A Palestinian looks out from the remains of his house in Beit Hanun, a town in the northern Gaza Strip..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
As parties from the region prepare to gather in Cairo next week to discuss the reconstruction of Gaza, the environmental organization Friends of the Earth Middle East is calling upon the government to take interim measures “to alleviate the water and sanitation calamity” in the Strip.
FoEME, an organization with directors based in Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority, is recommending that Israel implement three key measures aimed at a near-term revival of the water quantity and quality in Gaza.
First and foremost, the group is advocating for an increase in the volume of the approximately 4.7 million cubic meters of water delivered annually to the Strip through two existing connections to match their capacity of 8.5 million cubic meters. FoEME also supports the transfer of water to Gaza through a recently completed connection at Nahal Oz, which has a capacity of 12 million cubic meters.
Thirdly, the organization is urging the government to move forward with the sale of as much as 30 million cubic meters of water to the Palestinian Authority, a measure agreed upon in December 2013 in a trilateral memorandum of understanding signed between Israel, Jordan and the PA in Washington.
“The lack of a clear Israeli strategy for interim involvement in the rehabilitation of Gaza’s ability to provide adequate water for its citizens is extremely detrimental to both the international efforts that are currently being mobilized to provide Gaza with a better future and Israel’s own best health and security interests,” said Gidon Bromberg, Israeli director for FoEME.
Bromberg, along with Michal Milner from his own organization and Dr. Oded Eran, a senior research fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies, on Thursday released a detailed report titled “The Water, Sanitation and Energy Crises in Gaza.”
While the brunt of the report was drafted prior to the summer conflict, a foreword added to the document provides recommendations for immediate measures that take the conflict under consideration.
Describing “a serious humanitarian crisis in Gaza” that involves water at its center, the authors stressed that an estimated 1.2 million Palestinians in Gaza still have no running water. In addition, insufficient electricity supplies bar them from treating or pumping sewage, causing a risk of pandemic diseases such as cholera or typhoid.
While connections provide water from Israel to Gaza at Bani Suhaila near Khan Yunis and Ben Said near Deir el-Balah, Israel could double the transfer of 4.7 million cubic meters through these pipes, infrastructural constraints permitting, the authors argued.
The third pipeline connection at Nahal Oz was completed several months ago, but an agreement between Israel and the PA’s Water Authority is needed before the conveyance of water begins, according to the report.
In order to generate enough electricity to provide for adequate sanitation, the authors also recommended that Israel directly supply an additional 3 megawatts of electricity to operate the newly completed World Bank waste-water treatment plant near Beit Lahiya.
“Gaza does not possess the water, energy or land resources to sustain itself independently,” Bromberg said.
“The international community is well aware of the dire need to facilitate large scale, long-term solutions – mainly desalination and waste-water treatment. However, until such solutions are developed, these efforts must involve interim measures by Israel in cooperation with the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah – export more water to the Strip and energy for water and sanitation facilities.”