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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.”

Egypt, Jordan reproductive health changes — the new youth revolution

Jordan and Egypt made positive strides in reproductive health through the past several years but still have many challenges and opportunities to address, according to World Bank reports publicized yesterday.

Some of the key findings showed stark improvement in some areas: Egypt halved its infant mortality rate and malnutrition in children under five years old in the past two decades; 89 percent of Jordanian 15-year-old girls are literate; fewer than 2 percent of Jordanians live on less than $1.25 per day; overall fertility is declining, which is a positive for the overpopulated and youth-heavy nations; and use of modern contraceptives in both nations is increasing.

However, those pluses must be met with the sobering realities in each country. Contraceptive use among married women is just 60 percent in Egypt and 59 percent in Jordan. In Egypt, just 58 percent of women aged 15 and older are literate. Just 25 percent of Egyptian adult females work, mostly in agriculture. Fertility remains high among the poorest in each nation, creating large social problems. The poor are more at risk of early childbearing in each nation. HIV awareness is low in Egypt.

With 33 percent of Egypt and 35 percent of Jordan younger than 15 years old, tremendous opportunities exist to improve those statistics, the World Bank said. And if the revolutions in Egypt and Jordan (to a much lesser extent, of course) has proven anything, it’s that Arab youth are tired of being denied the standard of living so many other nations have. That means a path for grassroots reproductive health education has been paved, as raising the standard of living starts with healthy pregnancies.

Healthy pregnancies is an all-encompassing term. It doesn’t just mean birthing a functioning child — it means having a child at the proper age, having the right amount of children, being economically self-sufficient and having two parents. None of that will happen, however, without proper education and societal change that empowers women and promotes safe sex.

Both of those aims — empowering women and promoting safe sex — are complicated in the current Egyptian and Jordanian context. Still ruled and influenced by older religious men, women — especially in Egypt — are subordinate to men in every way. Additionally, contraception is frowned upon in Muslim society despite no explicit mention of banning birth control in the Qur’an.

These customs will be difficult to overturn in a top-down fashion. But, then again, the same would be said for changing governance — which is exactly why revolutions in Egypt and Jordan have been youth-led, grassroots efforts. The opportunity to change society and not only politics can be exploited in the same way. By directing the female empowerment and contraception message at the enormous youth populations in Jordan and Egypt, change will slowly occur. And this is change that does not require an election — it can happen everyday, with any person, whenever they choose.

Jordan report

Egypt report

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