‘Gaza infrastructure nearing collapse’

NGO’s report describes territory’s blackouts, lack of cooking gas and fuel.

Qatar donated $12 million of fuel to offset Gaza power shortage (credit: REUTERS)
Gaza’s infrastructure is on the verge of collapse, the Israeli NGO Gisha said in a detailed report it issued on Tuesday, which painted a bleak picture of the lack of basic utilities in the Hamas-controlled Strip.
It described how Gaza’s 1.8 million residents lack regular supplies of electricity, drinking water and adequate telecommunication services.
“Electricity blackouts in Gaza last between 8-12 hours each day, and have sometimes even reached 20 hours straight,” Gisha said.
“Cooking gas and fuel for industry and vehicles are sometimes unavailable as well. One constant in Gaza is the persistent noise made by generators both domestic and industrial that are employed throughout the Strip to power homes, businesses, schools and hospitals in the absence of a consistent electricity supply,” it explained.
Gaza has one power plant, which is inadequate to meet the needs of the Strip, producing only 60 to 80 megawatts.
Egypt sells Gaza 28 megawatts and Israel sells it 120 megawatts.
This is far short of the 400 megawatts needed daily, Gisha said.
In 2015, the average water consumption was 86 liters per-person, per-day, 14 less than the 100 liters per-day per-person that the World Health Organization recommends, Gisha said.
Some 96% of Gaza’s ground water is contaminated and its well water is pumped out faster than it is replaced, the report said. Electricity problems have only exacerbated the issue, it added.
Israel has increased the amount of water it has sold to Gaza, but the outdated infrastructure cannot handle the increased supply, Gisha said.
It noted that part of the problem is disputes between Hamas and Fatah, along with funding difficulties.
Israel also has a large role to play, because of the restrictions it places on the border crossings into Gaza, particularly the banning of certain items necessary for improving the infrastructure in the Strip, such as UPS devices and solar panels, Gisha said. It has long held that Israel must lift its restrictions.
“Israel blames Palestinians for the situation, but at the same time delays the entry of materials and equipment necessary for progress on projects, including those meant to repair damage from the latest military operation in 2014,” Gisha said. “The risk of future conflict deters foreign donors from initiating new projects,” it added.
Gisha recommends that the Palestinian Energy and Natural Resources Authority waive the excise tax for diesel fuel, improve bill collection, repair infrastructure, and connect the supply lines based on an already existing agreement with Israel. The electricity supply from Egypt should also be increased, Gisha said.
Upgrading Gaza’s digital communications to 3G is also important, Gisha said.
In the long term, it urged that the Strip’s sole power plant should be connected to natural gas sources and a large scale desalination plant should be built.
Since Gisha completed its report, some steps have been taken to improve the situation.
The Palestinian Authority plans to run a new gas line into Gaza through the Kerem Shalom crossing for fuel that can be used only for the power plant.
The European Union last week inaugurated the first phase of a seawater desalination plant in Khan Yunis that will provide fresh water to 75,000 Gazans.
Israel has also given the PA increased autonomy over water and electricity.