It’s become almost common knowledge that on any given day, anywhere from 40-50 million liters of untreated or partially treated sewage flow from Gaza’s sewage treatment plants into the Mediterranean Sea, and an additional 20 million liters seep into the ground, threatening other water sources. The treatment plants, due to crossings policies blocking supply of fuel and spare parts, intermittent electricity supply, and years of de-development, are struggling to treat 70 million liters of sewage produced by Gaza’s 1.5 million residents each day. In September, the UN and other international agencies warned that the sewage threatens the environmental health of both Gaza and Israel.
Israel lawmakers, who usually aren’t too concerned about the impact of the closure on Gaza residents, have been urged to look into the threat being posed by Gaza’s sewage to Israel’s desalination plant at Ashkelon, just 4.8 kilometers (3 miles) north up the coast. So far, Israeli Minister for Environmental Affairs MK Gilad Ardan, in response to an inquiry from MK Ophir Pines-Paz, said, the coast is clear, but environmentalists aren’t so sure. Even the general director of the desalination plant has acknowledged that seawater coming into the plant is contaminated with sewage.
We often hear concern for the impact of water contamination on Gaza’s fish and its small but bustling fishing industry, as well as Gaza families, who despite the reportedly murky waters, enjoy swimming in Gaza famously beautiful beaches. But what about the surfers?
Matthew Olsen, the director of Explore Corps, an organization that promotes surfing and other recreational activities in Gaza, recently blogged in response to concern for the health of the Gaza Surf Club. The organization, which also supports a community of surfers called “Surfing 4 Peace”, celebrated the successful arrival of 12 new wetsuits which managed to clear the Israeli closure in time for the chillier winter weather and better waves. The wetsuits will protect the surfers from the chilly water temperatures, but unfortunately they won’t protect them against other threats in the cold waters.