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Gaza Strip must pursue waste proposal for better economic future

January 29, 2012 Leave a comment

Creating two new landfills to alleviate the Gaza Strip’s three operating dump sites would provide much needed emergency fixes to the territory’s solid waste management program, the World Bank said in a report released this month.  Those long term measures would reduce groundwater contamination and air pollution stemming from the 1,450 tons of solid waste deposited daily in Gaza’s three near capacity landfills in Johr al Deek east of Gaza City, Sofa east of Rafah City and Deir al Balah in the territory’s center, the 23-page report said.

But local governments will need to raise revenue to finance the $9.6 million effort, the report said. That represents a major hurdle for the program considering a majority of residents find fees too high for the current level of service, and most cannot afford to pay them anyway, it noted.

“The three sites are reaching their maximum capacity, in addition to the fact that the expected amount of solid waste is expected to reach a round 3700 tons/day in 2040,” the report said. “Accordingly there is a growing need for establishing an integrated SWM (solid waste management program) that to adequately handle the growing waste generation rates in GS (Gaza Strip) with minimum impacts on public health and the environment.”

The unmonitored waste management program needs revision regardless of cost, the report said. With a growth rate of 3.2 percent in 2011, the Gaza Strip was the world’s seventh-fastest expanding population, according to the CIA World Factbook. At 360 square miles — roughly twice the size of Washington, D.C., for almost three times the people — it is the 205th largest territory in the world.

Such a concentration of people surrounded by faulty waste management yields catastrophic public health problems. Chronic illness and prenatal health risks posed by consuming contaminated water and food will continue to negatively affect citizens’ economic potential and threaten long term development prospects.

Sofa and Johr al Deek would get new landfills under the proposal, with three new transfer stations serving each site, the report said. Sofa would swallow 550 tons of solid waste daily beginning in 2011 and increase to 1,200 daily in 2032. That figure would rise to 3,000 tons daily in 2040, it said.

Uncontrolled dumping mixes harmful health care and hazardous waste, the report noted. Decomposition releases particulate matter and toxins into the air, thus contributing to greenhouse gas emissions and myriad other public health problems.

“The situation at the existing uncontrolled disposal site is associated with resident populations of vermin which are factors for increasing nuisances to humans and the spread of disease, and disrupting the natural ecosystem,” the report said. “The adoption of high standards for the new landfill, through compaction and daily coverage, will limit the potential for the development of resident populations of vermin and pests.”

Erecting borders in the new landfills could help mitigate some health problems the current system exacerbates. Scavengers often infiltrate the currently unprotected landfills, spreading health problems associated with the piles of waste, the report said. The outdated, boundary-free landfills also contribute to soil contamination as rainwater runoff carries toxins into the earth that so many in Gaza depend on for subsistence farming.

The proposed landfills will include base lining to contain toxic materials, the report said. A drainage layer also will divert leachate — the liquid containing solid particles — through a system of underground pipes, where the liquid will be pumped into a “leachate pond.”

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