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Stockholm (AFP) Aug 28, 2012
The Palestinian Authority's minister in charge of water issues, Shaddad Attili, on Tuesday stressed the urgency of having a desalination plant in place in Gaza by 2020 at the latest.
"A study the UN published yesterday says that by 2020 Gaza is unlivable if we don't address the water problem," he told reporters on the sidelines of the World Water Week conference in Stockholm.
The plant is "a strategic project," he said.
"More than 90 percent of the water produced in the Gaza Strip does not comply with World Health Organisation (WHO) standards," his deputy Rebhy El-Sheik noted.
"The water smells, tastes (bad) and isn't fit for drinking but you have to drink it," the minister lamented.
He said Israel had agreed to the project, and "the Israelis have to respect it."
In March, the Palestinian Authority appealed to the international community to help finance the project, estimated to cost $500 million (398 million euros).
Arab countries have agreed to pay about half of that amount, while France has pledged 10 million euros.
Attili would like more European countries to contribute funds, and insisted their money would be put to good use.
"Your investments are protected. We're doing our job and our homework," he said.
"I was positive after I met (Swedish Development Aid Minister) Gunilla Carlsson," he said.
Swedish officials said they were studying the issue.
"We recently received the request and we have sent it to the Swedish International Development Authority, which will examine it and see if we have the possibility" to contribute, Carlsson's spokeswoman Evin Khaffaf told AFP.
After his visit to Stockholm Attili was due to travel to Finland and Norway to seek their support.
Under the current schedule, funds for the project are due to be raised by the end of this year or early next year, after which construction can begin.
If the timetable is followed, the plant should be completed by 2017.
The 43 member states of the Union for the Mediterranean (UFM) have endorsed the project.
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