The European Union announced Thursday that it had completed construction of the largest solar energy field in Gaza, which will power the Southern Gaza Desalination Plant, providing water to residents of the coastal enclave.
The desalination plant currently provides clean water to 75,000 inhabitants of Khan Younis and Rafah. The new energy field’s output of 0.5 megawatts and further investment from the EU will increase the output, so that it will provide drinking water to 250,000 people in Southern Gaza by 2020, the EU said.
Johannes Hahn, the EU commissioner for European neighborhood policy and enlargement negotiations, said that electricity shortages create a serious challenge to providing Gazans with water.
He said that improving living conditions for the people of Gaza will lead to “mitigating tensions in a highly conflict sensitive area.”
The EU is also working on other projects to ease the water crisis in Gaza. These include supporting an Oxfam plan to rehabilitate brackish desalination plants; working to reduce the amount of water that leaks out of the system, currently a staggering 40 percent; and assisting the Palestinian Water Authority.
In March an international coalition pledged €456 million ($520 million) to construct a central desalination plant. It will be the biggest-ever infrastructure project in the Gaza strip, and will provide drinking water to 2 million people.
The Gaza Strip suffers from a serious shortage in sanitation services, electric power, and drinking water. Its problems have been made worse by an ongoing rift between the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority and its rival, the terror group Hamas, which seized control of Gaza in 2007.
Additionally, Israel and Egypt are imposing a sea blockade on the territory that they said is designed to prevent arms smuggling by Gaza terror groups. Goods arrive at Israeli ports, where they are screened for weapons or military-capable material, and then transferred to Gaza.
Israel says Hamas, the terror group that controls the coastal enclave and seeks to destroy Israel, has diverted hundreds of millions of dollars in international financial aid and materials toward building its military forces and infrastructure.
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