everyone: This is the goal Palestine set out to accomplish under the lead of the Environment Quality Authority (EQA). Overcoming political, technological and pandemic-related challenges, they are currently establishing a nation-wide, centralized environmental information system (EIS).In the endeavor towards better and universal access to relevant environmental information, six ministries have decided to pool their data. Many other government departments, line agencies, specialized agencies and NGOs are expected to join.
The topics covered in the new information system include a wide variety of environmental topics connected to pollution, conservation and climate change.
The easily navigable interface allows the platform users – which next to government officials, academia and the general public might also be administrators, the private sector and NGOs – to instantaneously access a wide array of data from Palestine.
The aim is to make environmental information accessible to everyone - such as researchers working on an environmental report, decision-makers in search of data to inform their policies or schools looking to increase their students’ awareness through regional statistics.
The environmental information system is designed to collect and share all available data and indicators. It operates on free, open-source software and counts on the broad support of all participants volunteering their information. Uploads take place automatically from other servers, such as the case of meteorological and water quality information, or autonomously by the hand of the different stakeholders. All data is checked by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics before becoming available to the public.
Six ministries will share their knowledge on the new platform, more are to be added.
The agencies link and input their own databases to the new environmental information system.
This allows a wide array of users to profit from a centralized collection of information, which did not exist up until now.
Up until now, Palestinian environmental information has only been stored by the individual agencies that produce them. Data was not widely shared and difficult to access. Thus, the project, initiated in 2010/11, was born out of a need for competent, well-sourced data to inform Palestine’s regularly produced state of environment report.
The project has had to overcome many challenges to succeed, including the political ones that come with being an occupied territory. Energy cuts and subsequently, internet shortages, old technological hardware (physical servers which will now become virtual) and the ongoing COVID-19 virus can also be mentioned. Due to the pandemic, Palestinians have/had been on lockdown ever since early March 2020, slowing down the implementation of the system and postponing its launch date. The crisis is having a deep impact on Palestine’s economy and people making the humanitarian situation - already strained by continued restrictions on movement of goods, people and access to natural resources - worse.
However, despite these obstacles, the work on the environmental information system has consistently continued and will reach its conclusion shortly.
The mission of the Palestinian Environmental Quality Authority is to protect nature and prevent environmental catastrophes. The National Policy Agenda 2017-2022 outlines five main goals to achieve this purpose. Summarized, these include 1) low and controlled environmental pollution levels, 2) conservation of environmental and biological diversity, 3) taking actions towards climate change adaptation, 4) reinforcing and upholding the environmental legislative system, environmental institutional framework and international cooperation and 5) promotion of environmental awareness, knowledge and ecological behavior.
The environmental information system can be seen as a measuring and monitoring tool for these objectives.
Gathering data and indicators from different sources takes time and manpower. Investment into an overarching information system that collects all available environmental data in one place helps cut down costs for the government organizations involved. So does the use of free, open-sourced software.
Upgrading the existing IT hardware and services, exploring new software and developing a national environmental information system allow for more efficiency in gathering and managing data as well as measuring and monitoring progress.