Gaza’s ticking sewage bomb

A boy looks at Palestinians as they ride a horse cart on a street flooded with sewage water from a sewage treatment facility in Gaza City November 14, 2013. Gaza municipality said they could not operate the sewage treatment facility due to shortages in fuel and power. Gaza's lone power plant shut its generators on November 1, 2013 due to a fuel shortage, a move that will likely increase already long blackout hours in the impoverished coastal territory run by the Islamist Hamas group. Power is provided to different areas in the territory in six-hour shifts since the closure. REUTERS/Mohammed Salem (GAZA - Tags: POLITICS ENVIRONMENT ENERGY) - RTX15CXW

The Israeli Defense Cabinet’s decision to scale back power supply to Gaza (with Liberman one of its main instigators) could result in a military conflagration with Hamas. The crisis over power to the Strip does not only constitute a security threat to Israel but also an environmental and health hazard.

Gaza’s waste treatment systems collapsed about a year ago. Indeed, the system collapsed well before Israel started implementing its decision to cut back Gaza’s power supply. This Israeli May 2017 decision was designed to exert pressure on Hamas following Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ decision about a month earlier to disconnect from the Gaza Strip and stop paying for its electricity supplied by Israel.

In fact, Gaza authorities had at the time stopped treating the sewage of all the Strip’s main towns — Gaza, Khan Yunis and Rafah. Operating the waste treatment plants requires quite a large amount of energy, and Hamas opted to use what electricity it could get for purposes it considered more important.

Professor Eilon Adar of Ben-Gurion University tells Al-Monitor that when pumping stations are shut down, oxygen cannot be introduced into the sewage to treat it by aeration (saturating it with oxygen). As a result, raw waste flows and seeps into groundwater and Gaza rivers. The rest of the water in massive amounts flows through pipes from the pumping stations directly into the Mediterranean Sea, and now Gaza’s entire coast is severely polluted.
Read full narrative from Al Monitor