Internationally funded treatment plants have reduced sea pollution in Gaza to lowest level in years
Source: The Guardian
On the beach in Sheikh Ijlin, a neighbourhood in the south of Gaza City, no one is paying attention to a nearby Islamic Jihad military drill. Children run in and out of the Mediterranean waves, begging their parents for camel rides and candy floss, ignoring the thuds as rockets belonging to the Palestinian militant group hit the water.
Thanks to a dedicated sewage cleanup effort, for the first time in years most of the Gaza Strip’s coastline is clean enough to swim in. This summer, thousands of families are rediscovering the besieged territory’s foremost recreational outlet.
“We didn’t come for seven years because the water was not safe. Now it looks so much better … The colour is different, more blue. This is our second beach day this year,” said Nabila Haniya, 40, who sat at a picnic table with several other women while their children played. “We have a lot of wars and troubles. The kids deserve to have some fun.”
Fifteen years into a joint Israeli-Egyptian blockade, clean water is one of the most pressing issues for the 41km-long strip, which is home to 2.2 million people. Almost 97% of the water in Gaza’s sole aquifer is no longer potable: without proper maintenance and with Israeli restrictions on imports, sewage treatment plants were overwhelmed years ago.
Untreated waste has flowed directly into the sea for more than a decade, creating an environmental disaster and polluting one of the only affordable opportunities for fun in the isolated Palestinian enclave.