In the Palestinian territories, living conditions have dramatically worsened since the beginning of the Second Intifada in 2000. Scarcity of water resources is a major problem, and is being aggravated by the current conflict. Natural water sources are being depleted and threatened by salinity and pollution related to human activity. Access to clean water is challenging for a large proportion of the population, particularly in the Gaza Strip. The consequences in terms of public health are clearly visible (kidney diseases, congenital syndromes, etc.).
In the Gaza strip, local bodies (municipalities, village councils, etc.) lack the necessary resources, expertise, and capacity to plan and implement water projects. As a result, the quality of water services varies from town to town, notably in rural areas. Capacity building in strategic planning and both administrative and technical water resources management is therefore essential.
Major French actors such as the Ministry of Ecology and Sustainable Development, the AFD (Agence française de développement), Lyon’s Urban agglomeration (Grand Lyon), and the Rhône-Méditerranée et Corse Water Agency, have mobilized to combine their strengths and help the Palestinian authorities address this critical situation.
This capacity building program will unfold in two steps: 1. rehabilitation of facilities and management; 2. technical training and strategic planning. Funds have been granted by the AFD to restore wells and provide new technical material where necessary. A Letter of Intention for Cooperation was signed by Fadel Ka’wash, Head of the Palestinian Water Authority, Green Cross France and Grand Lyon at Pollutec 2006 (an International Forum for environmental professionals held annually in Lyon), to strengthen capacity building in the field of water supply and sanitation in the Gaza Strip. In the framework of Lyon’s decentralized cooperation initiatives, members of Grand Lyon’s maintenance and strategic planning teams will contribute to the training of staff at Gaza’s Coastal Municipalities Water Utility (CMWU). These training sessions will be organized in partnership with the Palestinian Hydrology Group, a local NGO in charge of implementing the program. Green Cross France co-originated the program and will monitor, coordinate and ensure its follow up.
Through this initiative, municipalities and village councils will be empowered with the necessary tools to make good choices for the sustainable use of water, to effectively improve water quality and to eliminate pollution in this region. They will also become reliable local counterparts for neighboring authorities and play an active role in water supply and sanitation discussions at the regional level.