Residents of Tel Aviv will wake up in February to discover a huge hourglass full of polluted water standing in the city's central Rabin Square. The installation is the centrepiece of a campaign launched by the Friends of the Earth Middle East under the headline: Water Can't Wait, designed to draw Israelis' attention to an approaching water crisis – particularly in the Gaza Strip.
Gidon Bromberg, director of FoE in Tel Aviv, said the environment was being held hostage by the logjam in the Middle East peace process and internal Palestinian disputes between Hamas and Fatah. As the politicians dawdle, fresh drinking water is running out for the 1.7 million Palestinians in Gaza.
Last November, the World Bank completed construction of a wastewater treatment plant designed to prevent pollution of the underground aquifer that provides fresh water to 400,000 people in the northern Gaza Strip, but it stands idle, silenced by political wrangling. Gaza is dependent on Israel for most of its electricity supply but Israel is refusing to provide the extra three megawatts required to power the plant until Gaza's existing electricity bills are paid. Hamas and the Palestinian Authority cannot agree on who should settle the debt.
"Until a solution is found to provide electricity, untreated sewage will continue to contaminate the coastal aquifer and flow into the Mediterranean," said Bromberg. He said the waste also threatens to pollute an Israeli desalination plant in nearby Ashkelon.
Unicef says that more than 90% of the water extracted from Gaza's sole aquifer is unfit for human consumption. More than four out of five Gazans buy their drinking water from expensive, unregulated private vendors. Most of it is contaminated. more