UNDP begins removing rubble in the Gaza Strip
Rubble removal will boost Gazan economy
Gaza City - Contractors working for the United Nations today began clearing around 420,000 tonnes of rubble in Gaza caused by Israeli military operations earlier this year.
UNDP estimates that 15,000 buildings were damaged or destroyed during three weeks of bombing in December and January. Clearance and crushing will take one year and provide 200,000 days of work. The total cost of UNDP’s work is estimated at US$12 million. Canada has provided $3.4 million and Sweden $2.3 million towards the cost and UNDP is in negotiations to fill the funding gap.
“The removal of rubble is an important start in helping Gazans get over the recent destruction. This project will help provide much needed work and improve the environment before rebuilding can start,” said Jens Toyberg-Frandzen, UNDP’s representative in the occupied Palestinian territory.
Since January, UNDP and its partners have been raising money, training staff and negotiating access and contracts for the removal of the bulk of the rubble, which is causing both economic and health risks. Some of the damaged sites contain asbestos and other toxic materials while others may contain explosives. Staff have been trained to dispose of hazardous materials safely while the UN Mine Action Service will assess all sites and ensure the safety of high-risk sites.
However, Toyberg-Frandzen warned that a real recovery work on behalf of Gazans depends on Israel relaxing its sanctions on the Gaza Strip. For example, the crushed rubble could be used to rebuild homes and infrastructure. If Israel continues to block the importation of materials and tools, only very limited rebuilding can take place and the sites that are being cleared will remain empty.
“If the borders remain closed this investment will provide short term relief and not long term progress,” Toyberg-Frandzen said. “Homes will not be rebuilt and the influx of money will not create growth. These efforts will only succeed if they are mirrored by greater commitment from the international community and local governments to improve the living conditions of ordinary Gazans.”
Israel has blocked the importation of anything but essential goods into Gaza, such as food and medicine, for two years. UNDP suspended $60 million of construction projects in Gaza in 2007 because it could not acquire building materials. UNDP, in cooperation with other agencies continues to request the building materials it requires to restart the suspended projects and begin new construction.
UNDP’s current partners in the rubble removal project include the Norwegian Refugee Council, Mercy Corps, Foundation for Co-operative Housing and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency.
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