Human Rights Groups Warn of a Severe Water Crisis in the Gaza Strip

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Story Transcript

DANNY WOOD, FSRN: In the Gaza Strip , Human rights groups warn that residents face a severe water crisis. An estimated 95% percent of drinking water fails to meet international standards and water and sanitation plants have yet to berebuilt following the 2009 Israeli war. FSRN’s Rami Almeghari has the story.

 

 RAMI ALMEGHARI, FSRN: In the beach refugee camp in western Gaza City, residents complain of limited access to drinkable water. When the water is pumped into their homes , it’s often looks contaminated, says Farouq Abu Ameera,  a 61-year-old resident of the camp and head of an extended 35-member family.

 

(VOICE-OVER TRANSLATION): " It cannot be used for any thing, either for drinking or even irrigation; it is completely unusable. Sometimes it looks red or yellow, that’s all". Ameera’s complaints are shared by Abu Essam and Um Essam, an elderly couple who says their water is no longer drinkable, compared to previous years. Um Essam says she and her husband stay awake till after midnight, when the water supply is more reliable, so they can fill their water-tanks, bottles and jugs.

 

(VOICE-OVER TRANSLATION): "Our clothes are often piled up, the house always needs cleaning and the children often want to wash after swimming in the sea but they don’t find any water, so they go to buy some purified water to wash. This is our life; there is no water; can you imagine? Every three or four days, the water runs for a couple of hours only. Also, the first drops of this water look brownish and rusty and then after 10 minutes,  it  becomes clearer but it’s extremely extremely salty, and even more salty than the sea water itself".

 

ALMEGHARI: The 12-member family of Um Essam buys clean water for drinking for one dollar each day, which adds up quickly. And the water crisis might only get worse. According to the Municipal Coastal Water Utility, the Gaza Strip’s acquifer is expected to dry up by the year 2015. The utility says there is an immediate need for a water desalination plant. Monther Shoblaq is director general for the  water utility.

MONTHER SHOBLAQ, DIRECTOR GENERAL, GAZA WATER UTILITY: We need a sea water desalination plant that should start today not tomorrow. Today we need to start the implementation of this project because, as we said in our report, 2015-16 will witness that Gaza will not contain a drop of drinkable water. The whole Gaza Strip is affected. About  two kilometers deep in our acquifer, from north to the east is invaded by the sea water, the whole Gaza Strip’s water is salinated  by chloride contamination and almost 70 percent of the Gaza Strip water is contaminated by nitrate because we haven’t proper sewage water collection and treatment system.

 

ALMEGHARI: Shoblaq says they are working on  upgrading some existing waste water treatment plants with the help of a German corporation. Also, they managed to install two small  sewage treatment plants in southern Gaza. Additionally , the  Palestinian Authority is pursuing the construction of a water desalination plant and new infrastructure for transporting fresh water.  But first , the project needs to be funded. Next, the supplies need to get inside the occupied Strip.

 

SHOBLAQ: This time we tried to give responsibility or to enforce responsibility on the donors by saying to them, if you don’t show up now and start allocating budget for this project, Gaza water problem will be reversal. Donors will be requested and they are now working to have the Israeli commitment not to obstruct this project.

 

ALMEGHARI: Currently, the Palestinian Water Authority in cooperation with the EU and other international bodies, is implementing a waste water treatment plant project, worth 40 million dollars, all funded by the World Bank. The plant includes 14 buildings and will treat both waste water and sludge.
Upon completion of the project in about one year and a half, 280,000 residents of northern Gaza Strip will start pumping their waste water into the plant. The  project started in August 2005, but was stalled  due to Israeli blockade of Gaza and violence in the region. Work resumed last September, following the easing of the Israeli blockade that allowed materials into Gaza that  are vital for the project. The plant is expected to be completed in 2013.

 

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