Hearts go out to the many Palestinians suffering in Gaza after the recent conflict with Hamas to Israel.
Gaza, a coastal land strip boarding Israel’s south and Egypt’s Sinai Desert, has a long and rich history. This is ancient Biblical land to the Jewish people dating back to Samson and Delilah. Israel, who reclaimed it after the 1967 war, had a thriving Jewish community there, who had flourishing gardens and farms.
Jewish Virtual Library reported that at the time of the Jewish disengagement from Gaza in 2005, those Jewish citizens removed included “166 Israeli farmers who produce $120 million in flowers and produce. Approximately 15 percent of Israel’s agricultural exports originate in Gaza, including 60 percent of its cherry tomato and herb exports. Israel will also lose 70 percent of all its organic produce, which also is grown in Gaza” (Jewish Virtual Library).
Gaza lies over the coastal aquifer but in Gaza, but now, most of groundwater is completely polluted. We know that most of the Palestinian population residing there, approximately 1.8 million, are living in spaces that do not accommodate the population, nor can the water possibly sustain such numbers (New York Times 2014). What many may not know is that Gaza has/had a unique geological formation underground. According to Gatestone Institute, “In ancient history, Gaza and other flourishing settlements were built where a geological formation accumulates water and dew (an important factor in that area) that fall today partly in Israel”(Gatestone 2014). And the New York Times reports further on the uniqueness of Gaza. “Over the centuries, travelers have remarked on the fecundity of Gaza’s vegetation. The Gaza Valley, which runs down into the Mediterranean coast, south of the modern city, is a refuge for migrant birds and small animals. Gaza was once the leading exporter of barley in the region; more recently, it has been a producer of citrus” (New York Times 2014). And yet this precious resource has been squandered and destroyed by a regime that will not take responsibility for its own citizens. According to ALON TAL and YOUSEF ABU-MAYLA in a New York times OP-ED, Gaza’s sewage system was already completely collapsed in 2013 as a result of the refusal of the current Hamas regime to buy alternative fuel sources. “The Hamas government refuses to buy alternative fuels, because taxes on these would go to the rival Fatah-controlled Palestinian Authority. As a result, pumping stations ceased operation in November (2013), and many streets in southern Gaza City are now inundated with human excrement” (Tal and Abu-Mayla 2013). Residents actually sandbag their homes to prevent raw sewage from entering.
Was Gaza always this plagued with water issues? Prior to 1967, when Egypt was governing Gaza, the water already showed signs of being over exploited. Seawater had already infiltrated much of the shallow aquifer there. Desalination is the key according to different sources. And Unicef, since January of this year, has already installed small, desalination plants for brackish water. “UNICEF has installed three brackish water (mixed fresh- and saltwater) desalination units with the capacity to treat 50 cubic metres per hour, and 10 units with the capacity to treat 50 cubic metres per day, which altogether provide safe drinking water to 95,000 people” (Unicef 2014). But this is not enough. And Hamas has shown where they place their funds with the recent conflict with Israel-concrete, that, was given to them to build infrastructure and schools, was used to construct massive tunnels for terrorist activities instead. And as a result of their barrage of rocket fire to Israel, they have incurred damage beyond scope with return bombing from Israel back. And with sewage already in the street, how could the situation get any worse?
As a result of the conflict, “Hundreds of thousands of people in Gaza are now without water. Within days, the entire population of the Strip may be desperately short of water,” according to Jacques de Maio, head of the ICRC delegation in Israel and the occupied territories. One of the problems is that bombing from Israel’s side had caused water technicians to be unable to do any work at all.
“Following the deaths of several municipal water technicians over the past few days, Gaza’s water service provider has suspended all field operations until the safety of its staff can be guaranteed” (ICRC 2014). This was reported in July.
As of an August 16 report by DEC, Disasters Emergency Committee, Oxfam and Save the Children Fund have been providing vital water to the people of Gaza. “Oxfam have been providing water distributions by tanker and have reached up to 200,000 people. 4,200 people have received bottled water. Save the Children have been providing daily distribution via partners of 4000L of drinking water each day in tankers to people in schools being used as shelters” (DEC 2014).
With all of the donors to the government of Gaza, humanitarian aid, It has been the responsibility of the current leadership-Hamas-to provide the proper infrastructure for its citizens, to come together with its citizens, its scholars, its engineers, its visionaries, to create a society where creative solutions are the key to preserving the precious natural resources that are there. This also creates a trusting example to surrounding nations that this is a society that is working toward the betterment of itself and its neighbors. We can only hope for the demise of this current government in Gaza and for new leadership to take the helm to begin to build for societal wellness, not for terrorism.
DEC. Disasters Emergency Committee. “Providing Food and Water.” Aug 2014.http://www.dec.org.uk/appeals/gaza-crisis-2014/providing-food-water
Lowe, Malcolm. “Palestinian Water (and Martin Schulz) The Lack of Logic.” The Gatestone Institute: International Policy Council. March 2014. http://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/4198/israel-palestinian-water-martin-schulz#
ICRC. Gaza:Water in the Line of Fire. ICRC Blog. July 2014. file:///Users/LZFolder/Documents/water%20blog/Gaza:%20Water%20in%20the%20line%20of%20fire%20%7C%20The%20ICRC%20in%20Israel,%20Golan,%20West%20Bank,%20Gaza.webarchive
The New York Times. “Gaza, Victim of History.” 2014.http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/27/opinion/gaza-victim-of-history.html?_r=0
Sanitation Updates. “Deprived of water and sanitation in Gaza.” August , 2014. http://sanitationupdates.wordpress.com/2014/08/09/deprived-of-water-and-sanitation-in-gaza/
Unicef. “A fresh Solution to Gaza’s Water Crisis.” April 2014. http://www.unicef.org/infobycountry/oPt_71763.html.