The European Union and UNICEF laid the cornerstone on Friday for the construction of a €10 million desalination plant in Gaza.
The plant, to be implemented by UNICEF with funding from the EU, would provide 6,000 cu.m. of drinking water per day to approximately 75,000 Palestinians in Khan Yunis and Rafah in southern Gaza, according to the two organizations.
Installation of the plant will be adjacent to the sea, near Deir al-Balah, and is expected to begin operating in 2015.
“Access to clean water is a fundamental human right for all,” said EU representative John Gatt-Rutter at the ceremony.
“And yet many Gazans face acute water shortages on a day-to-day basis. Others can only access water of very poor quality.”
Construction of a desalination plant, the option chosen by the Palestinian Water Authority in 2011, will help curb over-extraction from the groundwater and the Gazan aquifer’s total collapse, according to information from the EU and UNICEF.
Such over-extraction could render the aquifer entirely unusable by 2016, according to a United Nations report.
Due to the unusable nature of the region’s groundwater, four out of five Gazans buy unregulated water from expensive, private sources, some spending as much as a third of their income on water, information from the EU and UNICEF showed.
As per the 1994 Oslo Accords, Israel is required to provide at least 23.6 million cu.m. per year of water to the Palestinian Authority, of which five m.cu.m. is supposed to go to Gaza. Currently, Israel supplies 52 m.cu.m. to the PA, Water Authority data showed.
“The launch of construction work on this desalination plant offers the prospect of access to clean water for many thousands of families in Khan Yunis and Rafah,” Gatt-Rutter said. “It forms part of the EU’s wider commitment to improving the lives of Palestinians both in Gaza and West Bank in particular in the area of water, sanitation and solid waste management.”