-“WATERgate!” When a UN news service lacks impartiality

EDITORIAL COMMENT

“We see it as a potential time bomb.”

 

3420305783_4a71aa8c0a_tAPRIL 7, 2009 –  In an article published today by IRIN , the so-called “impartial” news service of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, they stated:

Over 150,000 Palestinians in Gaza (around 10 percent of the population) are struggling without tap water as a result of the damage caused to wells, pipes and waste water facilities during the recent 23-day Israeli offensive which ended on 18 January.

“Our requests via the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to the Israeli military during the conflict to allow shipments of construction materials and spare parts to repair wells and facilities damaged during the war were denied,” Coastal Municipalities Water Utility (CMWU) director-general Monther Shoblak told IRIN.

Shoblak estimates that 50,000 people lack tap water after losing their homes, while a further 100,000 have dry taps because of damage to the water supply network.

Eleven of Gaza’s 150 wells, the only source of drinking water for Gaza’s 1.4 million people (apart from expensive bottled water and water trucked in by aid agencies), are not functioning. Six were completely destroyed, according to CMWU.

Many residents in the north and in Rafah have water from their taps only every 4-7 days. CMWU is working to rectify the situation, Shoblak said, but is hampered by lack of supplies.

What IRIN did not point out is that Gaza’s drinking water is contaminated with high levels of nitrate.

3420305783_4a71aa8c0a_tAccording to an article published in ScienceDaily (August 14, 2008):

Palestinian and German scientists have recommended to the authorities in the Gaza Strip that they take immediate measures to combat excessive nitrate levels in the drinking water. 90 per cent of their water samples were found to contain nitrate concentrations that were between two and eight times higher than the limit recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO).

What IRIN did not point out is that over pumping of groundwater in Gaza has caused the groundwater level to drop.

3420305783_4a71aa8c0a_tIn 2003, ScienceDaily (November 2, 2003) reported:

In a joint Israeli, Palestinian, and French/EU study of the geochemistry of the area, it was discovered that over pumping of groundwater by the Gaza Strip’s 1.3 million people has caused the groundwater level to drop. This has created a slope in the groundwater table, allowing the naturally saline groundwater from Israel to flow steadily westward and spoil the aquifer under the Gaza Strip.

As if that wasn’t enough bad news, the booming population growth of the Gaza Strip is bound to make matters worse. “By 2010 the 40-kilometer by 15-kilometer Gaza Strip is expected to house 2.6 million people,” said geochemist Avner Vengosh of Ben Gurion University in Beer Sheva.

“The problem is not lack of water, but water quality,” said Vengosh. “We see it as a potential time bomb.”

IRIN’s lack in reporting the whole story reminds us of a quotation attributed to Billy Graham. “Everybody has a little bit of WATERgate in him.”

 

(Photo credit:  Jake Perks)

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