Gaza / A desalination plant providing potable water to about 22,000 refugees of the central Gaza Strip’s Al Bureij Refugee Camp is attempting to make up for decades of Israeli exploitation of Palestinian water resources.
In partnership with the Palestinian Hydrology Group (PHG) and in collaboration with the Palestinian Water Authority (PWA) and the Costal Municipalities Water Authority (CMWU) the inauguration is taking place at 11 am Tuesday.
GVC - Gruppo di Volontariato Civile, an Italian Non-Governmental Organization established in 1971, has been working in the oPt since 1992.
GVC interventions in the Gaza Strip address the shortage of drinking water caused by the intensive exploitation of groundwater during the past 30-40 years, which has resulted in increased salinity in most of the areas of the Strip: 85% of water wells show a concentration of chloride and nitrate from two to eight times above the limits recommended by the World Health Organization.
In December 2006 GVC began implementing a project in partnership with the Palestinian Non-Governmental Organization PHG (Palestinian Hydrology Group) aimed at improving water quality and availability for the most vulnerable population of the Gaza Strip. This project, funded by ECHO, the European Commission Humanitarian Aid department, included the following activities:
Rehabilitation and upgrading of the S72 municipal well in Al Bureij Camp and installation of a desalination plant to provide 22.000 persons with potable water
Construction of a reservoir to blend the permeate water produced by the plant with the water produced by two other wells serving Al Bureij Camp
Closing of two highly contaminated wells and construction of a water carrier line connecting the two wells of Al-Moghraga, in order to provide drinking water to about 30,000 refugees of Nusseirat Camp
Provision of Operation & Maintenance training for the water supply system
Due to the closure regime imposed by Israel after the Hamas party victory in the 2006 Palestinian parliamentary elections and the tightening of the blockade imposed on the Gaza Strip following Hamas's take-over in June 2007, GVC was able to complete only the water carrier line before being forced to suspend the project for four months as entry of the needed materials was denied. Unfortunately, after activities were resumed, due to time constraints, GVC had to give up the installation of the desalination plant and carry out an alternative intervention which allowed for the connection of two Al Bureij Camp wells to the electrical line, which had been out of service due to the shortage of diesel to run the generator.
In July 2008, the previously abandoned activities were re-funded by ECHO through a project implemented by GVC in collaboration with Terre des hommes Italia and in partnership with the PHG.
Thanks to the perseverance of the Non-Governmental Organizations and the support given by ECHO, the PWA (Palestinian Water Authority), and the CMWU (Costal Municipalities Water Utility), the plant finally entered Gaza in February 26. In any case, the project has been affected by Israeli restrictions on the entry of construction materials into the Gaza Strip, restrictions which deny the right of reconstruction for Gazan Palestinians. The shortage of cement in Gaza, indeed, has forced GVC to halt construction of the reservoir and to purchase a 80 m3 blending tank in fiberglass, which has resulted in much higher costs and further delays in the activity timetable. The tank, spare parts and chemicals are still waiting for clearance to enter Gaza.
The system is composed of the plant which treats water from the S72 municipal well and a tank which blends the permeate water with water from the two other wells serving the Al Bureij Camp. This municipal well, whose production capacity of has been increased from 60 to 65 m3/h by replacing the old vertical pump with a new one in order to provide the needed amount of feed water to the plant, has a concentration of chloride which is four times above the limits recommended by the World Health Organization.
The system is now operational and works for 23 hours a day providing from 90 to 135 m3/h of potable water, with chloride concentration within PWA standards, to about 22.000 refugees of Al Bureij Camp.
In addition to the provision of drinking water, the project has developed a water quality monitoring program for the water provided by the municipal networks and the tankered one provided by private vendors. Through this program, potential sources and points of contamination have been identified and specific awareness activities about safe hygiene practices have been conducted involving community-based Local Water Committees. The project also focused on strengthening the dialogue between the community and the institutions in charge of the water supply service, with the aim of ensuring a more equitable distribution of water.
The inauguration of the plant will be held on May 26 on the occasion of the closing ceremony of the project and will be attended by the representatives of ECHO, PWA, CMWU, UN and the International Non Governmental Organizations providing assistance to the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.
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