A Delegation headed by Union for the Mediterranean (UfM) Deputy Secretary General Rafiq Husseini, in charge of Water and Environment portfolio, visited Kuwait and Saudi Arabia last week to present the Gaza water desalination project to financing institutions and funds.

A press release said the UfM Delegation held meetings with the President of the Islamic Development Bank, HE Mr Ahmed Ali Mohamed, with the Vice-Chairman and Director General of the Saudi Fund for Development, HE Mr Youssef Al-Bassam, as well as with the Director of Operation of the Kuwait Fund, Mr Fawzi Al-Hunaif, and senior officials from the Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development.

Commenting on the successful visit to the Gulf, Dr. Husseini said “through cooperation between the South and the North of the Mediterranean, we are moving fast towards achieving what was a dream a few years ago, which is – by far – the largest single infrastructural project in Palestine”.

Discussions focused on the water problem in Gaza and the need to build a large-scale desalination plant, which is the only long-term solution to address the water deficit in Gaza. The construction of a desalination facility is expected to alleviate the over pumping of groundwater from the coastal aquifer which underlies the Gaza Strip, hence stabilising and regenerating the only fresh water resources in Gaza. It is also expected to have a substantial impact in improving public health.

The UfM visit was very positively welcomed by the Arab financing institutions and funds which encouraged the Secretariat in its endeavours to promote this vital project. The UfM is providing support to the promoter of the project, the Palestinian Water Authority, in raising the resources required to finance the project and which could amount to US$450 million. Detailed estimations are expected to be provided through the update of the Gaza desalination feasibility study, currently undertaken by the European Investment Bank (EIB).

The Gaza Desalination project was the very first project to be labelled by the UfM, with a unanimous decision of the 43 UfM countries. This landmark operation consists of the construction of a 100 million cubic metre desalination facility and distribution system in the Gaza strip over two phases. The labelling of this large-scale project, is an acknowledgement that the project is capable of delivering concrete benefits for 1.6 million impoverished Palestinian citizens living on the southern shores of the Mediterranean, not only from humanitarian and health perspectives, but also contributing to job creation and future economic and sustainable development in this highly populated region of the Mediterranean.

In March 2009, more than 25 countries had pledged to provide more than €2.5 billion for the reconstruction of Gaza at the Sharm El-Sheikh Conference, where the Arab countries pledged more than half the amount. (ENPI Info Centre)

Read more

Press release

ENPI Info Centre – First UfM project to help tackle Gaza water crisis with €310 million desalination plant

Union for the Mediterranean – Environment and water

ENPI Info Centre webpage – environment

ENPI Info Centre press pack – The EU and the Mediterranean Partners: Cooperation to face the environmental challenge