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Gaza: fragments of border wall used to patch up water treatment plant

12-05-2009 News Release

Geneva/Jerusalem (ICRC) – The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) will inaugurate tomorrow, 13 May, the first phase of a project to upgrade a wastewater treatment plant in the southern Gaza town of Rafah. When the entire project is completed, the plant will treat 20,000 cubic metres of wastewater per day and serve 175,000 inhabitants.

  ©ICRC/M. Greub/il-e-01749    
Rafah, southern Gaza. Wastewater treatment plant.    

" It's a great challenge to carry out construction projects in the Strip, as building materials cannot be imported, " said Marek Komarzynski, an ICRC engineer working in Gaza. " Humanitarian organizations such as the ICRC are forced either to come up with alternative and creative ways of proceeding or to put essential projects on hold. "

In the Gaza Strip, efforts to provide the population with even the most basic services, such as water and sanitation, are severely hampered by restrictions on imports of construction materials, fuel and electricity.

The only way to fix up the Rafah plant is to recycle existing materials, such as water pipes, and to use components manufactured within the Strip. The shortage of cement has been overcome by salvaging concrete segments of the old Rafah border wall that lay abandoned after its partial demolition in January 2008.

" It should not be this difficult to work on vital projects in Gaza, " said Pierre Wettach, the ICRC's head of delegation in Israel and the occupied territories. " The water and sanitation infrastructure in the Gaza Strip is in dire need of a comprehensive upgrade. Even if the existing infrastructure were operating at full capacity, it would not meet the needs of the population. To provide Gaza's 1.5 million inhabitants with adequate facilities it is absolutely essential that materials such as cement, steel and water pipes be allowed in. "

The upgrades to the treatment plant, which are being made in cooperation with Rafah municipality and the Coastal Municipal Water Utility, will help prevent serious risk to public heath and further harm to the environment. In addition, the treated sewage water will help fill the underground aquifer, which is the sole source of water in a territory suffering from a severe shortage.

" We aim at recycling 100 per cent of the wastewater, " said Mr Komarzynski. " This project will also support agriculture in the area as farmers will be able to use treated sewage sludge as a fertilizer. "

Media are invited to attend the inauguration in Rafah, at 10 am.

For further information, please contact:
  Iyad Nasr, ICRC Gaza, tel: +972 599 60 30 15
  Anne Sophie Bonefeld, ICRC Jerusalem, tel: +972 52 601 91 50
  Nadia Dibsy, ICRC Jerusalem, tel: +972 52 601 91 48
  Dorothea Krimitsas, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 22 730 25 90 or +41 79 251 93 18
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