lucky to have water

Wet clothes are actually a blessing, for me at least in Gaza.  I only wear them indoors, or sometimes underneath outer layers, and they do what non-existent air-con or fans-wanting-electricity can’t: cool me down for a bit.

our washing machine helps.

Gaza-made (support the boycott on israeli products), it must have worked at one point.  but i guess it’s suffering from the heat, the siege, depression…

it’s manually filled with water, and (in theory) churns when plugged in.

in reality, it used to vibrate a little but now just buzzes and gives off shocks when i try to turn it on or off.

so it’s hand-washing for me, which i usually do using buckets and at the same time i bathe, giving me more time to keep cool.

i usually walk everywhere but this absurd heat has me rationing my walks to morning and after sunset, the afternoon hours inside when possible (with damp clothes when possible).

since the other day when i returned from something (looking forward to washing the sweat off and putting new damp clothes on) and found both power and water cut, i’ve started setting aside water for bucket bathes.

i realize, in the midst of my complaints of hot weather and no water, that i’ve still got it better than the vast majority of Palestinians in Gaza and the occupied West Bank and east Jerusalem as well…

A European Commission report in June 2011 noted that “some 10,000 people in Northern Gaza still have no access to running water due to a lack of materials to maintain and repair networks.”

Free Gaza says: “Most family homes have running water for less than six hours a day, and almost a third of homes have no running water at all.”  And my Gaza family themselves have to pump water via a series of hoses, pumps and motors (dependent on electricity and town water flow) to their rooftop for family use.

Stephen Lendman reports:

Palestinians consume about 70 liters per capita a day (the lowest amount in the region), well below the WHO-recommended 100 liter minimum, and in some rural areas much less, as little as 20 liters.

In contrast, Israelis use about 300 liters, denying Palestinians an equitable share, including from the underground Mountain Aquifer and Jordan River surface water, reserved solely for Jews.

As a result, around 200,000 Palestinians in rural communities have no access to running water, even in towns and villages connected to the water network because taps often run dry. So rationing is common, especially in summer, with villages and neighborhoods getting piped supplies one day weekly or, in some cases, one every few weeks.

Consequently, many Palestinians must buy water at exorbitant prices, often of “dubious quality,” a severe burden for poor families consuming as much as one-fourth of their income, what most can’t afford.

For over four decades, Israel restricted water (and land) availability to Palestinians, granting its own and settler populations privileged access. As a result, Palestinians compensate to make due using unsafe sources, buying what they can afford, reusing water, flushing toilets less often, washing less regularly, washing clothes and floors infrequently, growing rain-fed crops in home gardens, keeping fewer animals, and drilling unlicensed shallow wells.

SEE ALSO:

Bethlehem’s taps run dry as West Bank Israelis continue to fill their swimming pool

Bethlehem’s residents, who no longer have enough water to bathe regularly, are sporting scruffy hair and soiled clothing.

While nearby Israeli settlements lavish water on swimming pools and gardens, Mohammed Farraj, 16, barely scrounged up enough for a proper wash for his first day working at Bethlehem’s Stars & Bucks Café this week.

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Last year, when I looked into the water issue in Gaza, I heard from some of the hardest hit, the farmers, suffering lack of water and lack of access to their land (thanks to heavily armed, indiscriminately firing, Israeli Occupation soldiers).

[How Israeli Policies and Attacks Have Ravaged Gaza’s Agricultural Sector]

“My brothers and I have 60 dunams of land. Many people took water from our well. It was destroyed in 2003, and again in the last Israeli war. Now when I water my remaining trees, I do it by hand, tree by tree.”

In its September 2009 report, the UNEP warned that Gaza’s aquifer is in “serious danger of collapse,” noting that the problem has roots in the “rise in salt water intrusion from the sea caused by over-extraction of ground water.” According to the report, the salinity and nitrate levels of water are far above WHO-accepted levels. Between 90 and 95 percent of the water available to Palestinians in Gaza is contaminated and hence “unfit for human consumption,” according to WHO standards.

Water has been further contaminated by chemical agents used by the Israeli army during its war on Gaza. More contamination from destroyed asbestos roofing, the toxins produced by the bodies of thousands of animal carcasses, and waste sites which were inaccessible and damaged during and after the attacks on Gaza exacerbates the situation.

Further up the lane, Hassan al-Basiouni, 54, says he has lost a quarter of a million dollars to the Israeli land and well destruction.

“My brothers and I have 41 dunams. Our well was destroyed once before this last war. The materials to make a new well aren’t available in Gaza. The 180 people who earned a living off this land are out of work.”

According to Bassiouni, it costs $200 to raise just one fruit tree to fruit bearing maturity.

“We had 1,500 citrus trees, some destroyed in random Israeli shelling and the rest destroyed during the last Israeli war on Gaza. The few remaining trees are only one year old and produce nothing.”

“This water we’re using,” says Basiouni, referring to the contamination, “actually dehydrates the trees.”

In eastern Gaza’s Shejaiye area, Sena, 74, and Amar Mhayssy, 78, are devastated. “Our land has been bulldozed four times. We have nine dunams of land in the buffer zone which we can’t access because the Israelis will shoot at us. We have 10 dunams of land over 500 meters from the border fence. Our olive trees, over 60 years old, were all bulldozed by the Israeli army.”

They persevere in the face of danger and futility.

“Now we’re growing okra and have replanted 40 olive trees. But they will take years before they produce many olives. We need to water the new trees every three days, but our water source was destroyed. So we bring containers to water them.

[Dignified Beyond Losses]

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*Sabri Jendiya (74), Shayjayee, eastern Gaza: “I’ve worked our land since I was a boy. We’re farmers, we put all of our investment into our land. We have 30 dunams (30,000 square metres) about 800m from the border fence.Because of the danger from Israeli soldier shooting, I don’t work my land like I used. Also, all the water sources were destroyed by the Israeli war on Gaza. When it rains, I will plant simple vegetables. There are 30 people in our house and only one of my sons has work.”

shabaan mohammed mhayssy

*Shabaan Mohammed Mhayssy (83): “I was so happy on my 7.5 dunams of land. I spent 10,000 shekels (~$2,500) to make our water cistern with a pump for watering the land. My olive trees were very old. The cistern and all of my trees have been destroyed by Israeli soldiers. I can’t feed the 30 people in our house.”

[Attack on Water Brings Sanitation Crisis]

Mohamed Ahmed, director of the Water Control Department in the Palestinian Water Authority (PWA), says “there continues to be a very rapid depletion and deterioration of ground water.”

The main source of water is the coastal aquifer and ground water, which serves Gaza’s agriculture, commercial, industrial and public sectors, says Ahmed. But through the three weeks of Israeli attacks on Gaza last December and January, much of the water network infrastructure was destroyed or damaged, rendering already scarce water all the more scarce.

The destruction caused by Israeli shelling, tanks and bulldozers throughout the Strip further damaged Gaza’s sanitation network, causing 150,000 cubic metres of untreated and partially treated sewage waste water to flow over agricultural and residential land and into the sea during the attacks. The daily average of wastewater being pumped into the sea is still a staggering 80,000 cubic metres.

The water treatment crisis has been a catastrophe in the making for decades. In 2004, a report on water alternatives published by the Islamic University of Gaza’s Department of Environment and Earth Science said groundwater had already “deteriorated to a limit that the municipal tap water became brackish and unsuitable for human consumption” throughout the Strip.

Techniques introduced for improving water quality included desalination and reverse osmosis, importing bottled water, and collecting rain water. But these initiatives have been rendered increasingly futile in the face of years of Israeli assaults on Gaza’s infrastructure, combined with its sanctions and siege regime, heightened since June 2007 when Hamas gained control of the Gaza Strip.

The siege has meant an increasingly long waiting list of spare parts, pipes, and building materials. This directly affects Gaza’s ability to maintain its sanitation and water treatment facilities.

“We’ve been waiting for three years for these items to enter, along with desalination units,” says Ibrahim Alejla, media officer for Gaza’s Coastal Municipalities Water Utilities (CMWU).

In its January 2009 Damage Assessment Report, CMWU speaks of 5.97 million dollars damage to Gaza’s water and wastewater treatment facilities and infrastructure. Some of the greatest damage was done in northern Gaza, where three new facilities were totally destroyed. Severe damage was caused to the North Gaza Emergency Sewage Treatment Plant, as well as to wastewater distribution networks throughout the north.

Government sources say that more than 800 of Gaza’s 2,000 water wells were destroyed or rendered not useable from the last Israeli attacks.

beit lahia

*Beit Lahia sewage treatment plant (photo November 2008). This pool overflowed in April 2007, killing numerous living in the surrounding area below.

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