22 March 2010
To mark the International Water Day, the Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC) organised a demonstration in front of United Nations Head Quarters in the Gaza Strip. Approximately 100 farmers and representatives of various civil society organisations gathered together to send a clear message to the United Nations and the International Community that the current water situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories is dangerous and cannot be overlooked. After a number of speeches, the organizers of the demonstration presented a letter to Ban Ki Moon asking for the Palestinians’ right to water to be protected.
Saad Zyaad, Project Manager within the UAWC addressed the special water issues Occupied Palestine faces. The main source of water in Gaza is groundwater coming from Hebron. The quantity and quality of this groundwater has had adverse effects from the Israeli settlements and their projects to build dams in order to prevent groundwater from reaching Palestinian villages. There are currently more than 50 wells built behind the Gaza Strip fence with the aim of stopping groundwater from reaching Gaza.
Each cubic metre of water that decreases from Gaza’s groundwater is replaced with sea water. This process is resulting in 70 cubic metres of groundwater being polluted. Most of the drinking wells in Gaza have proportions of chloride and nitrate which are twice the figure recommended by the World Health Organization. In addition, a 2008 study conducted by the Ministry of Health found that 14.5% of the water is contaminated with chloroform. Chloroform is a pollutant which causes adverse health conditions.
Groundwater is not sufficient for Gaza’s 1.5 million population. This is leading to a depletion of groundwater with a rate of 80 cubic metres per year. According to the World Health Organisation each person requires 100 litres of water per day. According to UAWC statistics for Gaza, every person does not even have half of this amount. Whilst in Israel on average people have four times the same amount.
“The Israeli occupation is not only of Palestinian land but also Palestinian water. The Yarmuk, Jordan River, and South Lebanon are Palestine’s richest water sources and they have all been occupied and are now in Israel’s control. Israeli settlements are built on the most water-rich land”, Zyaad commented.
The siege has caused an already serious problem to become a fully fledged crisis. The siege has prevented water treatment and purification tools from entering Gaza preventing water quality from improving. Lack of machinery also means that other viable water sources such as desalination plants cannot be created. The siege has also prevented the exchange of technical expertise with regards to water resources development between Gaza and other countries.
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