Israel-Gaza conflict: Gaza’s survivors now face a battle for water, shelter and power

The first full day of peace reveals the massive reconstruction task ahead

Gaza City

The biggest waste-water treatment plant in Gaza City isn’t the sweetest smelling place at the best of times. But today the abnormally acrid stench and large swarms of flies testified to the sewage stagnating in its lagoons. War has stopped the plant doing the job it was built for: limiting the pollution of the Mediterranean by semi-treating the 40 million litres a day it pumps into the sea.

Gaza, which enjoyed its first full day of peace yesterday, has lost 1,814 people, the vast majority civilians killed as they hid from Israeli bombardments. Its ill-equipped hospitals hold thousands of patients, many suffering from horrific injuries.

But Israel’s destruction of homes and infrastructure will ensure that the possibility of Gaza having a normal existence is a distant prospect.

The sewage plant, built with funding from KFW, the German development agency was put out of action by three tank shells. The result is that raw sewage routed through the plant is now being dumped untreated into the sea.

Munzer Shublak, the director general of the coastal municipalities water utility said yesterday that an earlier strike had hit one of the lagoons, spilling raw sewage over the neighbouring agricultural land. This was repaired but after the second bombardment he decided not to send his technicians out. Four of his team had been killed doing their jobs in Rafah and in central Gaza. “I stopped anything that might be a target for an Israeli attack,” he explained,

The shelling which his team will now assess if the present 72-hour ceasefire holds appears to have been surgically precise. Inflicting  the minimum of structural damage one shell hit a big storage vat, blocking a crucial pipeline with wood and rubble, Another took out the main electrical control bay. And another destroyed the air conditioning unit designed to keep the switching mechanisms from overheating.

 

It’s a paradoxical measure of the humanitarian crisis engulfing Gaza that because severe water shortages have reduced consumption by many residents to well below international emergency standards, Mr Shublak estimates that actual sewage flowing from Sheikh Ejlin will in turn be much less than the normal 40 million litres a day.

For the halt to waste treatment is only part of a much wider water and sewage problem. Oxfam said last night that the destruction by bombing of wells, pipelines, and reservoirs, caused contamination of scarce fresh water with sewage and that 15,000 tons of solid waste had seeped into Gaza streets. “We’re working in an environment with a completely destroyed water infrastructure that prevents people in Gaza from cooking, flushing toilets or washing [their] hands,” the agency said,

And that in turn is only one element of the infrastructural damage inflicted on Gaza by four weeks of war, much of which UN, aid agencies and local utilities had their first real chance to assess yesterday, the quietest since Israel’s Operation Protective Edge began on July 8. Frode Mauring, the UN  Development Programme’s special representative said that with 16-18,000 homes totally destroyed and another 30,000 partially damaged, and 400,000 internally displaced people “the current situation for Gaza is devastating”.

As the agency began its assessment of the massive reconstruction needed in Gaza, Mr Mauring added that since Spring 2013 no new UNDP project in Gaza had been approved by Israel, which banned the importation of construction materials after the discovery of a tunnel under the border.

“We cannot have a situation in which it takes 20 months to get approvals from COGAT [the Israeli military's civil affairs wing] to do construction,” he said. “The status quo is not a viable option.”

Mr Mauring said that the bombing of Gaza’s only power station and the collapse  at least six of the 10 power lines from Israel, had “huge development and humanitarian consequences”. Majdi Yaghi, head of distribution for the Palestinian electric company said that the power station could take six months to a year to repair but this depended on Israel allowing the importation of construction materials.

Gaza City's only power station was hit by Israeli shelling last week (Getty) Gaza City's only power station was hit by Israeli shelling last week (Getty)
Electricity officials complain that their maintenance engineers have been shot at when they seek to repair lines, even after co-ordination with the Israeli military.

Trond Munby, of the UNDP’s Gaza office, said in his experience of war zones this was the worst for attacks on public servants doing their job. There are also worries among some aid agencies about the willingness of donors to fund rebuilding of installations which may be attacked again by Israel in future.

Mr Mauring acknowledged that a bridge at Wadi Gaza in the central Strip, destroyed  during Israel’s  2008-09 Operation Cast Lead, had still not been rebuilt.

But he was forthright in also calling for Israel to lift its bans on the exports on which Gaza’s economy depended, pointing out that jobs and economic security reduced extremism. “You don’t have to be an economist to realise that people are going to be reluctant to invest in a place which cannot trade,” he said.

UN officials strongly reject Israeli suggestions that cement imported for international construction projects was used by Hamas for military tunnel building, pointing out that while such imports were exhaustively  monitored, cement and other materials were freely available through the smuggling tunnels from Egypt.

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
Babysitter Katie and Paul have terse words in the park
tvReview: The strength of the writing keeps viewers glued to their seats even when they are confronted with the hard-hitting scenes
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
American singer, acclaimed actor of stage and screen, political activist and civil rights campaigner Paul Robeson (1898 - 1976), rehearses in relaxed mood at the piano.
filmSinger, actor, activist, athlete: Paul Robeson was a cultural giant. But prejudice and intolerance drove him to a miserable death. Now his story is to be told in film...
Sport
England’s opening goalscorer Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain battles with Scotland’s Charlie Mulgrew
FootballEngland must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil
Life and Style
Make-up artists prepare contestants for last year’s Miss World, held in Budapest
fashion
Sport
Wigan Athletic’s back-of-the shirt sponsor Premier Range has pulled out due to Malky Mackay’s arrival
Football
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Argyll Scott International: FP&A Manager Supply Chain

Benefits: Argyll Scott International: Argyll Scott is recruiting for a Permane...

Austen Lloyd: Commercial Property NQ+

£30000 - £50000 per annum + EXCELLENT: Austen Lloyd: COMMERCIAL PROPERTY SOLI...

Argyll Scott International: Retail Commercial Finance Analyst

Benefits: Argyll Scott International: Due to further expansion, a leading inte...

Langley James : Senior Technician; Promotion & Training Opp; Borough; upto £32k

£27000 - £32000 per annum + training: Langley James : Senior Technician; Promo...

Day In a Page

US immigration: President Obama ready to press ahead with long-promised plan to overhaul 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?

Immigration: Obama's final frontier

The President is ready to press ahead with the long-promised plan to overhaul America's 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?
Bill Cosby rape allegations explained: Why are these allegations coming out now? Why didn’t these women come forward earlier? And why has nobody taken legal action?

Bill Cosby rape allegations explained

Why are these allegations coming out now? Why has nobody taken legal action? And what happens next for the man once thought of as 'America's Dad'
Four years of excruciating seizures caused by the 1cm tapeworm found burrowing through a man's brain

You know that headache you’ve got?

Four years of excruciating seizures caused by the 1cm tapeworm found burrowing through a man's brain
Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?

Scoot commute

Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?
Paul Robeson: The story of how an American icon was driven to death to be told in film

The Paul Robeson story

How an American icon was driven to death to be told in film
10 best satellite navigation systems

Never get lost again: 10 best satellite navigation systems

Keep your vehicle going in the right direction with a clever device
Paul Scholes column: England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil

Paul Scholes column

England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil
Michael Dawson: I’ll thank Spurs after we win says defender as he prepares to return with Hull

Michael Dawson: I’ll thank Spurs after we win

Hull defender faces his struggling former club on Sunday ready to show what they are missing. But he says he will always be grateful to Tottenham
Frank Warren column: Dr Wu has big plans for the professionals yet he should stick to the amateur game

Frank Warren column

Dr Wu has big plans for the professionals yet he should stick to the amateur game
Synagogue attack: Fear unites both sides of Jerusalem as minister warns restoring quiet could take 'months'

Terror unites Jerusalem after synagogue attack

Rising violence and increased police patrols have left residents of all faiths looking over their shoulders
Medecins sans Frontieres: The Ebola crisis has them in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa

'How do you carry on? You have to...'

The Ebola crisis has Medecins sans Frontieres in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa
Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

Residents in what was Iraq’s safest city fear an increase in jihadist attacks, reports Patrick Cockburn
Underwater photography competition winners 2014 - in pictures

'Mysterious and inviting' shot of diver wins photography competition

Stunning image of cenote in Mexico takes top prize
Sir John Major: Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting

Sir John Major hits out at theatres

Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting
Kicking Barbie's butt: How the growth of 3D printing enabled me to make an army of custom-made figurines

Kicking Barbie's butt

How the growth of 3D printing enabled toy-designer to make an army of custom-made figurines