...There are 1.5 million people living in the Gaza strip,” the utility’s director explains. That’s more than 100 million cubic meters of sewage produced each year.
“Every day, I have to pump 50 or 60 million liters of raw sewage into the Mediterranean Sea. We would like to treat it of course, but the wastewater-treatment plant we have can’t cope with that much at the best of times. And like everything else it depends on fuel. Last month — throughout the whole month of April — I did not receive a single liter of fuel from the authorities because of this conflict. So what choice do I have?”
“We’re planning to build a new plant, the money from the World Bank is already there — but because of the Israeli blockade against Gaza, construction has stalled. It’s the same for all of the development projects — nothing can go ahead without parts and materials, and we’ve been waiting for almost a year for most of our parts to come in.”
Towards the end of the day, a colleague takes me down to “Beach Camp” where one of the utility’s large round pipes spews a gushing stream of raw sewage into the blue-green sea near a Palestinian refugee camp. Around 30 meters away, kids are swimming and splashing in the water as the sun sets behind them. I’m guessing it’s a scene that would leave even the beachgoers further afield — in Tel Aviv, the Greek Islands, Italy or Monaco — just a little bit uncomfortable.
From a humanitarian perspective, it’s no less of a problem — and one that international diplomats, senior UN officials and Israeli human rights groups call “collective punishment” (which, in the simple terms of the Fourth Geneva Convention refers to punishing someone “for an offense he or she has not personally committed”). Whichever side of the conflict you’re standing on, it’s not hard to see which category the splashing children, who represent around 54% of the Palestinian population, fall into...