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Leaking sewerage system health risk to inhabitants.

Byline: The Gaza Strip's leaking sewerage system poses an acute risk to the health of the territory's inhabitants.

Gaza Strip: The Gaza Strip's leaking sewerage system poses an acute risk to the health of the territory's inhabitants.

Gaza is particularly vulnerable to groundwater contamination because its sandy desert soil easily absorbs water or sewage from leaking pipes that were damaged by the Israeli strikes.

It is therefore an urgent matter for the people of Gaza to start fixing and repairing the damaged sewage pipes. With the sewerage system collapsing, clean water - always hard to come by in Gaza - is becoming even more scarce.

The aging, ill-maintained and unsafe system has suffered from an acute lack of investment. At least one waste water treatment plant in the Shaikh Aljleen area is also poorly sited in a flat and sandy area, increasing the risk that sewage could seep into the water table.

Many pipes were damaged by the Israeli bombardment, meaning that when water is delivered under pressure to houses, the damaged pipes suck in air and contaminants, according to Majid Ganem, the water quality manager at the Coastal Municipalities Water Utility (CMWU).

The lack of technical means to transport and process solid waste in Gaza is posing a severe risk to people's health in the strip, experts say.

Many Gazans, especially children, have developed breathing problems as a result of the stench emanating from rubbish dumps and the indiscriminate burning of waste.

Insects attracted to the rubbish tips and ground pollution pose further health risks, according to Bahaa Alagha, planning and project manager in Gaza's Environment Quality Authority.

Solid waste is managed by three main entities: municipalities in the main cities; local councils in towns and villages; and the UN agency for Palestinian refugees in refugee camps. There are three official collection sites for solid waste: Rafah, Der Albalah and Gaza City.

Gaza Mayor Rafik Mikki told Gulf News that the city's 550,000 people produce 550-600 metric tonnes of solid waste a day, but the city lacks the means to transport the waste to the main waste station near the Gaza-Israeli border for processing.

"The municipality does not have the capacity to solve the problem and has appealed for help from international organisations," Mikki said.

"My family and I are suffering because of the bad smell from the nearby solid waste collection station," said Layla Abu Aisha, a resident of Al Yarmouk.

"We cannot stand the putrid smell. I feel ashamed when I have guests in my house. I am also concerned about my four children. They always complain and say they cannot play in our garden because of the bad smell," she added

"Many kinds of insect are around us because of the waste and this makes the place hard to live in, even in winter," she said.

Hatem Moghani, public relations officer at the UK-registered charity the Qattan Foundation, agreed.

"This fouls the air. You cannot even breathe," Moghani said.

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Publication:Gulf News (United Arab Emirates)
Date:Mar 7, 2009
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