The European Union (EU) announced Tuesday its mobilising of €456m in financial support to implement the Gaza Central Desalination Plant and associated works project, at a conference in Brussels that was co-chaired by the EU and the Palestinian Authority.
The project will provide a minimum of 55m cubic metres of clean drinking water annually to people in dire need of it and will be the biggest infrastructure project in Gaza, read a statement from the EU delegation to Egypt.
European Commissioner for Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations Johannes Hahn said the project will meet the most urgent water needs in Gaza, and will contribute to economic growth, environmental sustainability, and stability.
“I’m proud that the EU pledged €70m for the desalination plant plus €7.1m for management costs. Today’s successful pledging conference takes us a step closer to making a reality of this project and to improve living conditions in Gaza, and remove obstacles to economic development there,” added Hahn.
Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah said that the conference carried a message of hope for the people of Gaza, stressing that the international community is not neglecting their suffering, but diligently working to designing interventions to address the dire water situation in the strip.
“The project will contribute to the political stability of the region as water scarcity can have grim repercussions and spark further tensions,” noted Hamdallah.
Forty-two countries’ delegations, including Israel, 20 EU countries, and eight international institutions expressed their support for the project and underlined the urgency of making quick progress, said the statement.
The Union for the Mediterranean, the European Investment Bank, the World Bank, Office of the Quartet, and the Islamic Development Bank expressed their continued commitment to implementing the project, added the statement.
The European Investment Bank (EIB) will launch the tendering procedure of the project on 15 April, after signing a letter of intent with the Palestinian Authority during the conference to ensure further preparations for implementation of the project.
Two million Palestinians in Gaza rely almost exclusively on the Coastal Aquifer Basin—which has a capacity of 55-60m cubic metres annually—as a source of drinking water. The Gaza Strip’s total water demand is 180m cubic metres per year, said the EU delegation’s statement, adding that only 3% of the water pumped from the aquifer complies with World Health Organisation (WHO) drinking water quality standards.