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Environmental disaster threatens Beit Lahia

February 10, 2014 at 12:03 pm

The Beit Lahia Municipality, a town located in the north of the Gaza Strip, has warned of a potential environmental disaster based on fears that the sewage basins might flood at any time due to the ongoing power outages. The mayor of Beit Lahia, Khalil Matar, told Saffa news: “the town’s main basins receive the wastewater from all the municipalities in northern Gaza and then pump it to the basins in the east. Due to power outages, the pumps have stopped working and the basins will soon spill over their contents, threatening a humanitarian and environmental disaster similar to the 2007 disaster when the earth barriers around a sewage disposal pool broke, killing four Palestinians and damaging farmers’ properties as well as contaminating the underground water.”

Beit Lahia’s sewage station manager Rajab Al-Anqah added: “the sewage basins are only provided with electricity for six hours per day. Almost 30 thousand cups of wastewater arrive daily, and all of that must be pumped to the basins in the north and eastern regions. Unless this waste is pumped it will flood into neighbouring areas.”

Beit Lahia Municipality also warned that it might soon stop providing the necessary services to town residents at any time. Mayor Matar explained: “the municipality suffers from a financial crisis and cannot pay its employees, which affects the services we provide. The municipality has been postponing paying the employees’ salaries for several months now to purchase diesel to operate the sewage pumps and to hire trucks to dispose waste. Due to the power outages, we cannot operate the water pumps as well; therefore, we had to reduce the water supply hours. We coordinate with the Electricity Distribution Company to pump water while the power is working. But the trucks we use to dispose of waste have now stopped working and the municipality cannot maintain them.” Matar appealed to Arab and international organisations to intervene and help the municipalities overcome their financial crisis.

The minister of local governance in Gaza, Mohammed Al-Farra said: “the waste trucks stopped working on Sunday as a result of the fuel crisis in the Gaza Strip, forcing the municipalities to use animal-drawn carts to collect household waste that amounts to around 1,700 tons of waste per day. As a result, at least ten random dumpsters have emerged in populated areas that threaten an epidemic among the citizens. The waste could contaminate the groundwater, and raptors, stray dogs and rodents will spread in the area threatening more epidemics. The municipalities need at least 150 thousand litres of diesel a month to run their equipment and seven thousand litres of diesel to run water and sanitation, but cannot afford to purchase them right now due to high prices.”