Sustainability and Scarcity in Gaza

A major blockade, numerous wars, severe pollution and finite resources left Gaza environment faces a massive catastrophe on the three principal dimensions of Sustainability – environmental, economic and social. With an area of 365 km² and an over of two million inhabitants, Gaza became one of the highest population density on the world.

In Gaza we deeply know the true meaning of land, the big value of life, the real pressure of lacking in resources, and huge impact of the heritage that you pass to the next generations. So we learn the importance of making an educated decision and wise choices from a very young age, as well as conscious thinking, conscious living and participation in shaping the better future.

The Green Knowledge Community (GKC) was founded, aiming to make a positive impact on the sustainable development in Gaza. A dedicated research team is working on assessing the actual situation of Gaza.

Gaza represents a very unusual case regarding sustainable development. In order to address this topic, there are a number of issues that need to be considered:

97% of water is polluted.
Eng. Munther Shiblak; director general of water utility, declared that 97% of water resources in Gaza are polluted with high rates of nitrate and chloride more than the stated standards of the World Health Organization (WHO). Chloride rate in some of groundwater wells near coast reaches to 1500 mg/L, while it should not increase above 250 mg/L. While the nitrate rate is five times more than the international standards.

Gaza relies totally on groundwater tanks which have been filled from rainwater on a rate of 60 M m3 per year, but the consuming rate reaches 180 M m3 per year, and that creates a leakage of 120 M m3 per year in the groundwater tanks.

50% of seawater is full of sewage.
Water and sanitation problems take tremendous concerns in Gaza, as the research shows that 50% of the sea water is polluted with sewage along the coast line and 90% on Gaza city’s beach alone. Recent statistics conducted by the Palestinian Environmental Quality Authority showed that 35M m3 of untreated or partially treated sewage water is pumped to the sea water yearly, in addition to 12 M m3 to the groundwater tank, which is the only water source for the inhabitants. Due to long electricity blackouts, running the water processing stations on generators all the time is impossible, which eventually led to the collapse of the Gaza’s sewage system.

1700 tons of solid waste produced daily.
In addition to water pollution, solid waste problem is also a huge source of pollution in Gaza. Eng. Baha Al-Agha; the director of the general directorate of environmental protection in Gaza announced that the Gaza strip produces 1700 tons of solid waste daily, which are deported to three main dumps in the eastern areas without any action taken to recycle or reuse. Instead solid waste is being left or burned nearby residential communities causing deadly health damages.

A loss of 300 ft2 of soil.
“20,000 rockets were dropped on Gaza causing harm to human health, and may be a part of the food chain for inhabitants. Moreover, every rocket costs a loss of 300 ft2 of soil”, clarified Eng. Nizar Al-Wahidi; the general manager of counseling and development at the ministry of agriculture. Losses of soil enlarge, as Israel also imposes a buffer zone on 22,500 acres of fertile agricultural lands both on the eastern and northern areas of the Gaza Strip.

High rates of air pollution.
A study on air conditions conducted by Eng. Abdullah Shaheen; a researcher and master student at COMSATS University, shows that air pollution in Gaza is intensifying to very risky rates reaching 130 micro g/m3 in some places as in the industrial area, Kerem Shalom border crossing and El Shati’ refugee camp. Generators, cars and burning of solid waste are the main causes of these high rates.

Unemployment rates and poverty.
According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics the unemployment rate in Gaza reached 43.2% in the last quarter of 2016, with more of 216,000 unemployed and 50% of the youth and fresh graduated, which makes Gaza strip unemployment rate, the highest in the world.

The director of public relations and economist, Dr. Maher AlTabbaa says that poverty and extreme poverty rates is over 65%, with more than one million inhabitants receiving aid from UNRWA and international relief organizations.

Only 50% of energy demand is covered.
The availability of an uninterrupted and stable electric power supply is not a possible luxury for Gaza inhabitants. Although the current power station relies on three main supplies; the Israeli line, the Egyptian line and its own power outputs, only 50% of the Gaza strip’s needs is covered, resulting in only 4-8 hours’ regular electricity supply. Doubled consumption, lack of resources and the absence of energy alternatives or developments raise the electricity need to 400-500 MW per/day. “The current power crisis will continue to decrease if other alternatives are not founded” Eng. Ahmad Abu Alamren, the manager of information center at the authority of energy of Gaza recently announced.

Where the total expenditures of inhabitants on alternative energy for electricity only for the period 2006-2016, are 1.5 billion dollars, an amount that  could be enough to create more than six solar power stations, where one could produce more than 1,000 MW. If this large amount paid for alternative energy, was invested since the beginning of the crisis in establishing a solar energy station, Gaza Strip would have been self-sufficient in electricity for the long run, and electricity crisis would have ended long time ago.

Eng.Shahd Abu Sirryeh