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Palestinians campaign for $450m desalination plant in Gaza
by Staff Writers
Marseille, France (AFP) March 12, 2012

The Palestinian Authority on Monday pushed plans at the World Water Forum here for a desalination plant costing more than 350 million euros ($450 million) to ease Gaza's chronic water problems.

Speaking as violence flared anew in Gaza, Palestinian Water Minister Shaddad Attili told a round table that the scheme had already drawn support from the Saudi and Kuwait Development Funds and the Islamic Development Bank, as well as a pledge of 10 million euros from France.

"If we do not start working towards the only long-term solution today, which is large-scale desalination, then there will be a verifiable increase in health-related impacts, including more loss of life," said Rafiq Husseini, deputy secretary general for water and the environment at the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM).

"The already over-used aquifer will collapse," Husseini said.

The scheme is the first project launched by the UfM, gathering 43 countries. It approved the scheme last June.

The project would unfold in two phases, with the first stage -- running from 2014-17 -- comprising the construction of a main water pipe and subsidiary network across the Gaza Strip at a cost of 110 million euros.

A desalination plant capable of producing 55 million cubic metres (1,925 million cubic feet) of drinking water from seawater annually would also be built during this phase, at a cost of 180 million euros.

In phase two, running from 2017-20, the capacity of the plant would be boosted to 100 million cubic metres annually.

"This is by far the largest and most significant project to be implemented in Gaza," Husseini told reporters.

Next year a project management team will be set up and tendering for the scheme will take place, according to background information from the UfM and the Palestinian Authority.

According to French Prime Minister Francois Fillon's office, Gulf Arab states "have already committed to 50 percent financing of the plant."

"France's support will help raise funds in Europe," it said in a background document.

A total of 1.6 million people will have access to fresh water once the project is implemented.

According to a 2009 World Bank report, between 90 and 95 percent of the water available in Gaza is not fit for human consumption.

Surging population growth and overpumping of ground water has caused the aquifer to drop alarmingly, causing a rise in salinity from the sea.

The Gaza Strip is a traditional flashpoint for violence between the Palestinians and the Israelis.

In 1998, the territory inaugurated an international airport, but it was destroyed in Israeli raids three years later.

On Monday, Israeli warplanes pounded the territory for a fourth day, bringing the death toll among Palestinians to 23.

The violence kicked off on Friday after Israel killed Zuhair al-Qaisi, head of the Popular Resistance Committees, prompting militant groups to begin lobbing rockets over the border.

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UN scientists warn of increased groundwater demands due to climate change
San Francisco CA (SPX) Mar 12, 2012
Climate change has been studied extensively, but a new body of research guided by a San Francisco State University hydrologist looks beneath the surface of the phenomenon and finds that climate change will put particular strain on one of our most important natural resources: groundwater. SF State Assistant Professor of Geosciences Jason Gurdak says that as precipitation becomes less freque ... read more

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