According to Munther Shublaq, engineer and Director General of the Coastal Municipalities Water Utility (CMWU), Gaza’s water authority, the CMWU is in urgent need of thousands of items, including spare parts, machinery, and electromechanical equipment. “The items have been defined by Israel in recent years as dual-use, but restrictions on their entry into Gaza have been in place since the early 2000s,” he says.
According to Shublaq, the CMWU works through two tracks to coordinate the entry of materials needed for ongoing maintenance and operation of the water and sewage systems in Gaza: The Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism (GRM), used to bring in items to develop these systems as part of large, internationally funded projects, and direct coordination between the Palestinian Water Authority (PWA) and Israel.
“Contractors working through the GRM upload requests for coordination to the digital GRM system, including documents that certify the items are for the CMWU. There were always delays, but things would eventually come in,” he says. “Since the hostilities in May, they haven’t been getting responses from the Israeli side.” Shublaq also emphasized that “the contractors working with the CMWU also coordinate for other projects. Any innocent mistake they make can land them on the ‘black list,’ which could have immediate repercussions for CMWU’s work. Our reliability must not be damaged.”
In the other coordination track, the PWA transfers requests for items by the CMWU to the Israeli side. “After applications are uploaded, we check their status with the person in charge of coordination at Erez Crossing. We often preferred this track because we find it is easier to access materials we need in stock to use for urgent repairs or for preventing disruptions to water supply and sewage treatment.”
However, Shublaq says the second track has also been blocked since May, when Israel stopped responding to requests for necessary items. “The shortage in equipment is jeopardizing the operations of water desalination plants and the Al Burej sewage treatment facility, which 800,000 residents rely on,” he warns. “If it stops operating, there could be an ecological disaster, with untreated wastewater channeled directly into the sea.”
For more information about Israel’s dual-use policy and the Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism, see here.