10 million euro project will help provide good quality water to 75,000 Palestinians in the Strip.

Published: 03.23.14, 01:05

GAZA CITY – The European Union and UNICEF launched a project Thursday to build a desalination plant in the Gaza Strip to provide 75,000 Palestinians with drinking water.

A joint statement said the project will be implemented by UNICEF thanks to a 10-million-euro ($13.7-million) EU grant.

Just 5.8 percent of Gaza households have good quality water because of increased salinity caused by sewage infiltration of groundwater, according to a statement released Thursday by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics ahead of World Water Day on Saturday.

“Access to clean water is a fundamental human right for all. And yet many Gazans face acute water shortages on a day-to-day basis,” EU representative John Gatt-Rutter said as the first stone was laid for the project.

“Others can only access water of very poor quality,” he added, saying the new plant “offers the prospect of access to clean water for many thousands of families”.

The plant at Deir al-Balah in the centre of the territory is expected to become operational in 2015, and will supply fresh water to 75,000 people in Khan Yunis and Rafah in the south.

Because up to 95 percent of water in the water table is unfit for consumption, “more than four out of five Palestinians in Gaza buy their drinking water from unregulated, private vendors, a heavy burden on impoverished families”, the EU-UNICEF statement said.

The Palestinian Bureau of Statistics says that 28 percent of the water supplied to households in the West Bank and Gaza is bought from Israeli company Mekorot, and that 85 percent of groundwater supplies are extracted by Israel.


JERUSALEM POST: EU, UNICEF launch 10m. euro Gaza desalination project

The European Union and UNICEF laid the cornerstone on Friday for the construction of a €10 million desalination plant in Gaza.

The plant, to be implemented by UNICEF with funding from the EU, would provide 6,000 cu.m. of drinking water per day to approximately 75,000 Palestinians in Khan Yunis and Rafah in southern Gaza, according to the two organizations.

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Installation of the plant will be adjacent to the sea, near Deir al-Balah, and is expected to begin operating in 2015.

“Access to clean water is a fundamental human right for all,” said EU representative John Gatt-Rutter at the ceremony.

“And yet many Gazans face acute water shortages on a day-to-day basis. Others can only access water of very poor quality.”

Construction of a desalination plant, the option chosen by the Palestinian Water Authority in 2011, will help curb over-extraction from the groundwater and the Gazan aquifer’s total collapse, according to information from the EU and UNICEF.

Such over-extraction could render the aquifer entirely unusable by 2016, according to a United Nations report.

Due to the unusable nature of the region’s groundwater, four out of five Gazans buy unregulated water from expensive, private sources, some spending as much as a third of their income on water, information from the EU and UNICEF showed.

As per the 1994 Oslo Accords, Israel is required to provide at least 23.6 million cu.m. per year of water to the Palestinian Authority, of which five m.cu.m. is supposed to go to Gaza. Currently, Israel supplies 52 m.cu.m. to the PA, Water Authority data showed.

“The launch of construction work on this desalination plant offers the prospect of access to clean water for many thousands of families in Khan Yunis and Rafah,” Gatt-Rutter said. “It forms part of the EU’s wider commitment to improving the lives of Palestinians both in Gaza and West Bank in particular in the area of water, sanitation and solid waste management.”