GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Top officials from the United Nations and the European Union traveled to the Gaza Strip on Tuesday to visit a seawater desalination plant under construction in the besieged coastal enclave.
EU Commissioner of European Neighborhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations Johannes Hahn visited the EU-funded plant located in the central Gaza Strip district of Deir al-Balah. The plant is to be the largest of its kind in the Gaza Strip.
UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov also reportedly visited the plant during a two-day visit to the Palestinian territory.
According to an EU press release, the EU has invested 10 million euros in the current phase of the plant that is nearing completion, and is to invest 10 million euros further toward the second phase, which is expected to be completed within 36 months.
When fully operational the desalination facility will produce 6,000 cubic meters of potable water a day for over 75,000 Palestinians -- approximately 35,000 people Khan Yunis and 40,000 people in Rafah, according to the EU. Upon completion of the second phase, the plant will produce a total of 12,000 cubic meters of drinking water.
The construction of the plant was undertaken in partnership between the EU, the Palestinian Water Authority, and Gaza’s Coastal Municipalities Water Utilities.
''Water and natural resources have been significantly damaged after the continuous years of closure and conflicts in Gaza. As a consequence, nearly 95 percent of water in Gaza is considered unfit for human consumption,'' the press release quoted Hahn as saying.
A 2012 United Nations report warned that Gaza’s sole aquifer that provides the almost undrinkable water may become completely unusable by the end of this year, with damages becoming irreversible by 2020.