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Experts: Egypt's wall will destroy Gaza's aquifer

Jan. 17, 2010 5:23 P.M. (Updated: Jan. 22, 2010 12:29 P.M.)
Gaza – Ma’an – Experts in Gaza determined on Sunday that Egypt's underground steel wall will lead to the destruction of Gaza's aquifer, during a symposium entitled The Metal Wall between Egypt and Gaza: Impacts, Environmental and Human Consequences, held in Gaza.

Experts and specialists called on universities and research centres to partake in studies of the impact of Egypt's steel wall on the Gaza border.

Underwater storage and soil erosion

Water expert Nezar Al-Weheidi noted that the metal wall threatens Gaza's underground water storage system and will cause the destruction of the aquifer, resulting from pollution. This, in turn, will have devastating environmental, economic and social impacts for both Egyptians and Palestinians, namely the destruction of drinking wells and those used for agriculture and other industries.

Extensive digging could lead to salt water being pumped underground, causing soil to collapse. This Al-Weheidi warned, could lead to the collapse of buildings in Rafah. The tunnels, he said, would contribute to flow of salt water.

Destruction to the aquifer

Abed Al-Fattah Abed Rabu, lecturer in Environment Sciences at the Islamic University said "the metal wall, between 20 to 30 meters deep underground, will obstruct the flowing of water in the joint aquifer between Sinai and Gaza, threaten the aquifer which is already suffering from many problems including lack of water, pollution and mismanagement."

"Construction of the wall will contribute to contaminating the aquifer due to soil weakness and inconsistency which, in turn, will contribute to the deterioration of the quality of water. This will lead to an increase in the poor state of local environment and will affect the health and environmental conditions of those in Gaza."

Economic ramifications

Mu’een Rajab, economist for Al-Azhar University noted that "halting work in the tunnels will prevent the local markets from having access to products that are coming through tunnels, such as supplies of food and construction materials. This would reduce the development of the local markets - an issue that will contribute to a grave economic recession."

"In such a situation, Gaza will have a black market with a lot of goods including necessities with skyrocketing prices and infinite queues."

More than 30,000 workers would lose their jobs, Rajab estimated, increasing the rate of unemployment.

The role of the media

Samir Hamtu, a journalist specialist in Palestine stated that media outlets must take a professional line in dealing with the consequences of the wall's construction, by focusing on the human, geographic and demographic aspects of this issue, instead of launching campaigns that will lead to a rise in tension between Palestinians and Egyptians.

Hamtu urged media outlets to play an important role in relaying the opinions and points of view of both sides affected by the wall.

"The most important issue is to focus on urgently opening the border crossings and ending the siege without escalating tensions which would harm the interest of the Palestinians."

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