After 20 years of planning and construction, a wastewater treatment plant was put into operation in the Gaza Strip at the beginning of 2021 - wastewater from eleven communities with one million inhabitants will be disposed of in a regulated manner in future.
The water situation for the people in the Gaza Strip is critical. Every day, almost 100,000 m3 of untreated wastewater flows into the ground or into the Mediterranean Sea. This pollutes the environment and the groundwater, even beyond the borders of the Gaza Strip. The drinking water supply relies almost exclusively on the scarce groundwater reserves and on supplies from Israel. But the water is not enough - often households have to go for days without running water. The groundwater level is sinking and salty seawater is entering the freshwater reservoir, not only because too much water is being pumped out, but also because climate change is reducing precipitation. The sewage treatment plants in Gaza have not had the capacity to treat the wastewater of all the residents - a new sewage treatment plant has been urgently needed for a long time.
But building infrastructure projects in Gaza is fraught with many challenges. The conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, which flares up again and again, makes work in the region quite difficult. Due to import restrictions, even the procurement of building materials is often a challenge and takes more time than in other countries. During clashes and protests, the Gaza Strip is repeatedly sealed off by Israel and Egypt, so that materials and skilled personnel do not even reach the construction site. The massive damage to central infrastructure caused by the conflict also made it necessary to adjust the project and brought the planning for the new building to a temporary standstill.
Despite these extraordinary circumstances, a new wastewater treatment plant in the town of Bureij went into test operation at the end of 2020, and regular operation will start in April. Then the wastewater from eleven communities with around one million inhabitants will be reliably treated - this will significantly improve resource protection and thus the conditions for a proper water supply. German Financial Cooperation supported the project on behalf of the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) with a total of EUR 85 million.
There were repeated delays in the planning of the project: Lengthy consultations with the Israeli authorities, for example on the location of the wastewater treatment plant, repeatedly challenged everyone involved. After the foundation stone was laid in 2016, however, the plant was constructed in just four years - a great success for the local project executing agency and KfW Development Bank under the difficult circumstances.
In addition to water, electricity is often scarce in Gaza. But if there is no electricity, the sewage treatment plant cannot work either. That is why the plant in Bureij is self-sufficient: This is made possible by a biogas plant and a solar plant that were built on the site. In the future, the plant will probably produce even more electricity than it consumes itself, and thus also provide electricity for households in Gaza.