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97% of water in Gaza is polluted

A Palestinian boy drinks water from public pipes in the Gaza Strip [Eyad Al Baba/Apaimages]

Water experts have agreed that the Gaza Strip will soon have no safe drinking water given that 97 per cent of water is polluted, which has caused concerns over the spread of dangerous diseases.

This came during a survey conducted by the Palestinian News Agency Wafa conducted on the eve of World Water Day, which falls on 22 March each year.

Al Mezan Centre for Human Rights has reported that pollution in the Gaza Strip has increased because sea water pollution rates have hit 73 per cent. The number of diarrhoea cases among children under the age of three (80 per cent) is indicative that fresh water has become contaminated and unsafe for drinking.

Deputy Head of the Palestinian Water Authority, Rebhi Al-Sheikh, explained that water pollution in the Gaza Strip is mainly due to the increasing level of salt and nitrate that has a negative effect on health, especially on children and pregnant women because it can result in kidney and urinary tract diseases.

According to edition number 178 of UNRWA, “Since the imposition of the blockade on Gaza in 2007, Gaza has also suffered from a water crisis”. In 2016, Time magazine wrote an article on the water crisis entitled “A ticking global health time bomb”. With no continuous water flows and little rainwater, Gaza almost entirely relies on groundwater.

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Groundwater is being contaminated by nitrates from uncontrolled sewage and from the fertilisers used on farms. It is estimated that 96 per cent of groundwater is unsafe for drinking without treatment. Therefore, there is a very limited amount of drinking water for most Palestinians in Gaza.

In 2012 the UN already warned that approximately 90,000 cubic metres of untreated or partially treated sewage is being disposed of in the Mediterranean Sea and the neighbouring environment per day (about 33 million cubic meters per year).

Director General of Coastal Municipalities Water Utility (CMWU), Munther Issa Shablaq, said that the proportion of salt nitrate in Gaza’s water ranges from 120 to 150 milligrams per litre, while the global recommended proportion should not exceed 50 milligrams per litre. He stressed that 97 per cent of water in the Gaza Strip is not safe for domestic use.

He believes that the problem can be solved by stopping the pumping of water from the groundwater tank, the provision of other sources of water, implementing desalination projects, wastewater reuse, collecting rain water and importing water. In doing this the groundwater tank will be rehabilitated, reconstructed, and recovered.

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