Al-Jazeerah: Cross-Cultural Understanding
News, August 2016
Israeli Blockade of Gaza Strip Causing an End to Fresh Water Resources
August 7, 2016
International Solidarity Movement | Gaza Team
As every year, during the summer, the water shortage in the Gaza Strip is accentuated. At the same time, the energy shortage caused by the blockade prevents engines and water pumps from pushing it from wells and tanks to houses and farming fields.
The Beach Camp is one of the more densely populated areas of Gaza and therefore one of the most affected by water scarcity. In addition, because of its location, directly on the seafront, its aquifers are some of the most affected by the infiltration of seawater and wastewater.
ISM collected several testimonies of people affected by this problem in order to discuss them with engineer Monther Shoblak, General Director of the Palestinian National Authority Coastal Municipalities Water Utility (CMWU).
The first testimony is that of Azzam Miflah El Sheikh Khalil, who says “the water comes only once every three days, and just for a few hours, which is not enough [to fill the tanks]. People can’t imagine how we are suffering because of the lack of water. In addition, there is no difference between the water from our wells and the sea water… The main problem is that when there is electricity there’s no running water and when there is running water there’s no electricity . The only solution we have is to buy a generator to produce electricity when there’s water, but who can buy it if there is no work?”
Azzam El Sheikh Khalil
Finally, Im Majed Miqdad explained the difficulties she and her large family are faced with in their day to day life due to water scarcity: “There [are] people who build underground tanks [as those can be filled without bombs] or who buy a generator operated with gasoline. But not everyone can afford these things. I’m one of those people who can not pay NIS 20-30 a day in gasoline to run the generator. Today, for example, in my home and in the homes of my four sons and their families we don’t have a drop of water, the four tanks are empty. We are waiting until running water and electricity will coincide in order to fill them. The situation is very hard, we have no water, we have no electricity, we have no work … If water and electricity would coincide at least three hours a day it would be enough to fill the tanks enough to spend the day. People must understand that when there is no water you can not use the bathroom, you can not take a shower, you can not clean the dishes, the house, the clothes … And here the families have five, six, ten members … we are not just two or three people in each house”.
Im Majed Miqdad, who is often left without water supply
Mokhtar Kamal Abu Riela
Because of these illegal policies practiced by the Zionist entity, “the production capacity of Gaza’s aquifer has dropped to 55 million cubic meters a year. While the water demand of the Strip is 200 million cubic meters a year”.
This overexploitation is decreasing, to an alarming point, the level of the aquifer, causing seawater to seep and fill that vacuum, mixing with the fresh water and contaminating the aquifer. Additionally, to this chloride contamination caused by seawater seeping into the aquifer, the water is contaminated by nitrates from leaking sewage and fertilizers: “These are more dangerous than chlorides, as they can’t be detected by smell or taste”.
The successive attacks on the Gaza Strip have severely affected the sewage systems and destroyed thousands of septic tanks, causing in many cases wastewater to end up in the aquifer.
In addition, due to the lack of resources of local authorities, only 72% of Gaza is equipped with sewage systems. The rest depends on septic tanks built without supervision: “The occupation never provided the necessary services, such as mandated by international law. They didn’t build enough plants for wastewater treatment in order to protect the environment. If we look at the objective data it seems that their intention was just the opposite. These plants shouldn’t be built in sandy areas, to avoid leaks, and should have an exit to the sea to prevent overflow in case of emergency. However, they built the main one in Beit Lahia, the sandiest area in Gaza and without exit to the sea. So when there is an overflow, which is quite common, wastewater inevitably ends up in the aquifer and contaminating farmlands in the area”.
At the same time, several cases of viral meningitis arose all along the Gaza Strip, some of which were mortal. This seems to be caused by wastewater contamination. This situation has forced the local authorities to close many swimming pools and advice the people not to swim in the sea, during the next weeks.
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