[News] Gaza - Life in a septic tank

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Wed Jun 21 17:21:47 EDT 2017


  Life in a septic tank

Sarah Algherbawi 
<https://electronicintifada.net/people/sarah-algherbawi> - 20 June 2017


Hiba al-Ashi has to keep the windows of her apartment closed. It is the 
only way to avoid the foul odors from the polluted sea.

“Life has become unbearable,” said the 36-year-old mother, whose Gaza 
City home overlooks the Mediterranean.

Every day, 100,000 cubic meters of raw sewage are discharged 
into the sea around Gaza.

The Gaza Strip’s environmental problems have worsened 
in recent years.

Gaza has suffered from chronic electricity shortages ever since its sole 
power plant was bombed by Israel in 2006 
Israel imposed an ongoing, severe economic blockade on the territory one 
year later, restricting the import of fuel and hindering repair of 
electricity infrastructure destroyed and damaged during successive 
military offensives.

Gaza’s power plant shut down entirely in April this year, and Israel 
further reduced electricity supply to Gaza this week 
– a violation of international humanitarian law, according to human 
rights groups. Electricity is currently available fewer than three hours 
per day <http://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-1.796822>.

One of the results – among others profoundly affecting daily life in 
– is that there is not enough 
<https://www.icrc.org/en/document/Gaza-power-fuel-crisis> power to run 
sewage treatment facilities in the territory. Desalination plants, which 
provide most of Gaza’s drinking water, are also operating at 
significantly reduced capacity 


Visiting the beach used to be one of the only possibilities for 
enjoyment and relaxations for Palestinians living under siege in Gaza.

Pollution has narrowed such possibilities. Around 50 percent of Gaza’s 
beaches are unfit 
<http://www.environment.gov.ps/ar/?Action=Details&ID=180> for swimming, 
according to the local Environment Quality Authority. A number of 
beaches have been closed to the public.

“The pollution rate of the sea water and beaches this year is 
unprecedented,” said Ahmad Helles, a representative of that authority. 
“This indicates that there is a real environmental disaster.”

According to Helles, both the sand and water are contaminated. The sand, 
he said, “carries a lot of microbes which may be harmful and cause 
illnesses in humans.”

Maher Salem, a leading administrator of water services in Gaza, said 
that the sewage facilities will “stop totally soon.”

“We are forced to pump all the sewage into the sea untreated,” he said. 
“This is preventing people from swimming and, in many cases, even going 
to the beach.”

Having a view of the sea or living near it is considered desirable 
throughout the world. In Gaza, however, many people wish to leave homes 
close to the shore.

    “Living in a septic tank”

Taysir Abu Saada has lived in Beach refugee camp 
<https://electronicintifada.net/tags/beach-camp>, part of Gaza City, for 
18 years. He is trying to save money so that he can rent an apartment 
elsewhere. He wants to “take my family away from this unhealthy 
atmosphere,” he said.

“I feel like we are living in a septic tank, not a real house,” said his 
19-year-old daughter Shaima.

Wisam Lubad, a 22-year-old student, used to enjoy walking on the beach. 
Now she has to hold her nose when she ventures towards the shore.

“Nothing is well in Gaza,” she said. “That includes the sea – our only 

One recent day, a local family decided to eat a grilled lunch on the 
beach in Gaza City. The family found the experience so unpleasant that 
it abandoned the lunch after a short while.

“We’re living in a big tragedy in this country,” said Samar, one member 
of the family. “We have one disaster after another.”

Beaches in Rafah <https://electronicintifada.net/tags/rafah>, an area of 
southern Gaza near its border with Egypt 
<https://electronicintifada.net/tags/egypt>, have been closed – at the 
order of the local authority.

The closures are necessary “to protect our citizens from harmful 
diseases which may be caused by this pollution,” said Sobhi Abu Ridwan, 
who heads the Rafah municipality.

Masoud Matar is among a number of people in Gaza who have vowed to keep 
visiting the beach, despite warnings by the authorities.

“Everybody in Gaza considers the sea as their friend,” he said. “Most 
Gazans are poor. They cannot pay for holidays in resorts or go to 
swimming pools. The sea is their only hope for having a bit of fun when 
it is hot.”

The closure of beaches is also causing income losses. Many people in 
Gaza work as peddlers during the summer.

Muhammad Abu Assi is a recent college graduate, who was hoping to earn a 
little money by selling corn on the shore. “I was waiting for the summer 
to start my life as a peddler,” he said. “Now it seems that this is not 
going to happen.”

Fishermen, too, are worried about the consequences of the pollution.

One of them, Mahmoud al-Ghandour, said that much of the fish for sale in 
Gaza’s markets may be unsafe to eat.

“Fishing has been my life for 30 years,” he said. “I have never seen so 
much pollution as that which we’ve had over the past five years.”

/Sarah Algherbawi is a freelance writer and translator from Gaza./

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