29-06-2011. Source: ENPI Info Centre

A project to build a major desalination plant in Gaza, capable of producing 100 million cubic meters of drinking water a year, has officially been approved by Senior Officials representing the 43 member countries of the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM).

A press release from the UfM Secretariat said the €310 million Gaza Desalination plant, the first project to be officially adopted by the UfM, will help meet most of the future medium- to long-term drinking water needs for the 1.6 million Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip, which is a critical humanitarian issue. It will help stabilize and regenerate the only fresh water source in Gaza, the coastal aquifer that runs mainly beneath the Gaza Strip but also Israel and Egypt. It will also be a step towards effective reduction of pollution in the Eastern Mediterranean, through the construction of a desalination facility, and a modern water distribution system, as an initial component of a broader water and waste water programme including development of a number of waste water treatment facilities.

The project will also contribute to the political stability of the region through the removal of the water scarcity issue from the web of multiple and complex issues facing the Gaza Strip.

The Palestinian Water Authority, the project promoter and implementing agency, has already carried out a proper assessment, conducting a feasibility study in 2003, as well as a comparative study on possible solutions for the Gaza water crisis, currently being finalized, both of which strongly indicate that the desalination option represents the main feasible solution to the crisis.

Welcoming the decision, the head of the Palestinian Water Authority, Dr. Shaddad Attili, said:“Desalination in Gaza is a vital component of the Palestinian Authority’s water supply programme. Winning the support of the Union for the Mediterranean will significantly boost our efforts to both overturn the acute water crisis currently facing Gaza,while securingadequate and safe water supplies for Gaza into the future.”

The UfM Secretariat firmly believes that this project will attract the required funding, mostly in terms of grants, from a number of donors within and outside the framework of the Union for the Mediterranean, and will work with the Palestinian Authority to raise the €310 million required for the realization of the project.