The World Bank has approved a US $10m grant to finance the operation and maintenance of the North Gaza wastewater treatment plant for four years and build the conditions for sustainable wastewater treatment services in Palestine. In line with previous partnerships in the sector, the new Wastewater Management Sustainability Project will be granted an additional US $3.7m by donor partners; members of the Partnership for Infrastructure Development Multi-Donor Trust Fund (PID MDTF) administered by the World Bank.
According to Kanthan Shankar, World Bank Country Director for West Bank and Gaza, Gaza has suffered for years from environmental disaster due to sewage pollution affecting hundreds of thousands of Palestinians. The new project builds on the World Bank and donor partners’ extended efforts to complete the long-awaited construction of the North Gaza Wastewater Treatment Plant. “Now, the new project focuses on operating and maintaining the treatment plant while gradually building the institutional capacity for sustainable self-management,” he said.
Mitigating environmental health and safety threats in the Gaza strip
The new project is a continuation of the World Bank’s long-standing intervention in the wastewater sector, driven by the goal of mitigating environmental health and safety threats in the Gaza strip. The construction of the North Gaza emergency treatment plant was a response to the untreated effluent collected by four municipalities and discharged in North of the Beit Lahia area.
Over time, a lake of untreated wastewater was formed, significantly polluting the coastal aquifer – the primary source for drinking water. The amount of sewage had increased over years causing floods, casualties, injuries, and asset damage to the surrounding population. The treatment plant built under the World Bank project allows an effective solution to wastewater effluents, prevents the degradation of the aquifer, and mitigates flood risks.
However, the financial collapse of the Palestinian economy in 2018 compromised the already weak financial capacity of the Palestinian Water Authority and prevented the funding of the wastewater management facilities. This has led to the suspension of the operations and the return to the pre-construction conditions of the treatment plant.
The new project aims to preserve the previous results and maintain critical wastewater treatment services. It operates on two parallel tracks. It will finance the operation and maintenance for four years to support the continuation of wastewater treatment services in North Gaza and rehabilitate few equipment and civil works to build resilience of the facilities.
It will also aim at strengthening the sector institutions by providing technical assistance to build the capacity for sustainability of wastewater services. This will allow the gradual transfer of service provision responsibilities to the Coastal Municipalities Water Utility (CMWU) and to act as the regional water utility, thus consolidating the 25 municipal service providers in Gaza.
Adnan Ghosheh, World Bank Senior Water Supply and Sanitation Specialist said that the operation of the treatment plant will benefit an estimated population of 400,000 and open opportunities for productive use of treated effluent in the northern Gaza area. “However, strengthening the governance and technical capacity of selected institutions to manage large wastewater facilities will benefit the entire population of Gaza and have a substantive longer impact, particularly in a conflict setting environment.” he added.