North Gaza Emergency Sewage Treatment Project Update

August 27, 2010


The North Gaza Emergency Sewage Treatment project will provide a long-term solution to the treatment of wastewater in North Gaza, a healthier environment, and access to treated wastewater for irrigation for 250,000 residents.

The North Gaza Emergency Sewage Treatment Project (NGEST) was launched in 2004 to respond to the critical environmental and human health risk caused by severe overloading of the outdated Beit Lahiya wastewater treatment plant.  At that time, poorly treated wastewater was rapidly accumulating in artificial raised ponds surrounding the old treatment plant, presenting a severe threat to the health and safety of surrounding communities and a long term risk to groundwater quality.  That threat became very real in 2008, when the ponds breached their banks, flooding the nearby neighborhoods of Beit Lahiya and Um Al Nasser and killing five residents.

Due to financing constraints, NGEST was designed in two phases.  Part A was aimed at alleviating the immediate environmental and health threats by draining the Beit Lahiya effluent ponds.  It involved rehabilitation of the Beit Lahiya pumping station, construction of a pipeline to the site for a new and expanded wastewater treatment plant, and construction of eight infiltration beds at the new site.  Part B will achieve a sustainable long-term solution to the wastewater treatment needs of the people of Northern Gaza by constructing a modern wastewater treatment plant that will provide advanced secondary treatment (sufficient for water reuse for agriculture), environmental remediation at the Beit Lahiya site, establishment of a groundwater quality monitoring program, and development of a wastewater recovery and reuse program to irrigate surrounding fields with safely treated effluent.

Initially planned for implementation over a two-year period, Part A was completed in January 2010 after overcoming severe constraints caused by the Israeli blockade of Gaza.  Entry of goods, materials, and consultant support was severely restricted and implementation was delayed by more than three years.  War damage resulting from Operation Cast Lead further delayed completion.  Strong and sustained support from the donor community ultimately allowed Part A to be completed.  Partially treated waste water is now being pumped from the Beit Lahiya treatment plant to the new infiltration ponds and the Beit Lahiya effluent ponds have been drained.  The Beit Lahiya pumping station and the infiltration ponds are now operated and maintained by the Coastal Municipalities Water Utility.

The contract to construct the new wastewater treatment plant under Part B of NGEST, valued at US$40 million, was signed on May 31, 2010. Construction will begin in the coming weeks and the plant is expected to be operating by 2013.  The Israeli Government has provided assurances that materials and equipment for construction of the plant will be allowed to enter Gaza in a timely manner.  However, the volume of goods and materials that will need to be imported to Gaza through Israel will be much greater than under Part A.  Construction of recovery wells surrounding the infiltration beds to extract and reuse treated wastewater for irrigation on adjacent agricultural land and rehabilitation of the Beit Lahiya ponds will also be completed under Part B.

In total, the NGEST Project is projected to cost approximately US$75 million.  The Project receives financial and technical support from the governments of Belgium, France, and Sweden, the European Commission, and the World Bank.  In addition, the Office of the Quartet Representative and the US State Department have provided support to coordinate the entry to Gaza of goods and services for the Project.