Analysis: The ‘apolitical’ approach to Palestine’s water crisis (Part II)
Considering the decades-long interventions and millions of dollars channeled to the occupied Palestinian territory (OPT) in the water sector, the failure of donor communities to enhance the living conditions of Palestinians demonstrates how aid has harmed the recognition of Palestinian rights.
Since the 1990s, international donor agencies have increased investment in the Palestinian water sector by constructing small- and large-scale wastewater treatment plants, water networks, sewage lines, and even a desalination plant in Gaza.
This project will significantly reduce health risks for the population of North Tubas governorate and the contamination of the environment.
In other words, the focus on the potential of wastewater rather than Palestinians’ lack of water rights couches water as a natural crisis that needs a technological solution — rather than a man-made problem that deliberately deprives Palestinians of a vital resource.
As for the Gaza Strip, over the last decade news articles, reports, and international campaigns have described its water scarcity as “catastrophic,” “alarming,” and constituting a “humanitarian crisis.” Indeed, the population is forced to make do with a main water source — a coastal aquifer — that is 96 percent unfit for human consumption.
The international community as well as the PA have since the 1990s framed Gaza’s water crisis as solvable via a desalination plant.
The urgency for the Desalination Facility for Gaza has increased with the rising level of humanitarian crisis in Gaza related to inadequate water resources with related impacts on human health.” Such an approach strengthens the narrative of the geographical and political separation of the Gaza Strip from the West Bank, treating Gaza as a standalone entity requiring its own energy-intensive facility for water.
The historical Palestinian struggle for water rights, for an ‘equitable and reasonable share of transboundary water resources,’ which is enshrined in international water law, is abandoned under this new paradigm.
Huge amounts of surplus water are literally flowing past Gaza, while the Strip keeps drying up.” Similar to the wastewater treatment plants in the West Bank, Gaza’s desalination plant, though constructed, is not fully operational.
It also exemplifies donors’ naive approach to water in Gaza and the West Bank.