The Israeli occupation has crammed more than two million people in the Gaza Strip into a large detention camp
Exclusive to Environment and Development Horizons (Afaq magazine):
In one of the most complex projects implemented by Israel in the last decade, Israel has finally announced the completion of the construction of a wall surrounding the Gaza Strip on three sides adjacent to the occupied lands, calling it the “Iron Wall.”
The most dangerous thing about this huge project, which took four and a half years to build, is that it disrupted the ecological balance in the surrounding of the Gaza Strip, and caused a major destruction of the diverse vegetation cover near the borders of the coastal strip, according to what environmental observers believe.
The wall has also affected the nesting and breeding places of birds and wild animals in the north and east of the Strip, and contributed to reducing the flow of water into the densely populated sector.
The length of the wall is 65 kilometers, with a financial cost estimate of $1.1 billion.
Officials in the Israeli occupation government say that the wall was built underground and above it. It is equipped with technological means, radar and observatory systems. It also contains a sea barrier with the aim of separating the sector from communication with the surrounding areas.
Environmental specialists believe that the wall is destroying the Palestinian environment, especially the flow of water, eliminating animal diversity, as well as destroying the soil and the consequent destruction of plant diversity and others.
Geographically, Gaza's eastern and northern borders are adjacent to the occupied lands, with a length of up to 60 km, including "land and sea". However, Israel built the wall at a longer distance from those borders.
According to these specialists, the wall is divided into three sections. The first is the lower part, an “underground wall” with a depth of 30 meters, where about 1.2 million cubic meters of reinforced concrete were used to build it, and 140 thousand tons of steel. The upper wall of the "smart fence" made of galvanized steel - the steel is covered with layers of zinc oxide to prevent it from corrosion - and its height is about six meters, topped by a steel wire containing a short circuit 3.5 meters high, and the third "marine barrier" is 200 meters high meters and is surrounded by a breakwater.
According to Israeli sources, the amount of concrete used in the "smart fence" is enough to build a road from Israel to Bulgaria, while the amount of steel is equivalent to the length of a steel section that reaches from Israel to Australia.
The victims are the soil and biodiversity
Environmental specialist Eng. Majed Hamada states that, “the construction of the wall or the so-called smart fence on the borders of the Gaza Strip negatively affects the environment in Gaza, especially the groundwater, as there is no surface water on which the Palestinians may depend on in the Strip, while the aquifer remains the only source of water used for drinking, irrigation and other uses.”
Eng. hamada further explains that the wall, which sinks 30 meters into the ground, impedes the flow of water in the aquifer, which means that the aquifer, which is already threatened, and which suffers from many problems due to its water scarcity, is in great danger.
He continues: "It is known that the direction of water movement is from east to west, and that the occupation wall leads to great destruction in the aquifer, which was already destroyed due to wells dug on the eastern borders of the Gaza Strip, which the occupation operates to steal Gaza's water, as it dominates over the water sources by more than 85%.
He also warned of the further deterioration of the environmental situation in the Gaza Strip, after there had become a clear loosening of the soil, as it is no longer coherent, as a result of the excavation process that continued for four and a half years.
He explains the seriousness of the issue: "All of this will lead to an increase in the salinity of the agricultural soil itself and change its physical, chemical and biological properties. This will reduce the soil’s fertility and therefore agricultural production will be greatly affected, and this calls for more studies on this wall.”
He points out that the coastal aquifer is considered the most sensitive to pollution in the world due to the close groundwater levels in it to the surface of the earth, in addition to the nature and quality of the soil.
He expressed his concern that over the years, some of the heavy and rare elements that make up the wall will move into the water and cause further pollution.
And according to Eng. Hamada, In addition to all of the above, the wall impeded the continuity of biodiversity elements, by preventing the movement of wild animals such as the wild rabbit, the red wolf, the snarl bird, and others.
Desertification is another target
M. Baha Al-Agha, Director General of Environmental Protection at the Water and Environmental Quality Authority states that the apartheid wall has a serious impact on the elements of the Palestinian environment, especially groundwater, soil, animal and plant diversity.
Al-Agha adds, "The construction of the wall resulted in the uprooting of a large number of trees, which in addition to its economic importance have an environmental importance represented in the preservation of biodiversity of both its plant and animal types."
He also emphasizes Eng. Hamada’s point that the wall at 30 meters in ground depth impedes the flow of water, which threatens the aquifer, which is already suffering from several problems.
The environmental expert confirms that the wall disturbs the ecological balance in the area, and is proceeding with a major destruction of the diverse vegetation cover in the area, which negatively affects the nesting and breeding places of birds and other wild animals.
He points out that because of the wall, the flow of rainwater into the Gaza Strip was stopped by traps that the occupation had planted and controlled, adding: "In the winter, Israel deliberately allowed the flow of water from one side, and did not allow it to flow naturally, which led to the flooding of the targeted agricultural area which led to destroying agricultural crops.
He said, "The wall has led to loosening in the soil and an increase in its salinity, as a result of cutting down many trees, which may lead desertification."
Al-Agha stressed that the occupation is clearly working on desertifying the area and imposing heavy losses on the Palestinians. This is evident through its targeting of field crops in the surrounding areas of the wall by spraying them with insecticides.
Translated by: Rasha Abu Dayyeh