Representatives of water institutions operating in the Gaza Strip, international figures and Palestinian activists held a press conference in Gaza city on Saturday about the catastrophic situation of water in the Gaza Strip and asked the international community to resolve the crisis.
The Director of UNRWA Operations in Gaza, Bo Schack said, “I hope that we all work together in order to find a solution to the crisis”.
“In light of the Israeli siege and the current crises, we in UNRWA have dealt with big issues that resulted from power shortage which affected all aspects of life including water,” he added.
The UN official opined that finding solutions to the water problem starts from resolving the energy issue.
He pointed out that UNRWA, as part of its works in refugee camps, runs water wells and equip its schools with water filters.
“We try to work with other organizations on coming up with solutions to many issues especially the water crisis”, Bo Schack said.
Maher Salem, Head of Gaza Municipality Water Department, said that Gaza currently has 80 wells with only 67 working.
Salem added, “Unfortunately, there is no well of them suitable for human use, except for house usage only."
Gaza city alone consumes over 30 million cubic meters of water annually while the annual return to the groundwater tank is less than 30% of that quantity, he highlighted.
Gaza municipality set a number of plans and projects to solve the problems of the water situation; most prominently the duplication of water quantities imported from Israel. Gaza Strip imports 30 million cubic meters of water annually from Israel.
Mazen al-Banna, Deputy Head of Water Authority in the Gaza Strip, warned during the press conference of the high water pollution rate in Gaza Strip.
Al-Banna elaborated by saying: “We have a large deficit, which has negative repercussions, including sea water intrusion," noting that the wells near the sea are salty to 1000 mg of chloride and that the maximum water salinity should be 250 mg per liter, according to the World Health Organization.
Al-Banna said that the groundwater reservoir suffers because of its proximity to the surface of the earth and the presence of high permeable sandy soil in addition to the leakage of sewage water to it.
Director-general of the Environment Protection Department in Gaza, Bahaa al-Din al-Agha, said that the percentage of groundwater pollution amounted to 98%, indicating that it is unable to meet world health standards of drinking water.
Al-Agha pointed out that the percentage of the energy shortage reached 70%, which led to shortage in water quantities going to residents’ homes.
A media campaign was launched, by Press House and other organizations concerned with water, during the conference in Gaza city on Saturday about the catastrophic situation of water in the Gaza Strip.
Bilal Jadallah, director of Press House, said that the campaign, which was launched in Arabic and English, will continue for a few days.
According to the latest statistical studies by the Water Authority, the water shortage rate in Gaza Strip reached 110 million cubic meters annually, while the need of the population is 200 million cubic meters per year.
Last July, a UN report stated that ground water in Gaza, the only source of drinking water, would be unusable by 2020 unless urgent moves are taken in order to slove the problem.
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