How can Gaza’s contaminated water catastrophe be solved

أخر تحديث : mardi 30 octobre 2018 - 11:49
How can Gaza’s contaminated water catastrophe be solved

Barely three percent of Gaza’s drinking water wells is fit for human consumption, and the crisis is claiming lives

When it comes to survival in Gaza, safe, clean drinking water is not at the top of Mousa Hillah’s list of priorities

Since the 2014 war, Hillah, known to neighbours and family as Abu Ali, has had far bigger worries, which are etched deeply into the exhausted face of the 48-year-old grandfather

Dodging shell fire from Israeli tanks, he fled with his family from the destruction of his Shuja’iyya neighbourhood, flattened by Israel in an attack so devastating – 7,000 shells in barely an hour – that it astonished even US military officials. « Holy bejeezus! » one retired general exclaimed

The family took refuge for months in an in-law’s house near the sea, along with 50 other people. When they returned, Abu Ali found his home – the one he had built after 30 years of working construction in Israel – utterly destroyed

Brick by board, he rebuilt it, adorning his front entrance, in a dose of biting irony, with repurposed tank shells

And now, as he sits in the filtered morning light beneath a lattice of grape leaves, he worries less about potable water than the Israeli drone buzzing overhead – often the harbinger of another attack

God forbid if the military on either side, Israel or Egypt, starts shooting people approaching the fence, desperate for clean water


I want to sleep well, » Abu Ali says, as his family takes refuge inside the rebuilt house. I don’t feel safe in my home

So the brackish, undrinkable water that sputters from his tap, or the sweet water with possible faecal contamination in his rooftop tank: these are issues Abu Ali files under the category of extreme nuisance

This very morning, for example, the electricity came on only from 6:30 to 8:30

It shut off before the water delivery truck arrived – « too late to pump the water to the roof, » Abu Ali complains

A shortage of drinking water is a major concern, but clearly, worrying about the buzzing drone takes priority

Gaza’s water catastrophe

Yet if the Gaza Strip truly becomes « uninhabitable » by 2020, as the UN and humanitarian groups warn, it will be largely because of the utter collapse of the system for delivering safe drinking water and properly disposing of disease-causing sewage

Because of Gaza’s water and sewage catastrophe, medical experts are now seeing sharp increases in waterborne and foodborne diseases, including gastroenteritis, severe diarrhoea, salmonella, typhoid fever, an « alarming magnitude«  of stunting in young children, and even something called « blue baby syndrome

Independent, peer-reviewed medical studies also document an alarming rise in anaemia and infant mortality. And doctors in Gaza’s hospitals now report increased cases of paediatric cancer

For years these torments seemed sealed off from the outside world by layers of fences, locked gates, patrolling Israeli drones and warplanes, and international disdain and indifference

Now, finally, from Washington to European capitals, and even to the Israeli security infrastructure in Tel Aviv, alarm bells are going off, warning that something must be done to prevent the water catastrophe in Gaza from spinning out of control

« If you really want to change the lives of people, you have to solve the water issue first, » says Adnan Abu Hasna, Gaza spokesperson for the UN Palestinian refugee agency, UNRWA

?How did the water crisis begin

The crisis essentially began with the creation of Israel in 1948, when hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were driven from their towns and villages and the population of Gaza quadrupled in a matter of weeks

Now, three-quarters of Gaza’s two million people are refugees. Their descendants put immense pressure on Gaza’s aquifer, drawing it down so far that seawater is flowing in

What is increasing the pressure on the aquifer are the billions of gallons pumped by Gaza’s now debilitated citrus industry, and the billions more by Gaza’s Israeli settlers, who helped drain a sweet pocket of Gaza water before Israel removed them in 2005

Now, barely three percent of Gaza’s drinking water wells are fit for human consumption

The aquifer is badly contaminated with disease-causing nitrates from pesticide use, and from sewage which flows freely as Gaza’s sewage plant is shut down for lack of electricity

by Sandy Tolan/aljazeera.con
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