Water & Sanitation in the Access Restricted Areas of the Gaza Strip
Fact Sheet 13
The Access Restricted Areas (ARA) extend along the entire northern and eastern perimeter of the Gaza Strip, adjacent to the ‘Green Line’ with Israel. Since late 2008, Palestinian access to these areas is restricted under an unilateral decree by the Government of Israel. The restricted areas are between 300 and 1.500 meters wide and include residential areas and prime agricultural land and water resources. Palestinians entering the ARA often come under indiscriminate fire from the Israeli army, leading to injuries and fatalities. Following the ceasefire agreement between Israel and Hamas on 22/11/2012, Israel eased restrictions in the ARA, however, the terms of this easing remain unclear and under negotiations.
• 113,000 people are affected by the Israeli restrictions in the ARA.i • Farming is the main source of income for the majority of families in the ARA. • Approximately 35% of Gaza’s cultivable land is located within the ARA. • More than 50% of the land in the ARA is not cultivated due to access restrictions and unavailability of reliable water supply.ii • Average loss to farmers’ income in the ARA is estimated at 63.7% compared to 5 years ago. • 306 water wells in the ARA have been demolished by the Israeli military since 2005iii at an estimated cost of 9 million dollars.iv • 6 agricultural water reservoirs have been demolished in the ARA since the 2008/9 Israeli offensive “Cast Lead”, all of which remain unrepaired.v • 2750 dunams of water irrigation networks and 7600 meters of water pipes have been destroyed by the Israeli military since 2007.vi
The state of water supply: Households in the ARA suffer from severely limited access to water services. 66.7% of households in the ARA receive water from municipal supplies through their taps. A proportion of these only receive water for a limited period every week as follows:1 • 27.9% receive water only one day a week for a few hours • 30.9% receive water 2 days a week for a few hours • 22.1% receive water 3 days a week for a few hours To compensate for these shortfalls, families have to rely on alternative sources to meet their daily needs. 26.5% of households in the ARA purchase trucked water from private vendors and
33.3% use water from artisanal groundwater wells, which is of doubtful quality. Alternative water sources are generally more expensive than the municipality’s water supply. A recent survey shows that approximately 37% of those relying on trucked water spend more than a quarter of their income on water, placing considerable strain on the family finances.
i. ii. iii. iv. v. vi.
OCHA, Between the Fence and a Hard Place: the humanitarian impact of the Israeli-imposed restrictions on access to land and sea, (August 2010) Information supplied by the PA Ministry of Agriculture on 7 / 8 / 2012 OHCHR, Update on the Access Restricted Areas in the Gaza Strip JanuaryDecember 2011, (January 2012) OCHA, Between the Fence and a Hard Place: the humanitarian impact of the Israeli-imposed restrictions on access to land and sea, (August 2010) Information supplied by the PA Ministry of Agriculture on 7 / 8 / 2012 ibid
Data contained in this factsheet based on survey and focus groups conducted by EWASH in ARA during July 2012 covering localities of Beit Lahia (Um An-Nassir and As-Siyafa), Beit Hanoun, Al Shajaiya, Juhr Ad-Deek, Wadi As-Salqa and Albureij, Al-Qarara, Abassan Alkabeera, Khuza’a, Al-Fukhri, Sofa, and Al-Shawka.
Farming and livelihoods: Private wells are the main water source for irrigation in the ARA. Yet the wells don’t adequately meet crop needs due to low capacity and fuel shortages that limit pumping. Water from private wells comes at considerable financial strain to low income farmers with costs reaching 200 NIS ($50) per dunum every month depending on the type of crop. As a result: • 53.1% of farmers cannot irrigate all their crops, forcing them to reduce the frequency of irrigation. • 67.9% of farmers in the ARA are obliged to grow rain-fed crops such as wheat and barley instead of more profitable fruits and vegetables due to limitations on access to water and land.2 Inadequate Sanitation: 86.3% of households in the ARA are not connected to the sewage network and have to depend on improvised cesspits. Municipal sewage trucks often cannot reach households to empty cesspits due to risk of coming under fire of the Israeli army, leaving sewage to flood houses and exposing the local population, particularly children, to health risks.3 64.7% of households surveyed in the ARA reported health problems in their children at least once in the past six months, including diarrhea and skin infections, likely attributable to poor sanitation. Restrictions on workers: Maintenance and upgrade of water and sanitation infrastructure have been significantly hampered in the ARA. Project staff need daily approval from the Israeli army to visit project sites and they are permitted to work only during daylight.4 For example, completion of the first phase of the North Gaza Emergency Sewage Treatment Plant (NGEST) - up to 200 meters from the ‘Green Line’ - has been delayed by two years due to these restrictions.5 Completion of the second phase, forecasted for June 2013, is expected to face delays.6 NGEST will serve a third of the Gaza Strip’s population. Actions of the Government of Israel in the ARA that disrupt civilian life, including interfering with the normal supply of water and sanitation services, are illegal and run counter to its obligations under International Humanitarian Law. EWASH calls on the Government of Israel to immediately lift these restrictions.
2 3 4 5 6
Sedqi Al-Qara, 50, owns 40 dunums of agricultural land located 700 meters from the perimeter fence with Israel in al Qararah area in the south of the Gaza Strip. Sedqi used to grow almonds, orange, lemon, palm, and olives before the Israeli military leveled his land, destroying his orchards. “I was forced to switch to vegetables even though they need plenty of water which is not available in this area, but I had no alternatives” Sedqi said. In 2008, the Israeli military destroyed a water well Sedqi owned with other farmers, rendering farming in that area very difficult. Since then Sedqi has been receiving insufficient amounts of water from a nearby water well, forcing him to cultivate only six and a half dunums and leave the rest barren. “Well water is expensive and insufficient, I borrow money from friends and relatives to buy water. I’m overburdened by debts that I can’t meet,” Sedqi said. “Most of the vegetables I planted this year have dried up because I have been watering them every other day while these crops need daily irrigation”
OCHA, Between the Fence and a Hard Place: the humanitarian impact of the Israeli-imposed restrictions on access to land and sea, (August 2010) OHCHR, Update on the Access Restricted Areas in the Gaza Strip January-December 2011, (January 2012) OCHA, Between the Fence and a Hard Place: the humanitarian impact of the Israeli-imposed restrictions on access to land and sea, (August 2010) Ibid Information supplied by Palestinian Water Authority on 13/8/2012
This briefing was produced by the EWASH Advocacy Task Force: a sub-committee of the EWASH group (www.ewash.org), in collaboration with the Ma’an Development Center.
Founded in 2002, the Emergency Water and Sanitation/Hygiene group (EWASH) is a coalition of humanitarian agencies working together to coordinate interventions, respond to needs, share information and do advocacy on the water and sanitation sector in the OPT. Members include local and international NGOs and UN agencies. Visit www.ewash.org for more information. This factsheet was endorsed by the following organizations: Action Contre la Faim (ACF) • Assembly of Cooperation for Peace (ACPP) • Applied Research Institute - Jerusalem (ARIJ) • Birzeit U• CARE • DanChurchAid • Near East Council of Churches - Jerusalem (ICC) • Ma'an Development Center • Middle East Children's Alliance (MECA) • Oxfam • Polish Humanitarian Action (PHA) • Palestinian Agricultural Relief Committees (PARC) • Palestinian Wastewater Engineers Group • PENGON • Palestinian Hydrology Group • Premier Urgence - Aide Médicale Internationale (PU-AMI)