تحسين الوضع الاقتصادي للمجتمعات عن طريق تعزيز مشاريع إعادة التدوير

 

 تعتبر البلديات و المجالس المحلية المسئول المباشر عن إدارة ملف النفايات الصلبة في المدن حول العالم للحفاظ على المدن نظيفة. ففي الوقت التي تحتل فيه التكنولوجيا المتوفرة (جمع النفايات، النقل، إعادة التدوير، التخزين، المعالجة)، تزداد النداءات الدولية لإعادة النظر إلى مجال إدارة النفايات الصلبة كأداة لحل العديد من المشاكل الاقتصادية، الإجتماعية، و البيئية. و من هذه الأصوات الرئيس الأمريكي السابق "بيل كلينتون" عندما صرح في المؤتمر السنوي لمبادرة كلينتون العالمية عام 2010

" إذا أردتم محاربة التغير المناخي، تحسين الصحة العامة، إيجاد فرص عمل للفقراء و خلق مناخ مناسب للروّاد، فإن أفضل الطرق للوصول لهذا الشيئ هو إغلاق مكبات النفايات"

 

فيجب على السلطات أن تنظر إلى ملف إدارة النفايات الصلبة بمنظور أشمل بحيث يشمل تحسن عام في صحة الناس و البيئة، استخدام أمثل للمصادر (موارد الطاقة) و تحسين الوضع الإقتصادي. لهذا أصبحت إدارة النفايات الصلبة تحد صعب للجهات المختصة، رجال الأعمال، و المواطنين، فإدارة النفايات الصلبة تحتاج إلى "خلطة سحرية" تنمزج فيها السياسة الإدارية، المسئولية الإجتماعية، القطاع التجاري، و المواطنين. 

 

فنجاح تطبيق نظام فعّال لإدارة النفايات الصلبة يعتمد بشكل كبير على عوامل محلية و إقليمية متعددة في المجالات الاقتصادية، الاجتماعية، و السياسية في المجتمع المحلي. فباللإضافة إلى نظام إدارة يشمل جميع الحلول المتوفرة، ففهم جيد للآلية التي تؤثر فيها العوامل السياسية، الاجتماعية، و الاقتصادية مهمة لتطوير استراتيجية فعّالة لإدارة النفايات الصلبة. فعلى الجهات المسئولة النظر إلى هذا الملف كفرصة للنهوض بالوضع الاقتصادي للمجتمع من خلال خلق آلاف فرص العمل و إنشاء مجال جديد للاستثمار.

 

فمن أجل التأثير على الطبقة العامة من الناس تجاه إعادة تدوير المخلفات، يجب عليهم أن يشعروا بصورة مباشرة بالفائدة التي تعود عليهم، لذلك كمرحلى أولى يجب تغيير الصورة السيئة في مخيلاتهم عن هذا المجال عن طريق حملات التوعية و المبادرات و الدراسات التفصيلية لكي يشعروا بحجم الفرصة و فوائدها.

 

الفيديو التالي لمشروع إنشاء وحدة إعادة فرز للنفايات الصلبة في مدينة رفح (فلسطين). تم تنفيذ المشروع عن طريق جمعية أصدقاء البيئة  و بتمويل من الوكالة اليابانية للتنمية، فعلي الرغم من الجدل القائم في هذا المجال حول فاعلية المشروع، فقد خلقت العديد من فرص العمل للنساء و ساعدت على تقليل كميات النفايات المرسلة لمكب صوفا. إنها خطوة جيدة في الاتجاه الصحيح و لكن كان الأولى، قبل إنشاء وحدة الفرز، دراسة الحلول و الخيارات للنفايات المفرزة في نهاية خط الانتاج حيث أن هناك الآلاف الأطنان من النفايات المكدسة بسبب عدم وجود أي طريقة لإعادة تدويرها بعد عملية الفرز.

 

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النفايات الصلبة في قطاع غزة

لم تكن التحذيرات التي أطلقها منسق الشئون الإنسانية  بالأمم المتحدة "ماكسويل جيلارد" بالأمر المفاجئ أو الغريب على أكثر من مليون و نصف غزّي يسكنون في تلك البقعة من العالم. هذه التحذيرات بنيت على دراسة تابعة للأمم المتحدة صدرت في شهر أغسطس 2012 و أشارت إلى أن قطاع غزة لن يكون "ملائماً للحياة" بحلول عام 2020. فقطاع غزة يعاني من مشكلات كثيرة منذ أكثر من عقد من الزمان مع بدء الانتفاضة الثانية عام 2001 و ما تلاه من حصار خانق بعد فوز حركة المقاومة الإسلامية حماس في الانتخابات التشريعية عام 2006.

في أيامنا هذه و مع وصول أول سفينة فضائية لكوكب المريخ، ما زال قطاع غزة يعاني الكثير من المشاكل البيئية بسبب الوضع السياسي، الاجتماعي، الاقتصادي، التنظيمي ، و التقني السائد في مدن القطاع. خلال الأسطر القادمة، سأصطحبكم لكي نلقي الضوء على إحدى المشاكل التي نعيشها منذ عقود من الزمان. و قبل البدء أريد أن أوضح بأني لا أملك العصا السحرية لتغيير الحال بين عشية و ضحاها و لست بالدبلوماسي لأقوم بإلقاء التهم على جهة معينة أو فرد بعينه ولكن المقصد هو إلقاء الضوء على هذه القضية عسى أن تصل رسالتي كمواطن لأصحاب القرار.

يعاني قطاع غزة من مشكلة متفاقمة في ادارة النفايات الصلبة، نتيجة لوصول مكبات النفايات إلى الحد الاستيعابي الأقصى، و غياب الاهتمام من قبل الجهات المعنية على العمل لحل الأزمة. ففي عام 2010، قدرت وزارة التخطيط كمية النفايات التي نتجت من قطاع غزة ب 1300 طن/يومياً على أن تتضاعف هذه الكمية لتصل إلى 2350 طن/يومياً بعد عشرين عاماً. فهذه الأرقام، مصحوبة بتصريحات السيد "ماكسويل جيلارد" بأن عدد السكان في قطاع غزة سيزيد إلى 2.1 مليون في عام 2020، جعلت من الأهمية أن أتطرق لهذا الموضوع و نطرحه على الطاولة للنقاش. فالمشكلة كبيرة  و أسبابها عديدة و لكن و من باب الانصاف يجدر القول أن إدارة المخلفات الصلبة قد شهدت تحسنا ملحوظا في السنوات الأخيرة بفضل المشاريع الدولية التي نفذت في هذا المجال و الشعور بخطورة ما وصل إليه الحال في مناطق القطاع المختلفة.

أسباب وجود هذه المشكلة

و في بداية الحديث عن حلول قد تساعد على التخفيف من هذه المشكلة المتفاقمة، يجدر بنا أن ندرس الأسباب التي أحدثت هذه القضية . فمن خلال البحث و التدقيق، توصلت إلى أن الأسباب هي كالتالي:

أولاً: عدم كفاءة النظام الحالي بسبب غياب الدراسات التفصيلية و عدم وجود الرؤية الموحدة بين الجهات المعنية بإدارة الملف. فعلي سبيل المثال، قانون البيئة رقم (7) لعام 1999 غير مطبق حتى الآن مما يفقد الجهات المختصة السلطة و القوة لفرض سيطرتها من أجل تحسين الوضع العام.

ثانياً: الزيادة المفرطة في عدد السكان في القطاع مصحوباً بزيادة كميات المخلفات و عدم وجود الأماكن المناسبة لطمر المخلفات بطرق سليمة.

ثالثاً: عدم إدراك عامة الشعب بحساسية الموضوع و ضرورة التعاون مع الجهات المختصة لحل الأزمة.  مما سبق، يمكن أن نستنتج الآلية التي أرى أنها قد تساعد على أن تغير الحال الحالي.

أولى هذه الخطوات هي توفر سياسة و رؤية موحدة  ما بين كل الجهات الحكومية المعنية في هذا الشأن بالإضافة إلى البلديات من أجل وضع خطة شاملة تعمل على تحسين الوضع العام لنظام إدارة النفايات الصلبة في قطاع غزة.

هذا المبدأ لابد أن يقوم أساساً على نموذج 3R الأكثر اتباعاً في أيامنا هذه و يشمل ثلاث مقترحات لإدارة الأزمة بطريقة صحيحة و هي (تقليل كمية النفايات الناتجة Reduce ، إعادة استخدام Reuse، إعادة التدوير Recycle) و فيما يلي توضيح لهذه الخطوات:

أولا: تقليل النفايات Reduce

بالغالب تزيد كمية النفايات الناتجة من أي مجتمع بزيادة عدد أفراده. فخلال السنوات الماضية، شهدت الكميات الناتجة ارتفاعاً ملحوظاً دون إدراك عامة الشعب لخطورة الأزمة. و لهذا وجب علينا أن نركز على هذه القضية و نعمل على تغيير ما بأنفس الناس و دعوتهم أن يكونوا على قدر المسئولية و أن يقوموا بدورهم في هذا الملف عن طريق العمل على تقليل المخلفات الصادرة من منازلهم. كما أنه يجب على البلديات إعداد برامج خاصة لإدارة النفايات الصلبة للقطاع التجاري وفرض قيود على أصحاب الأعمال للتقليل من كميات المخلفات الناتجة من أنشطتهم التجارية.

ثانيا: إعادة الاستخدام Reuse

إعادة استخدام المخلفات ليس حل لمشكلة المخلفات و حسب، بل إنه من الأمور التي قد تدفع العجلة الاقتصادية إلى الأمام  من خلال تقليص ميزانية شراء المواد الخام لبعض الصناعات,  و زيادة رأس المال لصناعات الأخرى. فمن خلال هذه الطريقة، يمكن لأصحاب الصناعات بيع كل ما يزيد عن أنشطتهم التجارية لجهات أخرى و جني دخل إضافي للمؤسسة التجارية.

و كمثال آخر، يمكن لهذا المبدأ أن يستخدم كأداة للعديد من المؤسسات غير الربحية عن طريق بيع ما يتبرع به المواطنون من أدوات ليسوا بحاجة لها فيما يعرف بمحلات " الأدوات المستعملة"  و لكن النظرة المجتمعية لهذه الفكرة سلبية و غير مرحب بها لاعتبارات اجتماعية و لكن يجدر الإشارة إلى فوائد هذا النوع من المشاريع و منها:

  • زيادة نسبة المواد المعاد استخدامها بين المواطنين ( أثاث، كتب، أدوات كهربائية).
  • زيادة الدخل المالي لهذه المؤسسات مما يزيد من أنشطتها الميدانية للمواطنين.
  • تغيير بعض العادات السلوكية بين المواطنين و تشجيع الاندماج و التعاون بين كافة أفراد المجتمع.

ثالثا: إعادة التدوير Recycle  

أشارت دراسات إلى أن نسبة إعادة التدوير في قطاع غزه 4.2 % لعام 2002 بمعدل 9 طن/يومياً يتم إعادة تدويرها بمبادرة فردية لبعض الصناعات المحلية. ترجع النسبة الضئيلة هذه إلى عدة عوامل منها:

 أولاً: غياب الدعم الحكومي لمشاريع إعادة التدوير.

ثانياً: عدم اهتمام عامة الشعب لهذه المشاريع و تقدير القيمة الاقتصادية لها. ففي حقيقة الأمر، و نتيجة لزيادة أسعار المواد الخام في الأسواق العالمية، فقد زادت أسعار بعض الأنواع من المخلفات لتصل إلى أكثر من 100دولار/ طن      ( فعلى سبيل المثال: سعر طن البلاستيك PET  250-300   دولار/طن، و سعر الورق المقوى (كرتون) يتراوح بين 240-260  دولار/طن)

و من هنا تنبع ضرورة الاهتمام بهذا النوع من المشاريع من أجل دفع العجلة الاقتصادية للقطاع. و من ناحية عملية يمكن أن يتم البدء بهذه المشاريع بإدارة عليا من البلديات و لكن عن طريق انشاء عدد من الشركات و خصخصتها من أجل تحقيق التنمية الاقتصادية و البيئية في آن واحد. 

في الختام و من خلال التحليل السابق يتضح أن قضية إدارة النفايات الصلبة تتطلب خطوة  مشتركة بين الدولة و الشعب عن طريق وضع أهداف واضحة و محددة المعالم و من ثم العمل على النهوض بالوضع البيئي في قطاع غزة.

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Trash Talk from Gaza

gaza-garbageSolid waste management is considered to be one of the most severe environmental and civic problems in the Gaza Strip. Solid waste in the Gaza strip consists mainly of household waste, building debris, agricultural waste, industrial waste (mainly from worksites), medical wastes, and wastes from car workshops. Solid waste in the Gaza Strip is dumped in the same landfill without separation except for medical waste, which is dumped separately in the main Gaza landfill site. The solid waste generation rate varies between 0.35 to 1.0 kg/capita/day.

Scale of the Problem

Trash generation in the Gaza Strip varies between 830 to 894 tons/day in cities and villages and from 276 to 300 tons/day in the refugee camps. Local surveys and estimates indicate that household waste accounts for 45 to 50% of the total solid waste, construction and industrial wastes 22 to 25%, and the remaining types (e.g. commercial and institutional) 25 to 30%. Bad practices in the Gaza Strip with the absence of legislation and inspection mechanisms during the occupation resulted in inefficient and inconsistent waste collection services. On many occasions, waste is being dumped in open areas, in various places in the Gaza Strip. And to add fuel to the fire, present landfills in the Gaza Strip are overloaded. This represents a looming danger to the public health and the environment, and particularly to the ground water resources, which are already poor. Not only that but also, hazardous emissions, which are resulted from waste incineration, contain thousands of carbon tones (CO2 gas), causing the temperature to rise. Thus in turn, would be probably the cause of climate change.

Promising Initiative of AYCM Palestine

As regard with potential solutions, Governments and many NGO's have tried to solve the problem as much as possible or at least alleviate the effects, which are resulted from it. As an example of these efforts, Natuf Organization for Environment & Community Development in partnership with Arab Youth Climate Movement “AYCM” – Palestine,  implemented “ Environmental Leaders toward a Sustainable Community” project which funded by the European Union and the United Nations Development Programme through GEF. During this project, an environmental initiative titled "Separation and recycling of different waste materials into reusable objects" in cooperation with 'Zero Waste MENA' team in Gaza.

The initiative was carried out in Shalehat Resort located at the Gaza beach with the participation of vacationers. The main activities included a 10-day awareness campaign, which targeted more than 200 families (about 1,400 people overall) and focused on the impacts of solid waste as well as the importance of sorting and reuse. On the final day, children event with clowns and games was held in order to raise their interest in environmental issues and encourage them to become future environmental leaders.

Recycling-Gaza1In addition, this initiative aims to create a practical model for waste recycling in the Gaza Strip in order to promote the environmental and the general awareness among residents in Gaza. Such processes, as an illustration, contribute to reducing the consumption of fresh raw materials, energy usage, air pollution (from incineration) and water pollution (from landfilling) by decreasing the need for "conventional" waste disposal and lowering greenhouse gas emissions which are considered as the main cause of climate change. As a result, Recycling can be regarded as a good strategy for waste reduction and mitigation of the climate change impacts in the long term.

Conclusions

To conclude, Gaza Strip has encountered from many serious environmental issues, solid waste management, in particular. Such issues may pose detrimental threats to our environment as well as our health. Consequently, I deeply believe that all of us, governments and individuals, should be responsible and careful about our Earth as much as we can. We should work hard together in order to save the whole environment for all of us and for the future generation.

Waste Management in Gaza Strip

Solid waste management in Gaza Strip is a matter of grave concern. With population of approximately 1.75 million, waste management is one of the most serious challenges confronting the local authorities because of high volumes of solid waste generation and economic blockade by Israel. The daily solid waste generation across Gaza is more than 1300 tons which is characterized by per capita waste generation of 0.35 to 1.0 kg.

Scarcity of waste disposal sites coupled with huge increase in waste generation is leading to serious environmental and human health impacts on the population. The severity of the crisis is a direct consequence of continuing blockade by Israeli Occupation Forces and lack of financial assistance from international donor.

Israeli Occupation Forces deliberately destroyed most of the sewage infrastructure in the Gaza Strip, during 2008-2009 Gaza War inflicting heavy damage to sewage pipes, water tanks, wastewater treatment plants etc. Infact, Israeli forces, time and again, target Gaza's infrastructure and inflict heavy damage during repeated incursions in the Gaza Strip. 

Landfills in Gaza

There are three landfills in Gaza Strip – one each in southern and central part of Gaza and one in Gaza governorate. In addition, there are numerous unregulated dumpsites scattered across rural and urban areas which are not fenced, lined or monitored. Domestic, industrial and medical wastes are often dumped near cities and villages or burned and disposed of in unregulated disposal sites which cause soil, air and water pollution, leading to health hazards and ecological damage. The physical damage caused to Gaza’s infrastructure by repeated Israeli aggression has been a major deterred in putting forward a workable solid waste management strategy in the Strip.

Sewage Disposal Problems

The sewage disposal problem is assuming alarming proportions. The Gaza Strip’s sewage service networks cover most areas, except for Khan Yunis and its eastern villages where only 40% of the governorate is covered. There are only three sewage water treatment stations in Gaza Strip – in Beit Lahia, Gaza city and Rafah – which are unable to cope with the increasing population growth rate.

The total quantity of produced sewage water is estimated at 45 million m3 per annum, in addition to 3000 cubic meters of raw sewage water discharged from Gaza Strip directly into the sea every day. Sewage water discharge points are concentrated on the beaches of Gaza city, Al Shate' refugee camp and Deir El Balah.

Raw Sewage on a Gaza beach

The continuous discharge of highly contaminated sewage water from Gaza Strip in the Mediterranean shores is causing considerable damage to marine life in the area. The beaches of Gaza city are highly polluted by raw sewage. In addition, groundwater composition in Gaza Strip is marked by high salinity and nitrate content which may be attributed to unregulated disposal of solid and liquid wastes from domestic, industrial and agricultural sources.

Recently, the ongoing electricity and fuel shortage caused sewage from Gaza City wastewater treatment plant to overflow into residential areas causing a grave humanitarian and environmental crisis. Several more sewage stations across the Gaza Strip are on the verge of overflowing which could be disastrous from the entire region. The prevalent waste management scenario demands immediate intervention of international donors, environmental agencies and regional governments in order to prevent the situation from assuming catastrophic proportions.

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Water Woes in Palestine

Water crisis in the West Bank and Gaza is largely overshadowed by the overall political tension between Palestine and Israel. However, the ever-growing water conflict between the two sides is a major impediment to reaching a just and peaceful resolution to the Palestine-Israel conflict, and an essential component for the creation of an independent Palestinian state. Ever since the Nakbah (Day of Catastrophe) in 1948, Israel has sought to control the main sources of water, and after the 1967 conflict Israel has managed to control all of the major water sources it shares with Palestine and other neighboring countries such as Lebanon, Syria and Jordan. These sources include the Jordan River, Yarmouk River and the underground water reservoirs underneath the West Bank. Let us take a close look at water woes in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

West Bank

The rampant discrimination in utilization of water resources is evident with Palestinian farms relying on inconsistent rainwater to irrigate their crops, and illegal Israeli settlement farms using state-of-the-art irrigation systems. Despite controlling 100% of the water flowing from the Jordan River, Israel is using 85% of the water from the aquifers within West Bank territory while  Palestinians are receiving a pitiful 15%.

Though theoretically Palestinians could drill more wells to help sustain their crops, they are forbidden to do so without acquiring permits from the Israeli occupation forces. These permits are difficult, if not impossible, to obtain forcing Palestinians to rely on Israeli authorities for access to their own water. This has lead to per capita water consumption in the West Bank to be approximately 73 liters, whereas Israel’s per capita water consumption is approximately 242 liters. In other words, per capita use in Israel is three and a half times higher than in the West Bank.

Responding to reports reflecting the injustice in water resource distribution, the Israeli government states that it has responded to the needs of the Palestinians and has increased the quantity of water provided to them far beyond that specified in the Interim Agreement. However, what it fails to mention is that 60% of the water it provides is sold to the Palestinians at inflated prices, which most civilians cannot afford.

Of the water available from West Bank aquifers, Israel uses 73%, West Bank Palestinians use 17%, and illegal Jewish settlers use 10%. Another shocking fact is that each Israeli consumes as much water as four Palestinians. Under international law it is illegal for Israel to expropriate the water of the Occupied Palestinian Territories for use by its own citizens, and doubly illegal to expropriate it for use by illegal Israeli settlers

Gaza Strip

Since the blockade imposed on Gaza in 2006, it has been dealing with constant raids, bombardment, and attacks from the Israeli occupation forces, hindering any kind of development that might be possible. One of the greatest sectors affected by continuous Israeli aggression is water supply and sanitation. Water supply and sewage infrastructure are often damaged leaving the area without proper sanitation and without a reliable water source. This has a large effect on Gaza’s only source of water – the coastal aquifer underneath the Mediterranean Sea coast shared by Gaza, Israel and Egypt. Israel's blockade of the Gaza Strip has pushed the already ailing water and sewage system to a "crisis point".

Reports published by the World Health Organization (WHO) suggest that 95% of this water is unfit for consumption due to the lack of proper sanitation, and that Gaza could become unlivable as early as the year 2016. The good news is that World Bank and Islamic Development Bank have recently approved $6.4 million and $11.14 million respectively for the development of the Gaza’s water and sewage infrastructure to improve extensively damaged sanitation facilities and highly contaminated water supply.

Major Hurdles

Financial assistance from Arab world and international agencies can provide a big boost to improve living conditions in Palestinian areas but do not represent a sustainable solution to the problems at hand. The first problem requiring immediate attention is the unjust distribution in water resource use. To ensure peaceful resolution to the conflict between Palestine and Israel, there must be an equal distribution of water allowing enough water for development and basic human needs of the Palestinians.

Another major hurdle is the Israeli policy of stifling development activities in Palestinian areas. The inhuman blockade of Gaza and construction of the “separation barrier” around the West Bank give Israel full control over the resources entering and exiting Palestinian territories. Much of the land cut off by the West Bank barrier is land with good access to a major aquifer. This greatly restricts any plans for the development and construction of proper sanitation and water storage/extraction facilities that may allow Palestinian cities and villages to communities to flourish.  

A recent report by Amnesty International says that on average Palestinian daily water consumption reaches 70 litres a day, compared with 300 litres for the Israelis. Many Palestinians barely get 20 litres a day – the minimum recommended even in humanitarian emergencies. To conclude, the problem at hand is not the lack of water in the region, but the uneven distribution of water resources between Palestine and Israel.

 

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Water Crisis in Gaza

Gaza Strip has been enduring constant Israeli bombardment for many years which has resulted in severe damages to its infrastructure and to its citizens. However the real risk is Gaza’s lack of usable water.  The only natural source of fresh water in Gaza is a shallow aquifer on the southern part of its coast; 90 to 95% of which is not safe for drinking because of neighboring seawater, sewage, and runoff from agriculture. Even though most of it is not fit for consumption, residents have no other choice but to resort to using it. UN hydrologists have indicated that current extraction rates from the aquifer run at around 160 million cubic meters (mcm)/year, 105 mcm above the recommended abstraction rate.

The repercussions of this over abstraction can be disastrous because a drop in the water table would cause a large volume of sea water to seep through the surface and into the aquifer, further contaminating the entire aquifer.

Of course the situation was not always like this. Prior to 2006, around 97% of all households within the Gaza strip had access to the coastal aquifer. Gaza also showcased five sewage and wastewater treatment plants that improved the water’s health & status. Why did all of this change? What happened? Why have scientists predicted that the Gaza strip will become unlivable by the year 2016?

The ongoing Israeli assault on Gaza has had a heavy toll on the strip's already fragile water infrastructure, leaving the territory's 1.8 million residents facing long periods without access to clean running water. This has driven residents to travel long distances in order to reach a source of water that they could use. Some residents have even relied on purchasing expensive bottled water smuggled in from the underground tunnels that connect into Egypt. The constant bombardment has also had negative effects on the five sewage and wastewater treatment plants in Gaza, three of which have been damaged by the bombings. The damage to the treatment plants led to the discharge of an estimated 3.5 million cubic feet (1 Cubic feet = 0.028 cubic meters) of raw sewage into the Mediterranean Sea every day.

It must be noted that this water crisis in Gaza was present well before the most recent Israeli bombardment began.  Since the Israeli blockade on the Gaza strip enforced in 2006 Israel has controlled everything from the national air space to everything entering and exiting the Gaza Strip. Accordingly, Israel has denied the influx of raw material that would be used to improve the current outdated infrastructure causing the existing infrastructure to deteriorate over time. Additionally, as is the situation in the West Bank Israel did and still consumes a disproportionate share of water (approximately 80%) from Gaza’s only water source, the coastal aquifer. Finally, as if to rub salt into the Palestinians wounds, it constantly rejects Palestinian proposals for the construction of private water wells and often destroys any that exist.

In 2012, the plans for a desalination plant in Gaza were suggested and were backed by Israel, all Mediterranean governments, the UN, the EU, and key development banks. It was also confirmed that the finances for this projects were to be provided by the Islamic Development Bank and the European Investment Bank.However shortly after the plans were published, conflicts reoccurred and Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip continued. This once promising project was discarded and infrastructure destroyed.

The city’s water quality has become a central factor in its water crisis threatening all life in the city. With no end in sight for both the current attacks on the city and the illegal blockade, there are little to no solutions left for Gaza. With its infrastructure constantly being destroyed and its water polluted, the only solution is peace. Without peace the water crisis will continue to worsen until the Gaza Strip becomes unlivable. The illegal blockade must be lifted to allow the people of Gaza the freedom to manage its own water supply, rebuild its infrastructure, and to import fresh water from the outside world because without it Gaza will cease to exist.

Renewable Energy in Palestine

High population growth, increasing living standards and rapid industrial growth has led to tremendous energy demand in the Palestinian Territories in recent years. The energy situation in Palestine is highly different compared to other countries in the Middle East due to non-availability of natural resource, financial crunch and unstable political condition.

Palestine is heavily dependent on Israel for meeting its energy requirements. Almost all petroleum products are imported through Israeli companies.  Israel controls energy imports into Palestine and thus prevents open trade in electricity and petroleum products between Palestine and other countries.

Current Scenario

Energy is increasingly becoming unaffordable for people living in Palestinian areas due to rampant poverty and widespread unemployment. Ironically, fuel and energy costs for Palestinians are one of the highest in the region. The Palestinian power sector is entirely dependent on imported power supply, 88% from the Israel and 3% from Jordan and Egypt. 

Egypt supplies merely 17MW of electrical power to the Gaza Strip while 20MW is supplied to Jericho by Jordan’s state-utility firm. Exploitation of renewable energy resources is required at a mass-level so as to ensure a cheap and sustainable source of energy to the Palestinians. The major renewable energy resources in Palestine are solar, geothermal and biomass. The Palestinian Energy Authority is currently in the process of launching the bid for solar and wind energy resource mapping and geospatial analysis. At the end of 2012, renewable energy contributed merely 1.4% in the energy mix, though Palestine is targetting 10% clean energy installed capacity by the year 2020.

There is high potential for solar energy in the Palestine, with a daily average solar radiation of 5.4 kWh/m2 which should encourage its use for mass applications like cooking, industrial and domestic heating, water pumping, rural electrification, desalination etc. Although geothermal energy potential in Palestine has not been quantified yet, there has great deal of interest in geothermal energy due to the path-breaking efforts of Ramallah-based MENA Geothermal. Being an agricultural society, Palestine has appreciable amount of animal manure, crop wastes and solid wastes which can be utilized for generation of biomass energy. 

Solar Energy

Solar energy can be a major contributor to the future Palestinian energy supply, with its high potential in the area. Palestine receives about 3,000 hours of sunshine per year and has an average solar radiation of 5.4 kWh/m. Domestic solar water heating (SWH) is widely used in Palestine where almost 70% of houses and apartments have such systems. Infact, Palestine is one of the leading countries in the field of SWH for domestic purpose. SWH is made locally in the West Bank and Gaza Strip with a production rate of about 24,000 units per year which is considered to be sufficient for the Palestinian market. Solar thermal and photovoltaic systems are yet to take off in Palestinian areas due to high costs associated with such systems.

Geothermal Energy

The heating and cooling requirements of Palestinians can be met by judicious exploitation of geothermal energy, as shown as Ramallah-based MENA Geothermal.  The company, founded by Palestinian entrepreneur Khaled Al Sabawi has put Palestine of global geothermal map by devising a simple but ingenious geothermal heating and cooling system. The company, founded in 2008, has made swift progress and has been instrumental in developing a wide range of commercial and residential projects in Palestine and Jordan. In summer, the temperature below the earth’s surface is lower than atmospheric temperatures, and in winter it is higher. MENA Geothermal capitalizes on this by burying pipes below ground. Water pumped through these pipes then capture the temperature to feed the building’s heating and cooling system.

A geothermal system utilizes the energy from the sun, which is stored in the earth, to heat and cool homes and buildings. Typically, electric power is used only to operate the unit’s fan, compressor and pump. The geothermal system essentially uses the stable temperature of the ground at a specific depth for heating in winter and cooling in summer, providing clean energy and reducing energy costs.

Biomass Energy

Biomass energy is predominantly used for heating purposes and constitutes approximately 15% of Palestinian energy supply. Being an agrarian economy, Palestine has a strong potential for biomass energy. There is good potential for biogas generation from animal manure, poultry litter and crop wastes. In addition, organic fraction of municipal solid wastes is also represents a good biomass resource in Palestine. The Gaza Strip alone produces more than 1300 tons of solid wastes.

Conclusion

Palestine can reduce reliance on imported energy carriers by deployment of clean energy systems, especially solar, geothermal and biomass. Palestinian areas has large alternative energy potential which can be harnessed by a futuristic energy policy, large-scale investments and strategic assistance from neighbouring countries like Jordan and Egypt.  Renewable energy can lay a strong foundation for an independent Palestinian state, generate employment opportunities, alleviate poverty and provide a visionary approach to the dreams of Palestinian youths. 

Storm Alexa – Positive Aspects for MENA

The year 2013 saw history being made when Storm Alexa swept across the Middle East and North Africa bringing blizzards, torrential rain and icy winds to a region that hasn’t experienced such a storm in over 100 years. Storm Alexa caused devastating floods in Arab cities, such as Gaza, and power cuts in certain areas of Jordan. Heavy snowfall in Jordan covered the streets, hindering mobility and forcing people into their homes for several days. The storm has also brought hardship and misery upon the Syrian refugees enduring the bitter cold in fragile tents and makeshift shelters.

Postive Aspects

However, with no intention of belittling or undermining the aforementioned difficulties and suffering, such a storm could be beneficial in terms of one aspect: the water it brings to the region. Storm Alexa brought an abundance of water to a region suffering from severe water scarcity. The effects of water scarcity are rapidly being felt across the region, with water shortages affecting countries such as Palestine, Egypt, and Jordan. Therefore, this outpour of water could bring some respite in terms of water availability, with rainwater runoff and snowfall being large sources fresh water. Sadly these sources have been very poorly managed causing floods, and snow covered streets.

Flooded rainwater has mixed with wastewater triggering an overflow of wastewater throughout local cities and towns. This has produced adverse health problems among the resident populations, who are calling out for rapid solutions to their strife. One solution that can be utilized is harvesting floodwater and the large amounts of snowfall available. Harvesting such water sources would help reduce the effects of water scarcity, and reduce physical harm to cities and towns.

Once these water sources are collected, they must be treated before they are reused. Once treated, the water can be used for a variety of activities such as irrigation or any type of domestic use.

Case Study – Amman

Over the course of the storm, Amman has seen ample amounts of snow and rainfall that have put the city in what seemed like a standstill. Residents were snowed in unable to go to work and perform their daily routines. The streets were covered with snow that reached up to 3 feet, making it very difficult to move about. Although the snowfall had its detrimental repercussions, it is a source of fresh water.  Harvesting it would have been a fairly simple procedure.

The procedure would require manpower, along with trucks, to set out to the streets and start collecting as much snow as possible. Once collected, it would be transported to the nearest wastewater treatment plant, such as the Samra wastewater treatment plant located in the greater Amman Russeifa-Zarqa area (there are currently 26 wastewater treatment plants that exist in Jordan). Once treated the water produced can be added into the water pipe systems and distributed among households.

Harvesting and treating these water sources eases the effects of water scarcity even if for a short time period. This is beneficial in several ways:

  • It allows over used water aquifers and rivers time to replenish (even if for a short period).
  • It reduces the financial costs spent on water extraction (for a short time period).
  • It reduces the amount of fossil fuels used during water extraction (reducing CO2 release).
  • It removes snow off the streets allowing people to go back to their daily routines, and to their work.

Challenges to Overcome

Needless to say, wastewater treatment has its downsides. First, it is energy intensive and financiallydemanding. Second, it requires very advanced technological capabilities. Third, it requires a large area in which it is to be implemented. With the exception of Jordan and a handful of other countries in the region, not many have the economic and technological capabilities to undergo this type water management. The problem is further exacerbated by the political strife the region is currently experiencing. Countries such as Syria and Palestine have more political constraints than others that do not allow them to use this water source to its full potential.

However, there are simpler ways to treat wastewater that are not so economically and technologically reliant. Such techniques require a large area where the excess rainwater is allowed to be stored for a certain period of time, which allows the waste to settle at the bottom of the area (in which the water is stored). The water is then passed through a large filtering screen that removes the remaining waste and bacteria from the water. This method does not treat water as thoroughly as wastewater treatment plants, but it treats it enough for it to be reused for certain water intensive practices (e.g. irrigation, washing machines, showering).

Conclusions

Water scarcity has become the most immediate threat the world is facing, with the UN declaring the year 2013 “International Year of Water Cooperation”. Water scarcity is further intensified in the MENA region because it only holds 1% of the usable water resources in the world, while having 5% of the world’s population. With regional population set to increase even further, water scarcity is likely to increase, with predictions indicating that the MENA region will run out of water by the year 2050.

Although harvesting the water provided by storm Alexa does not provide a long-term solution to water scarcity in the region, it offers a short-term respite from its effects. This gives countries more time to plan ahead and to develop further in their quest to mitigate water scarcity. With scientists indicating that such storms are to become even more rare due to the effects of climate change, there are good opportunities to use these events for the welfare of mankind.