The Gaza Strip’s underground water supply is in danger of collapse due to overuse and contamination, exacerbated by Israel’s offensive there in December, the United Nations said Monday.
A report released at the Nairobi headquarters of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) warned that it could take centuries for damage to Gaza’s aquifer to be reversed unless action was taken now.
“Many of the impacts of the recent hostilities have exacerbated environmental degradation that has been years in the making,” UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner said.
Alternative water sources need to be found in order to rest the aquifer, which provides drinking water for Gaza’s 1.5 million residents, UNEP said.
Salt water intrusion and pollution from sewage and agricultural runoff are serious concerns, putting infants in the Gaza Strip at risk of nitrate poisoning, said the report, based on an assessment carried out earlier this year.
Other environmental concerns for Gaza include 600,000 tonnes of rubble created by the Israeli offensive, UNEP said.
The hostilities also saw refuse collection suspended, the build up of hazardous medical waste at landfill sites due to more injured and the release of pollutants such as fuel into the soil, UNEP said.
According to UNEP, more than 1.5 billion dollars could be needed over the next 20 years to restore the aquifer.
Around 1,400 Palestinians died in the offensive, which the Israel Defense Forces launched to stop Hamas and other militant groups firing rockets into Israel.