[DEBATE] : (Fwd) Don't forget Gaza
pbond at mail.ngo.za
Sun Aug 13 05:22:51 BST 2006
(For 1.4 million: 'If nothing is done, there will be no usable water resources in Gaza and it will become impossible to live there.)
Information Clearing House 08/09/06
"Positive Conditions" - The Water Crisis in Gaza
By Alice Gray
The political rhetoric and frequent violence of the Israeli-Palestinian
conflict often serve to mask underlying environmental issues which, if not
resolved, may pose an even greater threat to the well-being of the
Palestinian population than the guns and bombs of the military occupation.
Environmental degradation threatens to undermine the viability of any future
Palestinian state and create conditions that will make life in many parts of
the Palestinian Territories impossible. Many environmental problems are
accelerated and exacerbated by Occupation practices, which prevent effective
environmental management. This problem is particularly acute in Gaza in
relation to the water resources and the ongoing military conflict.
The roots of Gaza's water problem lie in the over-population of the area due
to a high influx of refugees in 1948, when approximately 200,000 people fled
to Gaza from the Jaffa and Beersheva areas of what is now Israel following
Israel's War of Independence. The original population of the Gaza Strip at
that time was 80,000 people, thus this represented an increase of some 250%.
Today, over three quarters of the estimated Gazan population of 1.4 million
are registered refugees (UNRWA, 2006).
The Gaza Strip is a very small area of land with a total area of only 360
km2. It is underlain by a shallow aquifer, which is contiguous with the
Israeli Coastal Aquifer to the north. Gaza is the 'downstream user' of the
Coastal Aquifer system, and hence water abstraction in Gaza does not affect
Israeli water supplies. The Gaza Aquifer has a natural recharge rate of
approximately 65 million cubic metres (MCM) of water per year from rainfall
and lateral inflow of water from Israel and Egypt (CAMP, 2000).
This aquifer is essentially the only source of fresh water in the Gaza
Strip. By 1967, when Israel occupied Gaza, the sustainable yield of the
aquifer was being fully utilized (Nasser, 2003). Since then, as the
population has grown, so too has the demand for fresh water. No serious
attempt was made at exercising any water management strategy in the Gaza
Strip during the Israeli administration, with the number of registered wells
increasing from 1200 in 1967 to 2100 in 1993 (Nasser, 2003). Abstraction
from the aquifer was approximately 110 MCM per year by 1993, resulting in
falling water levels and degrading water quality due to seawater
infiltration, caused by the over-pumping that had been taking place.
Likewise, there was little investment in maintaining or improving the
deteriorating water infrastructures of Palestinian municipalities during
this period, despite taxes being payed by Palestinians to the Israeli
government (World Bank, 1993).
In 1994, the Gaza-Jericho agreement placed water resources in the Gaza Strip
under the control of the newly formed Palestinian Authority and in 1995 the
Palestinian Water Authority (PWA) was formed and given the mandate for
managing water in the Palestinian Territories. At this time it was widely
recognized that there was a serious environmental problem with the Gaza
Aquifer, with experts predicting that if nothing was done, the entire
aquifer would become unusable by the year 2000 (Bleier, 1994). In addition,
the water infrastructure was in a very poor state, with 50% of water being
lost through leaking pipes (PWA, 2003). Therefore the PWA, with the help of
international donors (principally the United States Agency for International
Development - USAID), set out to develop a management strategy for the Gaza
Aquifer and engaged the engineering firm Metcalf & Eddy to carry out an
environmental survey and draw up a management plan. The Integrated Coastal
Aquifer Management Plan (CAMP) was drawn up in 2000, with an implementation
period of 20 years.
Map of the water resources of Israel/Palestine, and water utilization along
the Jordan River. From the Palestinian Academic Society for the study of
International Affairs (PASSIA) 2002 (www.passia.org).
The main components of the CAMP included reducing the amount of water pumped
from the aquifer for agricultural irrigation whilst simultaneously improving
supply of drinking water to the population by providing additional water
from sources other than the Aquifer. These included import of water from
Israel, construction of seawater desalination plants and improving
wastewater treatment to allow it to be used for irrigation and managed
aquifer recharge. It was envisaged that, in the longer term, following a
political settlement with Israel and resolution of the Palestinians' water
rights in the West Bank, a pipeline could be constructed between the West
Bank and Gaza to ensure adequate supplies for the growing population.
If implemented on schedule, it was expected that the CAMP would bring the
Gaza Aquifer back into a positive water balance by 2007, whereas "failure to
implement the CAMP in accordance with the schedule will result in continuing
decline in the quantity and quality of the aquifer water " (CAMP, 2000).
Unfortunately, completion of the CAMP (May, 2000) narrowly preceded the
outbreak of the Al Aqsa Intifada in September 2000. Despite initial attempts
to implement the plan, and small progress in some areas, little has been
achieved since then. The number of agricultural wells, many of them
unregistered, has increased to approximately 4000 (PCBS, 2004); the supply
of water from Israel has declined by approximately half from 1998 to 2004 in
breach of the Oslo Accords (WaSH MP, 2005); construction of the planned
regional desalination plant halted in 2003 when one of the workers was
killed; and Gaza's wastewater treatment facilities are still vastly
inadequate with 80% of sewage being discharged untreated into the
environment (UNEP, 2003).
In addition, missile strikes and ground incursions have repeatedly damaged
and destroyed pipelines, and maintenance personnel have been arrested, shot
at or even killed whilst trying to carry out repairs (E-WaSH 2002).
Inadequate sewage treatment infrastructure and damage to wastewater and
drinking water pipelines has allowed sewage water to contaminate drinking
water supplies, leading to sharp increases in water borne diseases in many
areas. Failure to control over-pumping has led to sea-water intrusion into
the aquifer to the extent that, in 2003, only 10% of the wells produced
water of World Health Organization (WHO) drinking water standards (UNEP,
2003). Most recently, this years' Israeli invasion of Gaza (Operation Summer
Rain, June 2006) has caused untold damage to water infrastructure, with
destruction of the Gaza Electric Station affecting the operation of the
majority of wells, pumping stations and sewage treatment facilities (CMWU,
In short, Gaza teeters on the brink of a humanitarian and environmental
catastrophe and urgent action is required to prevent widespread suffering.
To compound matters, USAID have recently pulled out of the Palestinian water
sector, abandoning ongoing projects and closing their contactors' offices,
in an international aid embargo aimed at undermining the Hamas government.
As has proved to be the case with so many international sanctions and
embargoes (like Iraq for example), the result of this move is the communal
punishment of every man, woman and child in the country targeted. It is a
clumsy, inept and immoral means of pressuring the government to fall into
line; and primarily hurts the most vulnerable members of the society.
The options for improving the water situation in Gaza remain effectively
unchanged since 2000. Namely, additional supplies must be made available:
through desalination, wastewater treatment and reuse, import from Israel, or
import from the West Bank. Currently, the unstable conditions in the Gaza
Strip make large scale engineering projects impossible to implement. The
less technically difficult options of water import from Israel or the West
Bank are loaded with political implications and complexities. Both require
the cooperation of Israel to ensure their implementation as additional
pipelines would need to be constructed, and in the first case, the Israeli
water company, Mekorot, would have to supply the water; whereas in the
second, a pipeline would have to be constructed across Israeli territory and
furthermore, an agreement would have to be reached on Palestinian water
rights in the West Bank.
The water situation in the West Bank is almost the exact inverse of Gaza, in
that there are relatively abundant water resources in the Mountain Aquifer
system and Jordan River, but there is very little access to or sovereignty
over them. This is due to the fact that Palestinians have been denied any
access to the Jordan River waters since 1967, and 80% of the Mountain
Aquifer water is utilized by Israel, which is downstream of the West Bank in
terms of water usage. Thus control over water resources was very tight
during the Israeli administration (1967 - 1995), with only 23 licenses being
granted for new wells, and the number of working wells in fact decreasing
from 413 in 1967 to 300 by 1983 (Nasser, 2003). Many communities in the West
Bank currently suffer from severe water shortages, and 13% of the West Bank
population are not connected to any form of water network (WaSH MP, 2005).
The Oslo Agreements of the 1990s deferred definition of Palestinian water
rights in the West Bank to final status negotiations, which have not yet
Thus resolution of Palestine's water problems is utterly dependent on
cooperation from Israel; and inaction will lead to a serious environmental
disaster in Gaza and to continued suffering for many water starved
communities in the West Bank. Water shortage also undermines the
agricultural sector and prevents it from developing, with consequences for
the food security and economic well-being of the Palestinian population. In
short, access to adequate water supplies underpins the viability of life in
the Palestinian Territories.
When considering the likelihood of cooperation being forthcoming from
Israel, it is worth reviewing several statements that have been made by
Israel's leaders in recent years. Yitzak Rabin, the architect of the Oslo
Peace Process stated in 1974, during his tenure as Israeli Minister of
Defense stated that:
"Israel will create in the course of the next 10 or 20 years conditions
which would attract natural and voluntary migration of the refugees from the
Gaza Strip and the West Bank to Jordan." (Yitzak Rabin, former Labor Party
It may be that he had changed his mind by the time he made the historic move
of shaking hands with Yasser Arafat and legitimizing the Palestinian
Authority. It is possible, although various features of the Oslo Accords,
such as the minimal transfer of sovereignty over environmental resources
would suggest otherwise. It is possible. No-one can tell what Israel and
Palestine would have looked like today if Rabin had not been assassinated by
a far right Jewish extremist. However, if Rabin no longer believed in
transfer of the West Bank and Gazan populations, Ariel Sharon, architect of
the Gaza Disengagement Plan certainly did:
"It is the duty of Israeli leaders to explain to public opinion, clearly and
courageously, a certain number of facts that are forgotten with time. The
first of these is that there is no Zionism, colonization or Jewish state
without the eviction of the Arabs and the expropriation of their lands."
(Ariel Sharon, former Likud Party Prime Minister, Agence France Press,
November 15, 1998).
"You don't simply bundle people onto trucks and drive them away. I prefer to
advocate a positive policy, to create, in effect, a condition that in a
positive way will induce people to leave." (Ariel Sharon, August 24, 1988)
Olmert, Sharon's heir, has also recently avowed his commitment to the ideal
of 'Eretz Israel':
"Only a person in whose soul Eretz Yisrael burns knows the pain of letting
go of our ancestral heritage" (Ehud Olmert, May 4th 2006, speech to the
Knesset whilst presenting the Unilateral Disengagement Plan)
"I believed, and to this day still believe, in our people's eternal and
historic right to this entire land." (Ehud Olmert, Israeli Prime Minister,
to the US House of Representatives, June 2006)
What can be perceived here is that many of Israel's leaders, whilst
appearing to make concessions to the Palestinians, have in fact retained an
ideological commitment to 'Eretz Israel from the river to the sea', and have
concentrated their policy towards creating 'facts on the ground' that will
make life for the Palestinians impossible, hence creating the 'positive
conditions' required to induce people to leave. A close examination of the
Gazan water crisis illustrates this point very well. If nothing is done,
there will be no usable water resources in Gaza and it will become
impossible to live there. Nothing can be done without Israeli cooperation.
Thus whilst Israel may not have intentionally set out to create the Gaza
water crisis, it fits in rather well with Zionist expansionist aspirations
to perpetuate the situation and prevent meaningful action being taken to
If one examines the process that is taking place in the West Bank, whereby a
series of Bantustans are being created through land confiscation, settlement
expansion and the building of the 'Separation Barrier', with the population
becoming ever more urbanized and access to resources such as water and land
becoming ever more restricted, it is possible to see that what in effect is
happening is the creation of a number of 'mini Gazas'. To illustrate this
point: the building of the Wall in the north of the West Bank led to the
destruction of 25 wells and the isolation of 50 more (WaSH MP 2004),
isolating many localities from their only source of water and destroying the
irrigated farming industry. One estimate anticipates that when completed,
the Wall will isolate Palestinians from 65% of their water resources (CAABU,
2003), although so much uncertainty surrounds its final route that no solid
predictions can be made. Thus a number of highly urbanized communities will
be created, with poor economic and social conditions and inadequate
resources to sustain themselves. This is the manifestation of Sharon's
"positive policy", which essentially amounts to ethnic cleansing by other
means, causing widespread suffering, illness and death.
Palestinian water resources, the Separation Barrier and the Eastern
Segregation Zone (ARIJ GIS, 2005)
It is clear that the viability of the Palestinian state and the livelihoods
of the Palestinian people are being systematically undermined. The situation
is not yet so far gone that it is irreversible. However, given the
advantages to Israel of allowing the current state of affairs to persist,
and the urgency of immediate action to avert catastrophe in Gaza, it is
clear that international intervention is required to protect the human
rights of the Palestinian people and prevent humanitarian and environmental
disaster. The current violent conflict in the region should not blind us to
the pressing need to address underlying environmental issues, which have the
potential to cause as much, indeed possibly much greater suffering, than
direct military actions.
UNRWA (2006) The Gaza Refugees - http://www.un.org/unrwa/refugees/gaza.html
United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees.
CAMP (2000) Integrated Aquifer Management Plan, Coastal Aquifer Management
Program. Metcalf & Eddy in cooperation with the Palestinian Water Authority
(PWA). United States Agency for International Development, May 2000.
Nasser Y (2003) Palestinian Water Needs and Rights in the Context of Past
and Future Development. In Water in Palestine: Problems - Politics -
Prospects. Palestinian Academic Society for the Study of International
Affairs (PASSIA), Jerusalem.
PCBS (2004) - Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics
World Bank (1993) Developing the Occupied Territories - An Investment in
Peace. Washington, USA, 1993.
Bleier R (1994) Israel's Appropriation of Arab Waters: an Obstacle to Peace.
Middle East Labor Bulletin, 1994.
PWA (2003) Quantities of Water Supply in the West Bank Governorates.
Directorate General of Resources and Planning, Palestinian Water Authority.
E-WaSH (2002) 'Nablus Water Situation', 'Ramallah Water Situation', Tulkarm
Water Situation'; Internal Reports; 14th April 2002. Emergency Water,
Sanitation and Health Committee.
WaSH MP (2004) Water for Life: Israeli Assault on Palestinian Water,
Sanitation and Hygiene during the Intifada. Water, Sanitation and Hygiene
Monitoring Project (WaSH MP), Palestinian Hydrology Group (PHG).
WaSH MP (2005) Water for Life: Continued Israeli Assault on Palestinian
Water, Sanitation and Hygiene during the Intifada. Water, Sanitation and
Hygiene Monitoring Project (WaSH MP), Palestinian Hydrology Group (PHG).
UNEP (2003) Desk Study on the Environment in the Occupied Palestinian
Territories. United Nations Environment Programme, 2003.
CAABU (2003) Fact Sheet: 'Israel's Security Wall: It's Impact on Palestinian
Communities.' Council for the Advancement of Arab-British Understanding,
CMWU (2006) Latest Situation Report about Water and Wastewater Due to
Prevailing Security Conditions. Coastal Municipalities Water Utility, July
4th 2006, Gaza, Palestine.
Globe and Mail 12/08/06
Israel's other war still rages
As the world focuses on Lebanon, Gaza reaches state of desolation
Special to The Globe and Mail
Gaza City -- This is Israel's other war, the war that has been largely
brushed aside by a world focused on the invasion of Lebanon.
In a hospital bed, a 21-year-old with diabetes lies on his side, unable to
turn over because of the large swaths of muscle and skin torn from his
calves and thighs when a missile landed just behind him.
In an elementary school, large families crowd into small classrooms,
mattresses on the floor and tables and chairs pushed to the corners, taking
refuge, along with about 1,500 others, from the shells that have landed on
their brand-new apartment.
And in dusty, unused storefronts, reluctant adults trickle in, brandishing
UN-issued coupons for sunflower oil, flour, beans, rice, sugar and milk --
some of the more than one million Gazans who now rely on food aid for daily
meals, though electricity cuts and fuel shortages have made it difficult to
cook or even get water from the taps.
Two months ago, humanitarian-aid agencies warned that Gaza was in crisis,
after months without the foreign aid that was cut off to its Hamas-led
Today, with nearly 200 dead, more than 1,000 injured and families who
haven't seen a spare shekel in weeks, Gaza is well beyond crisis -- this
tiny stretch of land on the sea has reached what the aid agencies call an
unprecedented level of poverty and violence.
"It's dangerous and miserable," said John Ging, the director of the United
Nations Relief and Works Agency in Gaza. "We completely understand why the
world's attention is focused on Lebanon. But we also want everyone to be
aware that this military conflict has not abated.
"This is the largest, most enduring crisis of modern times. It's 56 years
since UNRWA was established and we are today feeding 820,000 people in the
Gaza Strip," he said. (Another 220,000 people are being fed by the World
Food Program, which assists Gaza residents without refugee status.)
Nearly seven weeks of intense missile strikes, artillery fire and ground
incursions by Israeli troops are the price paid for the capture of a young
Israeli conscript, the death of two of his comrades, and continued Qassam
rockets landing on Israeli soil. Israeli army figures show that 338 Qassams
have landed in Israel since June 1; eight people have been killed in those
strikes. And one additional soldier has been killed in Gaza operations since
Corporal Gilad Shalit's capture.
"We aren't dealing with normal governments. We're dealing with a terrorist
organization which wants to destroy Israel," said Israeli Foreign Ministry
spokesman Gideon Meir, referring to the Hamas-led government. Hamas's
militant wing has been linked to the capture. The goal, Israel says, is to
stop the Qassams and get its soldier back -- and they won't stop until they
"Right now there are no hypothetical moves if this doesn't happen. Right now
we have to continue with what we are doing," Mr. Meir said.
But while many of the homemade Qassams do little more than property damage,
Israel's missiles are powerful, precision-guided bombs that take out
militants and, often, children among the throngs found on nearly every Gaza
street. More than 40 children, including babies and toddlers, have died in
Gaza in the past six weeks. Summer camps have been cancelled because of the
risk, and many families are afraid even to go to the beach, still haunted by
the screaming of young Huda Ghalia after the gruesome deaths of seven
members of her family here in June.
At Gaza's Shifa hospital, the largest in the strip, doctors say they have
never seen injuries of this number and severity. Many of their operations
are amputations of limbs too damaged by missiles or shells to be saved;
surgeons report opening up patients who appear to be without scratches on
the outside, only to find severe intestinal damage from the force of an
"In the past it was only shrapnel [injuries] -- no burns, no amputations.
The damage was managed easily by us. Now, no. It's extensive damage,
extensive injuries, extensive burns. It would be difficult to manage here or
abroad," said Dr. Jomaa al-Saqa, the hospital's director. The side table in
his office contains a deadly collection of more than a dozen bits of
sharp-sided metal, shrapnel from missiles and shells that have been taken
from his patients' bodies.
The hospital itself is barely getting by: With Gaza's main terminal at Karni
open only sporadically to humanitarian shipments, the hospital is now down
to basic drugs and rationing anesthetics. International aid agencies have
been supplying its generators with fuel since the air strike on Gaza's only
functioning power plant left most households with about six hours of power a
day, but the generators are saved for the most critical functions: the
operating room, the intensive-care unit, the neo-natal unit, refrigeration.
Fans, not air conditioning, are used in the operating room now, and all
elective surgery has been postponed until further notice.
Tensions inside Gaza are also on the boiling point. The Gaza Community
Mental Health Program says demand for its counsellors has skyrocketed, as
domestic abuse increases under pressures of unemployment and poverty, and
more children are traumatized by nightly missile strikes.
Internal violence between Palestinian factions has also continued, last week
spilling into a gun battle in the hospital. And with the Rafah crossing into
Egypt closed for most of the past six weeks, and the Erez crossing into
Israel reserved for special-permission and humanitarian cases, open only
sporadically even to journalists, there is nowhere for people to escape.
"Whenever there is a bombardment, you'll find everyone just running there
trying to get the injured or killed. Think of it -- children picking up
pieces of human flesh," said Ibrahim El-Aff, a project manager for the
program which was already assisting nearly 5,000 people. "They need
intervention; otherwise, God knows [what will happen]."
Yet after nearly seven weeks of military action, Cpl. Shalit is still
missing, though presumed alive and still inside Gaza. The militant groups
that claim his capture are demanding the release of Palestinian women and
children from Israeli prisons, and Israel has said it will not negotiate.
And in a place where people are quickly finding they have little left to
lose, they are solidly backing this militant group's actions, and calling
for more soldiers to be taken captive.
"I am desperate. I don't think there will be a solution in the near future,"
said Jameel Tolbeh, 43, whose family of 10 -- seven children, his wife and
his sister -- live almost exclusively on UN rations. Their home in the Shati
refugee camp beside Gaza City shakes with Israeli air strikes at night,
terrifying his children; leaflets dropped by Israeli planes condemn Hamas
political leader Khaled Meshaal and provoke fear that their neighbourhood
will be the next hit.
"Maybe the solution is to kidnap 10 soldiers more, to resolve the
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