Power Outage Troubles Lives Of Gazans

Power Outage Troubles Lives Of GazansA power shortage is adversely affecting the lives of Palestinians in the barricaded Gaza Strip. The situation is so bad that most of them spend one-third or more of each day without electricity.

The narrow enclave, which contains a population of about 1.5 million squeezed into an area of about 400 sq km, gets electricity from three sources. However, supply is still insufficient to satisfy the ever-increasing needs of the strip.

It receives 17 MW from neighbouring Egypt, 120 MW from Israel, and 64 MW from the main power plant in Gaza. According to officials in the Gaza power plant, the plant does not have enough fuel, so it works only on two generating units that produce a combined 64 MW.

The third unit rarely runs due to shortages in industrial fuel, which is sent from Israel. The main plant was built in 2002 and can supply Gaza with 140 MW.

In retaliation to any military escalation, Israel frequently suspends the transfer of fuel, while the generators are switched off. The coastal territories need at least an additional 60 MW of electricity, apart from what is provided from the three sources.

In 2006, Israeli warplanes completely destroyed Gaza’s main power plant after Palestinian militants carried out a raid on an Israeli army site and captured an Israel soldier, Jilad Shalit.

University and school students have been negatively affected by the power shortage. They defy the electricity outages by operating generators, most of which are smuggled through tunnels running beneath the Rafah border with Egypt.

Indigent students, unable to pay for the costs of generators, tend to light their homes with candles and “stare” at their books while trying to finish their assignments.

Others invent home-made gas lights and oil lamps, which are known to be dangerous to use.

“I often return home late because I have to stay in the university to use the computer. The power might be cut in our house, but there is a big generator in the university,” said university sophomore Bayan Al-Zemali.

General secondary students, who will be sitting for their exams in July, try to do everything they can to pass what is a key stage in their lives. There is little doubt that they are upset with the bad circumstances they live in. Annoyed either by the blackout or the piercing sounds of the generators, they search for times when they can concentrate on their studies. Once the power comes back, they breathe a sigh of relief.

Hamza Mohseen, a general secondary student, said he feels exasperated about the continuing electricity problems. He and his classmate, Rayed, study together in each other’s homes depending on whose house has electricity.

“We are sick of this situation. Even if we run the generator, we cannot tolerate the noise,” said Hamza.

“Power blackouts are a major reason for our distraction,” he added.

According to a report issued by the United Nations office for coordination of humanitarian affairs (OCHA) in the occupied Palestinian territory (OPT), Gaza sewage treatment plants need uninterrupted power supplies for 14 days, which is the required period for the treatment cycle.

Affected by frequent power cuts, plants have resorted to discharging partially treated and untreated sewage into the sea. Gaza’s water authorities release 60-80 million litres of raw and partially treated sewage a day into the Mediterranean Sea to avoid the hazard of floods in residential areas.

The conditions for the health sector are also terrible. Hospitals depend intensively on generators, which get damaged from time to time due to prolonged periods of operation.

Workers in the Department of Kidney Dialysis and Baby Incubators at Shifa Hospital, the main Gaza hospital, have to not only keep an eye on patients but also watch out for sudden electricity cuts. Aside from shortages in medicine and equipment, a sudden power outage for even a few minutes could be fatal to a patient or premature baby.

Dozens of Gaza factories have also been either partially or totally suspended due to the crisis. For example, the operations of Al-Wadeya ice-cream company have been suspended since the start of the Israeli embargo.

Khaled, the director of the factory, said the company could not freeze huge quantities of its products since it was too expensive to operate giant refrigerators on generators.

“Our factory is paralysed. We used to supply most of the markets with our products four years ago. Moreover, the factory was significantly damaged during the Israeli war on Gaza,” added Khaled.

(gazatvnews.com / 13.05.2011)

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