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PA says funds needed to reverse water crisis

PA says funds needed to reverse water crisis

BRUSSELS -- Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad on Wednesday said he hoped donors would fund a desalination plant to ease the water crisis in the Gaza Strip.

Speaking from Brussels in a weekly interview to the official Voice of Palestine radio, Fayyad said the plant would cost almost half a billion dollars.

Over-pumping of the coastal aquifer has reduced the quality and quantity of water in Gaza, Fayyad said. According to a 2009 World Bank report, between 90 and 95 percent of the water available in Gaza is not fit for human consumption.

The PA is trying to overcome Israeli restrictions to establish a fair distribution of water in Gaza as well as seeking international support for Palestinian water rights under international law, Fayyad said.

Fayyad said Gaza was a priority for the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority.

The PA is also focusing on developing Area C, the 62 percent of the West Bank under full Israeli control.

Israel is draining Palestinians' water resources for use by its growing illegal settlements in West Bank, Fayyad said.

A UN report released Monday said Jewish settlers have seized dozens of natural springs in the West Bank, barring Palestinians or limiting their access to scarce water sources.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs report added: "Since the beginning of its occupation in 1967, Israel has established and maintained a system of direct control over the exploitation and distribution of West Bank water resources."

This has resulted in an unequal distribution of water.

Jewish settlers consume 300 liters per capita per day, compared to around 70 liters consumed by Palestinians.

Settlers are connected to the Israeli water network, which draws from wells in the West Bank and Israel. Most of the water allocated to settlers is used to produce agricultural goods for export, UNOCHA says.

Meanwhile, around 300,000 Palestinians in the West Bank are vulnerable to water scarcity, the report adds.

Around 14,000 people rely on tankers of water at five times the price of piped water. They have access to around 30 liters a day, one-tenth the quantity accessed by settlers.

Fayyad urged the international community to end Israeli violations of international law and pledged the government would work to gain water rights for its people.

"We are determined to make all efforts to provide water to every Palestinian citizen, it’s a right and a duty in all cases."

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