A comprehensive report released by the UN this week has warned that Gaza will no longer be ‘liveable’ by 2020 unless dramatic action is taken to improve its water supply, power, health and schooling. It adds that Gaza’s rapidly rising population of about 1.64 million could also lose its main source of fresh water by 2016. Clean water is limited for most Gazans to an average of 70-90 litres per person per day – the minimum global World Health Organization standard is 100 litres a day. “Damage to the coastal aquifer will be irreversible without immediate remedial action,” says the UN report.
A five year Israeli blockade supported by Egypt has crippled the Gazan enclave although Israel partly eased restrictions in mid-2010 and there have been improvement since. Real GDP is estimated to have risen by 28% percent in the first half of 2011 and unemployment dropped to 28 percent from 37 percent in 2010.
Even so, the report said that growth over the next eight years would be slow and due to its isolation, Gaza’s economy is essentially non-viable. Robert Turner, the director of operation of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) said that by 2020 Gaza will need 440 new schools, 800 more hospital beds and over a 1,000 additional doctors.
The water situation has been highlighted as a major issue that needs serious action. Palestinians have been digging deeper and deeper to reach groundwater and have in the process damaged their water resources. According to IRIN, an average of 160 million cubic meters (mcm) of water is taken from the aquifer per year, but it is only fed with 50-60 mcm from rainfall and water-runoff from the Hebron Hills every year. This has resulted in a huge gap between water availability and usage. As a consequence, ground water levels have been falling, allowing seawater intrusion. Indeed, a desalination plant costing about $350 million is planned for the area.
: Image of fisherman in Gaza via Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Shutterstock.com
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