THE EU and UNICEF have launched a construction project to build a €10m (US.8m) desalination plant in Gaza to provide safe drinking water to 75,000 Palestinians.
UNICEF will coordinate the scheme, with the grant to build it provided by the EU. The plant will be constructed on land near Deir al-Balah and will provide 6,000 m3/d of water to the residents of Khan Yunis and Rafah in the south of Gaza. It is expected to begin operations next year. The news was announced prior to World Water Day on 22 March.
Drinking water is scarce in Gaza. Some water is obtained from the Coastal Aquifer, but 95% of this is unsuitable for human consumption. It is heavily contaminated with seawater, sewage and fertilisers. In some regions, chloride and nitrate levels are six times the limits set by the World Health Organization (WHO). As a result, more than four out of every five Palestinians in Gaza must buy their water from private vendors, which can cost up to a third of the household income.
A study by the Palestinian Water Authority concluded that desalination was the best option for Gaza. As well as providing a safer, cheaper supply of water for residents, the desalination plant will prevent the collapse of the Coastal Aquifer. A UN report in 2012 found that over-extraction of water would leave it unusable by 2016.
The EU representative John Gatt-Rutter, who laid the first stone at the launch ceremony, said in a speech that the desalination plant forms part of the EU’s commitment to improving water supplies, sanitation and waste management in Palestine.
“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. Others can only access water of very poor quality. The launch of construction work on this desalination plant offers the prospect of access to clean water for many thousands of families in Khan Younis and Rafah,” he said.