Environmental crisis will soon erupt in Gaza

Palestinian children collecting firewood in the northern Gaza Strip, 29 June 2006. Gaza plunged into darkness after Israeli air strikes on its electricity station (MaanImages/Wesam Saleh)

During the early hours of 28 June 2006, the Israeli Occupation Force launched a ground offensive in Southern Gaza. As part of the assault, the Israeli Air Force attacked three bridges and the Gaza City power station, cutting power to much of the area.

One of the bridges is that of the Wadi Gaza where some environmental non-governmental organization members of PENGON have implemented a solar energy powered lighting project in the area as a means to promote environmental friendly technology and to reduce pollution from fuel based power generation. Part of the project has been destroyed from the strike as well.

The transformer station is also used to help pump water from the water network to apartments in Gaza. As the power has been severed, the water cannot be pumped and Gazans are unable to access water. As a result, some 860,000 residents in Gaza are currently without electricity and running water.

The public health and safety and environmental hazards stemming from the damage caused to infrastructure as a result of this military operation include:

  • water shortages
  • contamination of any remaining drinking water
  • uncontrolled discharge and flow of untreated sewage in the streets, resulting in groundwater pollution
  • pollution of agricultural land which Gazans will be unable to cultivate to harvest crops, negatively impacting their earning power
  • damage to marine life as untreated wastewater flows into the sea
  • migration of fish to other parts of the coast, resulting in a reduction in the number of fish caught and, concomitantly, money earned by Gazan fishermen
  • direct exposure to untreated wastewater in open systems
  • indirect human health risks due to the consumption of polluted crops and fish
  • an increase in waterborne acute and infectious diseases as a result of additional viruses, bacteria and protozoa in the water. These are likely to cause serious illnesses ranging from gastroenteritis and cholera to liver failure and death.

    Jan Egeland, the United Nations Undersecretary for Humanitarian Affairs has warned that Gazans are three days away from a deadly humanitarian crisis unless Israel promptly restores fuel and electricity required to pump water: “They are heading for the abyss unless they get electricity and fuel restored … there are hundreds of thousands of children who are now without water and electricity … without clean water in the hot summer weather we would see in days a major humanitarian crisis.” Israel’s military action has impacted innocent civilians, and thus violates international humanitarian law. PENGON calls on the international community to pressure Israel to stop the assault immediately.

    Related Links

  • The Palestinian Environmental NGOs Network
  • Israel Invades Gaza (June 27)