Environmental Impact Assessment after the last war on Gaza

In July and August 2014, the Israeli army launched a large military operation in the Gaza Strip, codenamed “Protective Edge”. 51 days of Israeli attacks targeted all aspects of life in the Gaza Strip. Whilst the immediate violent escalation has ceased, the grave humanitarian crisis not only persists, but also worsens as the dust settles and the extent of the damage is felt. Gaza Strip which experienced continuous economic decline since the imposition of a closure policy by Israel in 2007 causing serious social and humanitarian consequences for many of its 1.7 million inhabitants is living further deterioration as a result of the Israeli aggression. The impact of the housing and infrastructure destruction is particularly grave during the cold and rainy Palestinian winter.

The environmental situation in the Gaza Strip was already serious prior to the last escalation of hostilities, due to underinvestment in environmental systems, lack of progress on priority environmental projects, and the collapse of governance mechanisms.

The last war caused additional damage and increased the pressure on environmental facilities and institutions. The most striking examples are:
1.     2,000,000 cubic meters of rubbles have accumulated in Gaza which induce a set of environmental hazards such as particulate matters pollution including dust, dirt, soot or smoke, and fine particles (which pose serious health risks including the risk of lung cancer), rodent nuisance, and scenic nuisance.
2.     Tons of weapons including shells and rockets were used during the war. Chemical toxic gases have reportedly been used in several occasions especially in the Eastern and North Eastern Gaza which may result in air pollution, soil pollution, and maybe groundwater pollution.
3.     The electricity supply has further deteriorated, which resulted in the increased use of fuel based generators. On the one hand, more generators are in use overall, while on the other hand household generators are used for longer times.  This may result in noise pollution especially in those more densely populated areas in Gaza such as the camps and the neighborhood in Gaza City. In addition, it affects tangibly the operation of different WASH facilities in the Gaza Strip.

The described situation shows the need for an environmental impact assessment in order to guide interventions responding to particular environmental threats.
The assessment should include:
1.     Particulate matter air concentration assessment
2.     Air pollution assessment
3.     Soil pollution assessment
4.     Noise pollution assessment

There are organizations already working on other aspects of environmental pollution (such as water infrastructure and wastewater which is being tackled by Palestinian and international WASH organizations), therefore PENGON will avoid repeating or doubling their efforts and concentrate on the abovementioned fields that have not been analyzed yet.