Flood preparedness in Gaza undermined by import restrictions

Winter 2013 in Gaza
Winter 2013 in Gaza

Thousands of families at risk of displacement

As the rainy season begins, thousands of families in Gaza will once again be at risk of temporary displacement and destruction of their assets due to potential floods. The winter weather conditions are expected to exacerbate the already fragile living conditions and livelihoods of the population, particularly IDPs.

The Coastal Municipalities Water Utility (CMWU) began the implementation of four projects aimed at reducing the risk of flooding in low-lying areas. Two of the projects involving the collection and reuse of rainwater have been completed, while the remaining two have been delayed due to Israeli import restrictions on mobile and high pressure jetting pumps, classified as dual-use items. These pumps are required to extract rainwater and wastewater from low-lying areas and pump them to treatment plants or to the sea.

Overall, 25 mobile pumps are urgently required to enable an effective response to potential flooding. Currently only 13 pumps are available in Gaza, of which six are in a poor condition and require replacement. With funding provided by UNICEF, the CMWU applied for seven mobile pumps through the GRM one year ago, but efforts to obtain Israeli approval have so far been unsuccessful. An additional application for three mobile pumps submitted by an international NGO is also pending, while approval for a mobile pump funded by a Qatari charity has been rejected.

One of the delayed CMWU projects is planned for the Sheikh Radwan neighbourhood of Gaza City, a residential area of 250 dunums with more than 1,000 households at high risk of flooding. Items awaiting entry clearance for this project include six vertical and submersible pumps, plus one carrier line to discharge rainwater and sewage flooding to the sea. The other delayed project is for the Al Amal neighbourhood of Khan Younis, where some 20,000 individuals are at risk of flooding: three vertical and submersible pumps and two carrier lines are required.

The impact of the coming winter conditions is a cause of concern for hundreds of families whose homes were destroyed during the 2014 hostilities and who are still living in the rubble of their homes, in pre-fabricated units or in tents, with very limited electricity and water supplies and insufficient sanitation facilities.

In 2013, the Alexa winter storm, one of the strongest recorded in recent decades, struck the oPt from 11 to 14 December. Approximately 10,000 people were forced to evacuate their homes and relocate to temporary shelters in the Gaza Strip. According to the CMWU, low-lying areas across Gaza were flooded in at least 25 locations.

* This article is based on information provided by the Emergency Water, Sanitation and Hygiene group (EWASH). EWASH is a coalition of 27 organisations working in the water and sanitation sector in the occupied Palestinian territory. Established in 2002, its members include international and national NGOs and UN agencies.