MARSEILLE, France, March. 14, 2012 – After funding delays it finally looks as though the Gaza Desalination Project will go ahead following the announcement of a 10 million investment from the French government.
Announced during the World Water Forum in Marseille this week, a press conference brought together the Palestinian Minister for Water, Dr Shaddad Attili and the European Investment Bank and Saudi Fund for Development.
The Palestinian Authority began talks with donors for the project last year and the three international financial institutions of the European Investment Bank, World Bank and the Islamic Development Bank (ISDB) agreed to manage the funding mechanism to direct investment to the project.
As well as the 10 million euros from France, the €350 million project has been backed by Saudi and Kuwaiti Development Funds and the ISDB.
Although the Gaza Strip has historically been a cause of violence between the Israelis and Palestines, it has been reported that Israel is offering its experience and expertise on desalination to Palestine on the project.
AFP reported that energy and water minister Uzi Landau said he supported the project and Israel would be willing to lend its desalination skills to the project.
The project will be implemented as three sub-projects in two phases. Phase one (2014-2017) comprises the main water distribution network across the Gaza Strip, costing 110 million euros, plus the construction of the main seawater desalination plant that produces 55 million m3 per year (150,000 m3/day approx.), at a cost of 180 million euros. In the second phase (2017-2020) additional capacity will be developed to produce an overall 100 million m3 annually (274,000 m/day approx.).
It is hoped the desalination project could provide 1.6 million people with fresh water by 2020 and replace an aquifer that has been overused.
Dr Rafiq Husseini, deputy secretary general for water and environment at the UfM (Union for the Mediterranean), said: “If we do not start working towards the only long-term solution today, which his large-scale desalination, then there will be a verifiable increase in health related impacts, including more loss of life, and the already over-used aquifer will certainly collapse.”