Sewage at the beaches, piles of garbage mar Gaza's summer

Sun Jun 29, 2014 4:09pm EDT
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By Nidal al-Mughrabi

GAZA (Reuters) - When Palestinians in the Gaza Strip seek some relief from the grind of life in an enclave plagued by conflict and hardship, they usually need to look no further than their sandy beaches.

But this summer access to the cooling waters of the Mediterranean is gradually being closed off to Gaza's 1.8 million residents, due to pollution stemming from the fuel shortages that have halted work at sewage treatment facilities.

The blighted shoreline adds to the grind of Gazan life so far unrelieved by the reconciliation pact which the dominant Islamist group Hamas signed with Western-backed President Mahmoud Abbas.

One Hamas official mooted retaking charge of the territory if the Abbas-led new government did not wade in with remedies.

Baha al-Agha of the Gaza Environment Quality Authority said about 100,000 cubic metres of untreated waste water are being pumped into the sea daily.

"Swimming is prohibited" signs have gone up at several beaches. But at one of Gaza's most popular beaches, dozens of people, including children, splashed in the water over the weekend despite the posted warning.

"Things are getting worse day by day in the absence of real and quick solutions," Agha told Reuters. He called on the Palestinian unity government formed earlier this month to act immediately, "before Gaza beaches are declared a disaster area".

Egypt's closure of most of the estimated 1,200 cross-border smuggling tunnels run by Hamas has virtually stopped cheap Egyptian fuel coming into Gaza.   Continued...

A Palestinian boy buries his brother with sand as they play on a beach in the central Gaza Strip June 26, 2014.   REUTERS/Mohammed Salem