Palestinians in Gaza face humanitarian disaster due to water pollution

15:10, March 24, 2011

The Palestinians in the Gaza Strip had on Wednesday expressed fear that a humanitarian disaster is pending due to the lack of underground water and the increasing pollution of drinking water, as Israel prevented them from improving their water infrastructure.

The underground water is considered as the major resource of water, not only in the Gaza Strip, but all over the Palestinian territories. The Palestinians usually wait for the rain in winter to fill the wells in order to meet their need for the whole year.

Baha al-Deen al-Agha, director general of planning in the environment authorities in Gaza told Xinhua that the deterioration of water quality in the Gaza Strip is mainly due to the Israeli measures of preventing the Palestinians from establishing a good and a proper water infrastructure.

“There has been a plan to establish three central stations to treat Gaza Strip waters, and the budget has been available for several years, but Israel prevents the Palestinians from building up these stations by preventing the basic materials importing through the crossing points it controls,” said al-Agha.

Although Israel has lifted a tight blockade imposed on the Gaza Strip after Hamas seized control of the enclave by force in June 2007, the authorities is still preventing construction raw materials from entering into the Gaza Strip through the border crossing points it controls.

“Israel is halting the surface water that goes to the Gaza Strip by blocking water to go through Gaza valley,” said al-Agha, adding that other major reasons that caused a water crisis in Gaza “is the increase of the population, the lack of rainfalls and the Israeli stealing of Gaza underground water.”

“Around 95 percent of the underground water in the Gaza Strip became not applicable to the international standards,” said al- Agha, adding that there are more than 95 percent of the population in Gaza who are drinking polluted water in their homes. The people in Gaza, who is supposed to have 150 litter share of water according to international standards, is only getting 80 liters per day, he said.

The Palestinian Statistic Bureau issued some figures to mark the World Water Day, which fell on Tuesday. It said that the share of the Palestinians’ water resources in the region is only 18 percent, while the Israeli share of water had hit 81 percent.

“We have a severe water crisis and we are obliged to buy water for cooking and for dinking, while ordinary water we get at home has high percentage of salt,” Mohamed al-Ja’bari, a resident in Gaza said.

“Sometimes we have to use the water we buy to clean our clothes and dishes, mainly when electricity was cut off and water pumps stopped pumping water to the houses.” said al-Ja’bari.

Mahmoud Daher, an official from the World Health Organization ( WHO) office in Gaza told Xinhua that 80-90 percent of the drinking water is not healthy according to the international standards, adding that 70 percent of water test in Gaza wells showed that the percentage of the Nitrate surpassed the standard.

“The United Nations has also reiterated that the resources of underground water won’t be sufficient for the Gaza Strip population within the coming ten to fifteen years,” said Daher.

In 1993, the United Nations marked March 22 as the World Water Day. The international organization devoted this day for carrying out international and local activities for public awareness of the importance of water and looking for new resources of drinking water.

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