News | March 15, 2012

Desalination And Cooperation In The Gaza Strip

By Kevin Westerling, Editor, Water Online

There was a sense of détente between Israel and Palestine on Tuesday, as Israel offered its support and assistance toward the construction of a new desalination plant in the Gaza Strip, according to a report by AFP. Israel's Energy and Water Minister Uzi Landau made the cooperative gesture during the 6th World Water Forum, taking place March 12 to 17 in Marseilles, France, in response to Palestine's funding initiatives at the Forum. During Monday's opening session, French Prime Minister François Fillon announced the allocation of 10 million euros to secure financing for the project, as reported by the Palestine News & Information Agency (WAFA).

At a total cost projected to exceed 350 million euros, the desalination plant is expected to provide drinking water to the 1.6 million people in the Gaza Strip by 2020. The need for such a facility is apparent, as only 5% of the water in the Gaza Strip is suitable for consumption — according to a 2009 World Bank report — and the area is subject to repeated droughts. To accommodate the rapidly rising population, Gaza's coastal aquifer, which has been under Palestinian control since 1994, has been severely over-pumped, resulting in low volumes and high salinity.

From the perspective of Israel, which has greatly benefited from its aggressive adoption of desalination, the project is long overdue. "We have been waiting for such projects for many, many years," said Landau to AFP. In fact, he stated that Israel is willing to work alongside the Palestinians to help ensure the plant's success. "Our expertise is available to all of our friends, including some of those who don't accept us there [in the Gaza Strip]."

Coincidentally, the somewhat congenial remarks were made on the same day that a truce was enacted to end four days of violent fighting between Israelis and Palestinians that had plagued the Gaza Strip.

Some things, it seems, the two sides can agree on — at least on this day.

What are your thoughts on the desalination initiatives underway in the Middle East? Please share your comments below.