Gaza’s river of sewage


Unable to import the material necessary to build, Gazans have overfilled their cesspools. In Beit Lahiya on the northern Gaza Strip, aerators and pumps must run all day to process the waste. When the electrical grid blacks out from lack of parts, one thousand liters of scarce diesel is burned every day.

Designed to handle at most 10 million liters of sewage daily, there are currently 25 million liters of sewage flowing into the pools. In recent years, people have died when bulging cesspools have broke and flooded villages.

And it will get worse – Gaza’s population is expected to double to 3.2 million in the next five years.

As many as forty percent of the current population are not connected to the sewer system. This means that their waste goes directly onto busy streets, potential farm land, or directly in the sea.

Most of it ends up in Gaza’s river of excrement. Once a thriving estuary along the Mediterranean and Rift Valley biozones, Wadi Gaza is now a rancid gurgle of chemicals, trash and effluent.

Various pipes and streams bring waste water from population centers along the wadi, which results in a daily toxic flow of 30,000 cubic meters. It passes underneath Gaza’s main highway just before hitting the Mediterranean. The brown river mixes with the blue sea, contaminating it and spreading the waste back to people swimming, fishing, surfing and building sand castles along the beach.

Including all seaward outlets, Gaza leaks 80 million liters of waste water into the Mediterranean every day.

Beaches are contaminated with faecal coliforms and faecal streptococcus, according to the World Health Organization. People suffer from watery diarrhoea, acute bloody diarrhoea and viral hepatitis. The swill has seeped into the Coastal Aquifer, which is Gaza’s only water source. Already contaminated, the aquifer is also salty because over-pumping has lowered the fresh water table below sea level.

“It’s not like a famine hit, or a drought, or a lack of resources. This is a crisis of dignity created by political decisions and an international community that has allowed it to happen for sixty years,” said OXFAM’s Karl Schembir. “There is no other solution than a total lifting of the blockade. This is the only way for the people to get back on their feet and live the same way or better than they used to do.”

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