Wastewater Management Project Mitigates Health and Environmental Threats in the West Bank and Gaza
The project improved sanitation services to 64,012 households located near the project area and an additional 52,000 people living in surrounding communities, diminishing the concerning health, environmental and safety threats to these communities caused by poorly treated and managed sewage near the community of Beit Lahia. Drainage of sewage lakes and construction of a new Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP) under the project contributed to health improvements, increased employment and improved the capacity of the Palestinian Water Authority (PWA) to better manage wastewater systems. In addition, by incorporating the practice of recharging the aquifer with treated effluent, the project contributed to effectively countering the ongoing groundwater contamination and creating a sustainable water management solution in a water-scarce environment.
The project was developed during a difficult period in which deep political, economic and institutional crises were emerging, and aimed at mitigating the immediate health and environmental safety threats to the communities surrounding the old Beit Lahia WWTP and its adjacent sewage lakes. The overburdened treatment plant built in the 1970s was the cause of several incidents with catastrophic consequences, including the collapse of the sewage lakes in March 2007. Due to this incident the sewage flooded the nearby village of Um Al Nasser, killing five and displacing nearly 2,000 people. The aging and inefficient sewage treatment system continually contaminated the groundwater, the main source of drinking water for Gaza, putting all North Gaza residents at risk.
The immediate response entailed mitigating health and environmental concerns through the draining of the raw sewage lake north of Beit Lahia in Northern Gaza to tackle water-borne diseases, water contamination and effluent floods. The lake drainage was followed by the construction of the new WWTP, and of a groundwater recharge scheme which included infiltration basins, as well as recovery and monitoring wells to provide a long-term solution to protect the aquifer. Additionally, the project implemented capacity building activities to ensure adequate wastewater management and maintenance of the infrastructure developed under the project, effectively moving from an emergency intervention to a longer-term solution that secured a sustainable approach to wastewater management.
Due to unavoidable crises-related circumstances, the project implementation underwent three restructurings and extended its closing date on numerous occasions to fulfill project goals. The project contributed to the following results from 2004 to 2018:
The project improved sanitation services to 64,012 households (368,978 people) located near the project area and an additional 52,000 people residing in surrounding communities by December 2017.
Local clinics reported positive outlook on local resident health after the evacuation and drainage of the effluent lake at Beit Lahia. Data collected in November 2018—the last time that the lake was drained—showed a positive trend in intestinal and skin diseases, especially those most often associated with poor sanitation and environmental conditions.
64 percent of surveyed residents reported improvements in the incidence of water-borne diseases. Surveyed residents also reported that expenses on WASH-related items decreased, relieving economic pressure and health concerns from residents.
A total of 3.9 million cubic meters of sewage were drained after the construction of the terminal pumping station at Beit Lahia which included the associated installation of a pressure pipeline, and the construction of 9 infiltration basins.
An analysis conducted in March of 2018 indicated that the newly constructed Northern Gaza Wastewater Treatment Plant effluent discharge met the Palestinian Environmental Standards for treated wastewater biological parameters, making it fit for aquifer recharge and unrestricted reuse.
The construction of the new Northern Gaza WWTP increased the quantity of wastewater treated to 34,000 cubic meters per day on June of 2018.
The new WWTP also improved groundwater quality in terms of salinity and nitrate contamination, rendering it compliant with the Palestinian Environmental Standards on November of 2018.
Bank Group Contribution
The World Bank administered Trust Funds including contributions from the Belgium DGIC (The Directorate General for International Cooperation), European Commission and SIDA (Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency), for a total of US$56.96 million to the Palestinian Liberation Organization for the Northern Gaza Emergency Sewage Treatment (NGEST) Project. Supervision of project activities was challenged by the distance between the PWA in Ramallah (West Bank) and project sites (Gaza), but, with the establishment of a Project Management Unit (PMU) in Gaza, attached to the PWA, the provision of significant support to this PMU by the Bank, including facilitation of weekly meetings with the Israeli army on the entry of critical construction material and personnel to the project sites, the project was able to generate a long lasting impact on the capacity of the PWA and its PMU to design, implement and evaluate its own water and sanitation projects.
The execution of this project would not have been possible without the involvement and partnership of the Palestinian Authority, PWA, and the Costal Municipalities Water Utility. For this project, the Bank established itself as a key partner in assisting the Palestinian Authority in responding to water emergencies and supported the Palestinian Water Authority in reforming the sector.
The construction of the new WWTP allowed for the production of treated effluent fit for aquifer recharge and unrestricted reuse. This result now offers opportunities for treated effluent to be reused for irrigation purposes, improve agricultural production and increase economic opportunities in Northern Gaza.
The target beneficiaries were communities residing near the lake in Beit Lahia, and although the project benefited both men and women, the project reported that improvements in wastewater services were more significant to women as they often were the ones affected by the health challenges related to the lack of treatment of wastewater, on a daily basis.