With all the controversy surrounding the Palestinian – Israeli conflict, water contamination in Gaza is coming to the forefront of worries for Palestinians in the region.
According to Bloomberg News, the aquifer that provides water to the Gaza Strip may become unusable within four years and irreversibly damaged by 2020 unless pumping stops and major infrastructure upgrades are made, the United Nations said, making water contamination in Gaza a prevalent issue. A UN report states that 90 percent of the water that lies between Egypt and Israel, where the Gaza strip is located, is not safe to drink without proper treatment.
The UN report, which was released on August 27, states that without more investments in desalination and waste water treatment, Gaza’s power, living and sanitation conditions are expected to worsen. Due to over-pumping of part of the coastal aquifer that runs beneath Gaza, the naturally high saline levels have increased dramatically over the past five years. According to the Palestinian Water Authority, three times more water is extracted from the aquifer each year than it recharges.
While trucks go around the towns of Gaza offering desalinated water for a small sum, according to Khalil Awad, who lives in Shati refugee camp in Gaza, states, “There’s no healthy water in all of Shati and I can’t afford to buy bottled water for all my children.” Efforts have been made to build desalination plants that create potable water from the sea in Gaza, however, due to the poor relationship between Hamas, the governing party in Gaza, and Israel, the process has been slowed down significantly.
According to the charity group Oxfam’s report that was released in July, “Microbiological water contamination, mainly from sewage seeping into the aquifer, is pervasive and responsible for high incidents of diarrhea and other water-associated diseases in Gaza’s children under five in particular.” The group also noted that while the blockade in Gaza makes exceptions for UN and aid group projects, they encountered “numerous obstacles” trying to transport raw materials and equipment through the Israeli crossings in an attempt to build a newly opened water treatment plant for brackish water in the Gaza town of Rafah.
Hamas blames Israel for blocking equipment from being brought in to repair water and sewage networks, making the already poor living conditions in the area that much worse. However, Israel states that the blockades and material restrictions are for the safety and security of Israel as they claim the materials can be used to build rockets or bombs.
photo by Jenn Durfey
Water Contamination in Gaza Worrisome for Palestinians.