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Palestinian Environmentalists say that the sustainability of underground water aquifers and the soil fertility in the Gaza Strip is now threatened more than ever. The recent announcement by Israel to build a concrete barrier wall above and below ground along the border with the Gaza Strip has worried Palestinian Environmentalists. The new barrier is under the pretext of being a counter-offensive to the Palestinian tunnels. In fact it will be a destructive ecological and environmental force.
The Hebrew newspaper "Yediot Aharonot" reported in August that the Israeli Ministry of Defense announced the construction of the wall would cost 2.2 billion shekels. It will cover the entire 60 miles perimeter of Gaza and the wall will be 10 kilometers long at the first stage.
The newspaper emphasized the reasons for the excavation and construction of the new wall; claiming that it is an offensive line to the Palestinian tunnels dug in the Gaza Strip
The newspaper reported that the project will be undertaken by 20 major Israeli construction companies. The first phase will be the underground excavation. The wall will run along 60 kilometers perimeter.
According to Nizar al-Wahidi, General director of the soil and irrigation section of the Ministry of Agriculture in Gaza, the underground Israeli wall that will penetrate ten meters underground will adversely affect the aquifer depth and its ability to recharge.
A number of environmental challenges will emerge from the construction of the wall.
The Gaza Strip has the highest population density in the world and water is a rare commodity.
The barrier will disrupt water runways that feed the aquifers. Six water runways will be disrupted by the building of the wall. The water will not be able to penetrate the underground wall if built. It will disrupt the biodiversity of the area because it will prevent the migration patterns of ground animals in the area. It will prevent their normal patterns for obtaining food and water. He expressed his fear of serious backlash on Palestinian farmers in the border areas. Checkpoints will be deployed along the wall and can impose life-threatening situations for farmers.
The coastal aquifer is shared with Israel, and partly with Egypt, this is the only source of water for about two million people in the Gaza Strip. The sector consumes close to one hundred and seventy million cubic meters of water -90 million cubic meters for human consumption and 80 million cubic meters of agricultural consumption
Wahidi warns of another danger to the environment posed by “defense measures” Egyptian method of defense against the tunnels. Salt water/ ocean water is pumped into the deep underground tunnels in the eastern areas of the Gaza Strip, near the border by Rafah and in the far south of the Strip.
Wahidi summarizes by saying that the Israeli wall and the siege imposed on the Gaza Strip is not just a political and geographical siege but all encompassing environmental and ecological siege
Another threat and danger is the negative impact of the wall on the soil as a result of the depth of the excavation.This wall is the third method of defense system built by Israel on the Gaza border. The first system was established in 1994 and was a fence running the length of 60 km. The second was undertaken in 2005 after the unilateral withdrawal from Gaza. The two measures were not comprehensive solutions to the risk of tunnels
Mazen Banna, Vice President of the Water Authority in Gaza, voiced his concern over the excessive digging. He added that contaminants present on the surface of the earth might possibly seep into the groundwater easily and thus contaminate the aquifer.
Even if the construction of the wall takes place inside Israel the direction of groundwater will still be disrupted or diverted. And there will be a high risk of contamination of groundwater in the Gaza Strip. The flow of rainwater in the Gaza Strip and outside will be impacted negatively. The amount of water utilized inside the Gaza Strip will be affected
And if Israel decides to use salt water to pump into the tunnel,it will affect the the groundwater.
The United Nations warned in a study titled "Gaza in 2020" that many problems would face the population in 2020. The problems are mainly with signs of water pollution from sewage.Groundwater in Gaza does not meet any of the international standards.
Bahaa al-Agha, Director General of Environmental Protection Department in the Environment Quality Authority, said that the seriousness of the Israeli wall lies in its depth. In case it will reach the depth of the aquifer, then it will destroy a large part of the water resources dramatically.
Agha confirmed that Gaza suffers from acute annual water deficit of up to 100 million cubic meters.
He said that due to the construction of the wall, "we will lose a great and a huge underground water reservoir, which will lead to the worsening of the disaster in Gaza Strip, because of the sharp deficit in the aquifer”.
A study prepared by The United Nations, titled "Gaza in 2020", warned that many problems would face the population in the sector in 2020, including the salinity intrusion into the water in the wells, and there are many signs of pollution from sewage that flow towards the aquifer, adding that groundwater in Gaza does not meet any of the international standards.