Tuesday, March 27, 2007

The Death Swamps

It was bound to happen. All of the major humanitarian organizations issued endless reports and warnings about its imminent flooding. But even if the funding was available, the permission to expand and renovate the facility was not granted by the necessary "Authorities" who built it (on a major acquifer) in the first place.

I'm referring to the collapse and flooding of Gaza's northern sewage treatment facility, known locally as the "Death Swamps", which you can see here on wikimapia.

5 people died when the cesspool that has been created as a result of the facility working almost 4 times its normalcapacity flooded today-including two toddlers and two elderly women.

(Photo by Darryl Li)

"This was not only foretold, it happened twice before, in 1988 and 1993," tells me human rights consultant, and friend, Darryl Li, who has worked for Israeli, Palestinian, and International HR groups. Darryl's last trip was in August, to this very facility.

According to Darryl, the sewage facility is a collection of seven manmade lagoons at the edge of the former settlement bloc. "When working properly, the facility cleans waste water and then redeposits it into the aquifer. It has long been described as a major environmental problem: it is overtaxed and untreated sewage has long been polluted the groundwater in the area, and the facility has flooded at least twice."

The facility stopped functioning entirely in the weeks after the power cutoff last year (when Israel bombed Gaza's power plant), and later functioned at very low efficiency levels with generators. Water level consuquently rose dangerously high.

The embankments of the cesspool have also been the target of frequent Israeli shelling, threatening their integrity, says Li.

[photo: Darryl Li. A crater created as a result of Israeli shelling near the sewage facility.]

Donor funding has been pledged for years, but the facility now falls in the border "security zone" and no guarantees have been forthcoming about construction, or to allow the water to be transferred from Bayt Lahiya to the new site.

The only emergency solution is to basically pump the raw sewage out onto Gaza's sea
coast. This would pollute Gaza's sea coast and Ashkelon's desalinzation plant immensely.

According to a UN OCHA report issued in 2004, 110 acres were already flooded by waste from the plant by that year, and the area was growing. 50% of the children in neighbouring villages had digestive problems related to the overlfowing sewage and contmination of drinking water in the area.

"In November 2003, an international donor withdrew support from an earlier agreement to fund a new treatment plant through a concessional credit. The donor was concerned by continuing political uncertainty, and by anticipated delays in project implementation. The donor also feared that international technical consultants might not gain access into Gaza," read the report, in reference to Israeli restrictions (then, and now even more-so) on the entry of foreigners into Gaza.

OCHA recommended the construction of an additional basin that would reduce the volume in the lake, and eventually, the constructin of a new treatment plant.

[Picture: Darryl Li]

New donors expressed interest later that year, but local officials say Israel has threatened to disrupt (by way of bombings) any construction effort. And now of course, with all major funding stopped, and barely enough money to pay government workers, let alone renovate a majore sewage treatement plant, there is little hope that anyone will take on this project.

Says Li: "This is life in a 'disengaged' Gaza: It is not enough to be locked into an open-air prison by Israel. Nor to be turned into a beggar by the international community for voting in a democratic election. Nor to be torn apart by internal feuding. Now Palestinians have to drown in their own shit? I can't wait to hear the latest excuse about how this, too, is their own fault."


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe its best for the Palestinians to resettle in largely unihabitated Egypt,especially those in Gaza with Egyptian travel docs..After all Yasser Arafat was Egyptian.

Oh... a survey published by the An-Najah University in Nablus says nearly one third of Palestinians would emigrate to areas outside of the PA territories if they could .In addition, the poll showed that more than two thirds of Palestinians believe Hamas has failed at running the government, and less than a quarter of Palestinians would vote for the party again if elections were held now

12:09 PM  
Blogger nuh ibn zbigniew gondek said...

As salaam alaikum.

I love polls -- especially blind, unscientific polling that has zero purpose except manipulating public opinion.

The issues at hand are social justice and the rights of nationhood for the Palestinian people.

Uninhabitated Egyptian desert?

Maybe the bani israel needs to spend a little for time there:


Ma'as salaam,

nuh ibn

5:49 PM  
Blogger Kommi said...

, I have been reading your blog and think that you could help me out with a topic. I am a Russian citizen living and working in NYC. At my job there is a young girl who is very sweet, but an ultra Jewish nationalist. Recently she joined some group called "There is no Palestine". I usually stay out of crap like this, but I decided that I cant anymore. Long story short, the "logical" reasoning of this group is as follows:

There never was a Palestinian Nation due to the following arguments (formed as, what they consider rhetorical, questions). I am not too well versed in this history, so I was wondering if you could help me out by answering some of these questions. I can then later do more research my self on the topic. Thanks in input at all.


When was Palestine founded - How? Was there a constitution?

What were its official borders? What government agency patrolled these borders?

What constituted the basis of its economy? Imports? Exports? What were some major industries?

For example, in 1940 what was the GDP of Palestine?

What economic model did Palestine follow? Capitalism? Socialism?

What constituted its government? Was it a democracy? Theocracy? Communist? Monarchy?

Who was the Palestinian leader in 1931? (Please include title, such as President or King)

During the Israeli-Arab War in 1948, how many casualties were sustained by the Palestinian Army? How about in 1967?

Who was the top commander of the Palestinian Army?

During the World War Two years, did the Palestinian Army associate with the Allies or Axis Powers? How about World War One?


What is "Palestinian" about the West Bank.

In 1967, it was conquered from Jordan...

Before that it belonged to the British Empire...

Before that it belonged to the Ottoman Empire...

Please, somebody tell me how the West Bank is at all "Palestinian?"

if anyone can answer these questions, lpease send them to kommi718(at)hotmail

11:10 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

To the best of my knowledge there never was a Palestinian State. But I don't think this is important. There are about 3million Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank and whether or not they had a state in the past has nothing to do with their right to live in peace and not be under someone else's.
By the way, I think the same reasoning goes for the right of Israel to be here as a Jewish state.

11:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

max the same people have lived in the west bank for thousands of years

would you please explain why you think it belongs to european jews like yourself whose kin are from chechnya and never set foot on the stolen land?

throughout all of those goverments and occupations the local masjid provided local government

the natives are palestinian and the ruski and brooklynn jews are the invaders that stole the place

got it now?

10:13 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Here is some positive news for a change:
An Israeli ambulance went into Ramallah today, with an escort of Palestinian security forces, to transfer a 1 year old baby from Al-Mustaqbal Hospital to a hospital in Israel.
The baby was hurt, apparently, from inhaling gases at home and Palestinians asked that he be moved to a hospital in Israel.
This is the first time since 2000 that Israeli ambulances go into the PA and this was enabled by the relative calm.

12:22 AM  
Blogger Torontoman said...

yeah, can't wait till they stop preventing all those pregnant women from giving birth in the streets and allow them to get to an actual hospital.

1:04 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Here is a little story for you.
Around a year ago, an ill handicapped Palestinian Woman arrived to a check post in order to pass into Israel and receive medical care in Soroka Hospital. The evil, heartless, soldiers, insisted on checking her in the usual, inhuman, unnecessary, way. It turns out this poor woman was carrying, in her underware, a large bomb. Her plan was to get into the ER and blow up there.
Want another story? Move from Gaza to the West Bank, replace a handicapped woman with a 'pregnant' one and there you go. True stories.
Now, tell me, seriously, what you think the right way to handle this. I am not asking for the long therm solution. Let say you are a commander of a post and a woman claiming to be pregnant comes in asking to be urgently let through. Do you let her? Do you send the nearest female soldier to examine her (knowing if she is carrying a bomb you just sent this soldier to her death)? What do you do? I'd appreciate a direct answer, not a story about strategic plans.

1:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The pipes that were sold to Zak were intended for the construction of a sewage system in Gaza. The Shin Bet has been unable to determine the amount of metal that actually made its way to the terror organizations, and how much went to the sewage project.

9:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

you and kin could leave raz :)

1:08 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Anonymous, it is people like you who are responsible for the situations the Palestinian people is in. At least we got a live demo.

4:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How Palestine became "Israel's Land":

The modern day struggle for this land by European Jewish immigrants who have no connection with Palestine other than through their religion is a colonial enterprise that seeks sovereignty for an "external Jewish population" to the exclusion of the indigenous Palestinians who, regardless of faith - Jewish, Christian or Muslim - have lived together for centuries.

1:26 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

12:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi, greetings from Italy. You have nice blog, visit and comment my site, please

2:29 PM  
Blogger the fruitfemme said...

Salaam Umm Yousef,

Just thanking you for your blog. These are very hard days.


11:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Assalam alaikum Umi
Great blog

Palestinian have lived there since forever, even before Musa A.S came from Egypt with the Jewish.

7:04 PM  
Blogger Grace said...


7:58 PM  
Blogger Greg said...

I had little to no knowledge of this region or its people.. but thanks to blogs of note I now at least have a small understanding..

Great writing.. thanks for doing this..


7:59 PM  
Blogger Julie said...

Congrats on being "blog of note" today. We need to hear more stories like yours--it's the personal touch the world needs to know about. Thanks.

8:07 PM  
Blogger Hamza matar said...

lovely page, blessed,c ya

4:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm not interested in the political rambling that can create a discussion in infinity, a total waste of time. I am interested in the reason a large lake of sewage is created. A "normal" country would have plants that clean sewage. Otherwise the sewage will outgrow the population. With billions of dollars given to the palestinians from the west, how come the sewage situation is not fixed? You said the money was available. /Robert

10:33 AM  
Blogger THE POLLITIKAT said...

Greetings Laila, from the Pollitikat. Just discovered your blag and was totally facinated. You really help to put a face and culture to the palestinian people.

2:38 PM  
Blogger Ken said...

Outside of the so-called "civilized" West (especially the US), many people who are not influenced by the Zionist controlled western media do see how the Zionists manipulate the Palestinian situation. Israel is doing all it can to make life difficult for Palestinians, to force them to flee so the Israelis can grab more. Palestine is an occupied land and its people brutalized, it is not a normal country - and through the many outlets of freedom of proper expression like yours - the rest of the world will know. Garth Liew Foo Keung garthliew@gmail.com

10:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

laila, your blog is awesome, you are a true free voice that need to reach as many people in this small world so they get a glimpse of how it feels like to live in Gaza, my wonderful city I saddly had to depart 15 years ago.

Max, you need to know better about(the philistines) history who resided the southern coast of Canaan before the time of the arrival of the Israelites.

It is our old miserable fate to get involved with people of Israel who are a nation with no land who need a land with no nation.

6:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In respect to the issue of pregnant women being held up at checkpoints. First of all, I believe (and I vote accordingly) that while there should be checkpoints, people passing through should be treated with respect and should be checked and passed through as politely and efficiently as circumstances allow--just like at any other border control. Period. That being said, my understanding is that the woman who blew herself up 3 meters (10 feet) away from where I was standing at the Jerusalem Machane Yehuda market was disguised as a pregnant woman--instead of a fetus, she carried a bomb. It would be nice if we could trust people coming through---but we can't.


3:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I live near a small town in the US which has a similar system of sewage lagoons. Interestingly, the output from the system is dumped into a local stream. A friend of mine who works at the water/sewage plant tells me that there are more purity tests run on the sewage output than the drinking wells for the town (per government regulations). However, in order for the lagoon water to be 'pure', it takes many, many hours of adding bacteria to the sludge pond, introducing oxygen to the final treatment pond (hydrogen peroxide through the decay of barley straw), etc.
My point is this... to make such a system work, it MUST be taken of. From your description, dumping back into the aquifier sounds nothing short of slowly poisoning the entire region. Aquifier paths sometimes run for hundreds of miles... perhaps neighboring governments should consider that while they may be winning military goal, they may end up poisoning themselves.

12:35 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"The embankments of the cesspool have also been the target of frequent Israeli shelling, threatening their integrity, says Li."

Of course, the frequent Israeli shelling wouldn't have anything to do with the frequent and indiscriminate shelling by Palestinian freedom fighters of quassam rockets across the nearby border into Israeli homes and schools would it?

The cesspool story is a human tragedy but why is even this used as a propaganda swipe at your neighbours?

Make peace, live with them and your lives and theirs will be much better for it!

2:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

gee gulliver on you travels have you met a little people who claim to want peace but steal more land instead and have delusions about a greater yidistan from nile to the eupgrates?

the greed of the zionist will never be over for other peoples land

you cant make peace with religious murders and theives

now go back to you little people and listen to more non sense for you to spew

3:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

there should be no check points in palestine....at the green line where the UN has put israhel's national borders perhaps

but the occupation is illegal and immoral and the checkpoints are not there for security (between one part of palestine and another?) but only to harass the palestinians into leaving

once again check it...all the squatter coloies are illegal under UN international law...there is no reason for a road map...the kosher invaders must leave the occupation...according to international law

as to the legality of israhel proper...it was never the brits to give away nor the league of nations and flys in the face of everything the UN claims to be for

and after all of the zionist masacres and inhumanity and ignoring UN resolution 194 which Israhel agreed to join the UN and never kept....why does israhel have a right to exist?

3:41 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gordon Ley: Israel doesn't want peace

4:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"but local officials say Israel has threatened to disrupt (by way of bombings) any construction effort."

When were these threats made? Is there a link to them?

6:08 AM  
Blogger BagelUndertheCouch said...

wow, this is really sad news, laila...as much good as my prayers would do, it's all i have to offer up=]. may God heal palestine. i think they've been through enough. i think palestine AND israel have been through enough. just shaked hands and be friends, already!!!

btw: um sasha--the philistines weren't arabs, like the modern palestinans, they were more greek, than anything. the modern day palestinians are originally (way back when) from egypt, assyria, etc. who came to the land through the islamic conquests.

8:37 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Congratulations dear Sister... go see why...

12:59 PM  
Blogger j_in_palestine said...

I just wanted to congratulate you on being the "blog of note" today. I didn't think that blogger had it in them. Wonderful!

8:18 PM  
Blogger UmmFarouq said...

Hurrah for Blogger! Congrats on being a blog of note. Very well deserved.

9:05 PM  

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