Guest contribution by Maryam I.
In the Gaza Strip, there are two major highways running north and south that travelers use for transportation. First, there is the Salah il-Deen Highway. Crossing Salah il-Deen by foot at night was once deadly because even if there was power, the road is so poorly lit in certain areas and cars traveled so fast that there was no way to precisely assess when it was safe to cross. Further, the road did not have a median in many areas and taxis would pull over to the far left to drop off passengers or get change for big bills or make sharp left turns in the middle of traffic.
The second highway is the coastal highway, or tareeq il-bahar [beach road]. For many of us in Gaza, we prefer to travel down the coastal highway because, no matter what time of the day or night it is, a view of the sea is always refreshing and relaxing. We have always paid special caution to a certain stretch of this highway, however. This stretch I am referring to is called Wadi Ghazza and it is the place where central Gaza’s untreated sewage is dumped directly into the Mediterranean Sea. The same sea we swim and fish in.
Though Gaza does have waste treatment facilities, they are inadequate to treat the waste of Gaza’s growing population. This is further exacerbated by Israel’s five-year siege on Gaza that prevents the importation of building materials. Not only can new sewage plants not be built to accommodate the needs of Gazans, the existing treatment plants cannot be rebuilt or repaired since they were attacked during Israel’s 2008-2009 assault on the Gaza Strip, codenamed Operation Cast Lead. During this offensive, the Israeli military caused $60 million worth of damage to over 30 kilometers of water networks throughout the Gaza Strip, an action deemed “deliberate and systematic” destruction by the UN Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict (“The Goldstone Report”). This has resulted in 80 million liters of untreated or partially treated sewage flowing into the sea daily from a total of 16 different sources, which has severe consequences on the Gaza Strip including the contamination of Gaza’s underground aquifer. [Read more...]