Gaza beaches safe for swimming after clean-up

Image: nour tayeh on Unsplash

For many years, local municipalities have warned Gaza's beachgoers against swimming in the ocean due to the pollution from wastewater being dumped directly to the sea without treatment due to long hours of power cuts.

The Gaza Strip suffers from a major water crisis due to the inadequacy of water treatment systems to support its population of 2.3 million people. A Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor report indicated that 97% of the coastal enclave’s water is unfit for drinking and that groundwater sources are unsustainable and polluted.

However, at the end of May 2022, the Water and Environment Quality Authority announced that currently 65% of Gaza's beaches are safe for swimmers.

Omar Shatat, deputy executive director of the Coastal Municipalities Water Utility (CMWU), said “The seawater and beaches of the Gaza Strip are much better this year than previous years, with 65% to 70% of the swimming sites being safe for beachgoers and snorkelers.”

He added, “This is due to several reasons. Most notably, the waste treatment plants are now provided with uninterrupted electricity.

"There are also projects funded by international organisations that aim to treat millions of cubic meters of wastewater in accordance with international standards. No wastewater will be channelled to the sea without being processed and tested.

“The main obstacles that used to face the pumping stations were the ongoing power outages due to the electricity crisis that began in mid-2006 after the Israeli occupation forces bombed the only power plant in Gaza. This caused the stations to stop pumping wastewater, which was flowing into the sea untreated,” he said.

Muhmmad Musleh, director of the Environmental Resources Department at the Water & Environment Quality Authority, explained they had been working closely with the Ministry of the Local Government & Municipalities, the Health Ministry and the Coastal Municipalities Water Utility to try to clean up the sea so it would be safe for swimmers.