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Report: Israel violating international law by creating water crisis in Gaza

Oct. 8, 2008 11:31 A.M. (Updated: Oct. 8, 2008 11:31 A.M.)
Gaza - Ma'an - Israel violated international law by creating a water crisis in the Gaza Strip, contributing to a deficit of 65 million cubic meters of water needed for basic purposes by Gaza's 1.5 million residents, a new study by the Palestinian Union of Agricultural Committees shows.

In the year 2007, Gaza residents consumed 86 liters of water per person per day, short of the 100 liters recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) as the minimum quantity for basic consumption. By contrast Israelis consume 330 liters per person per day, according to the Israeli human rights organization B'Tselem.

The Palestinian study was released on Tuesday. Researcher Alaa Matar carried out the study, in connection with the project Right to Live, directed by Sa'd Addin Ziyada.

According to the study, groundwater has become the main water resource in Gaza since Israel has built several small dams to block surface water that used to reach Gaza through river valleys.

In the year 2007, the study says:

- Wells which operated to municipal councils in Gaza provided 83 million cubic meters of water.

- Agricultural wells provided 69.5 million cubic meters.

- Wells which operated to the UN provided another 2.5 million cubic meters.

- Only 1.5 million cubic meters of water were bought from Israeli water company Mekorot.

All of these factors contributed to the 63 million cubic meter deficit.

Sewage

Furthermore, the study finds that 90% of sewage in Gaza is not purified, and 80% of that sewage is dumped in open areas such as Wadi Gaza, the sea shore and sand dunes. Only 20% of sewage goes into underground reservoirs. Sewage pumping and water treatment plants shut down due to problems at electricity generating stations, resulting in the dumping of 50,000 cubic meters of raw sewage into the sea.

International law

Because of its denial of water rights to the Gaza Strip, the study finds Israel in violation of the Hague convention of 1907, and the Geneva convention of 1949. Israel is a party to both of these treaties.

Matar found that Israel violated international law by cutting fuel supplies to Gaza beginning in October 2007, following the Israeli foreign minister's designation of Gaza as an "enemy entity." The fuel cuts, along with a reduction in electrical supplies, had a negative impact on Gaza's water and sewage systems to operate.

Water quality

The study also found that the quality of water in Gaza falls far short of international standards. For example, most of the water wells in Gaza contains 300-600 milligrams per liter of chloride, which is almost double what WHO recommends.

In addition most water wells contain high percentage of nitrate, up to 400 milligrams per liter in some cases. WHO recommends 50 milligrams per liter.

After examining 213 samples from different water resources in Gaza, 144, or 68% of those samples were found unfit for human consumption. In addition, bacteriological tests of 2029 samples in 2007 found that 16.5% of them were polluted.

Finally, the study found that groundwater levels decreased sharply. As a result, the groundwater in Gaza is increasingly brackish, with one cubic meter of sea water polluting every 70 cubic meters of groundwater.

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