Funds Not Yet in for Gaza Plant That Would Stop Sewage From Marring Israel, Too

The World Bank says it’s working with the Palestinian Authority to solve the problem, while the Israelis have built a dam in a stream in the south

Abdullah Shama

The construction work for northern Gaza’s new sewage treatment plant is scheduled to be completed by the end of this year, but funding has not yet been secured to allow for the facility’s operation and maintenance — putting at risk water in Israel as well.

Without suitable funding, the sewage will not be treated and will continue to  threaten water sources.

The new facility is being built with World Bank funds collected from countries that often contribute to projects in the Gaza Strip. According to the plan, the new plant will treat a large percentage of the sewage in northern Gaza and bring it to a level of purification also suitable for irrigating crops.

Another problem is a shortage of electricity to operate existing facilities. The sewage-plant project also envisions the cleaning up of large, old sewage pools that pollute both land and groundwater.

Last year the World Bank told the Palestinian Authority that it would send funds for maintaining and operating the new facility, but such funding is no longer guaranteed.

For its part, the World Bank says it is working with the PA to find funding that will allow both the operation and maintenance of the plant.

According to the World Bank, everywhere around the world, including in Gaza, the operator of the facility is also responsible for maintenance, including facilities that have been built with money from donor countries. Usually this is done by collecting sewage fees from the local residents or local authorities that receive service provided by the facility.

The World Bank said it is committed to continuing to help the PA improve the finances of its water and sewage purification services. It highlighted the importance of investing the steadily declining resources from donor countries in developing the wider Palestinian economy.

Israel’s Water Authority, meanwhile, is greatly concerned about the water situation in northern Gaza. Sewage from the Strip flows into Israel via the Nahal Hanun stream and endangers the groundwater used for drinking in the southern coastal aquifer.

For its part, the PA noted its contacts with the World Bank, adding that a meeting on the sewage purification facility was scheduled for next month. Officials will be discussing the operation of the plant and the recycling of the purified sewage.

Still, to prevent sewage from reaching Israel, the Water Authority has not waited for the Palestinians. With the help of the Shikma Besor Drainage Authority and the Hof Ashkelon and Sha’ar Hanegev regional councils, the Israelis have built a dam in Nahal Hanun. Also, a system is being developed to transfer the sewage to a purification facility in Sderot near the Gaza border.

Still, even if funding for maintaining and operating the new plant is guaranteed, the electricity supply will have to be increased.