Khan Younis wastewater treatment plant: changing lives, protecting the environment, and advancing sustainable development agenda in in the occupied Palestinian territory
September 21, 2023
In the occupied Palestinian Territory (oPt), poor water quality, as well as inadequate wastewater and solid waste management, are issues of major concern that negatively impacting not only the environment but also the health and well-being of the Palestinian people. Only 39.5% of households in the oPt have access to safely managed drinking water services, with striking regional disparities as this rate drops to 4% in the Gaza Strip compared to 66.2% in the West Bank.
Khan Younis City, located in the Gaza Strip, was one of the area’s most severely affected by these challenges. The absence of proper sewage infrastructure and wastewater treatment exacerbated the water and sanitation crisis, affecting the daily lives of thousands of residents like Haj Mohammed Al Buraim and his family. Haj Mohammed, a resident of the city, vividly remembers the struggles his family endured due to the absence of proper sewage infrastructure.
"I was born here, and ever since, we have been suffering," he says. "Like other homes in Khan Younis City, our home was not connected to the main sewage network, and we lived literally on random septic tanks I dug by myself to absorb the sewage my home produces."
Haj Mohammed and his wife, Hajja Fadia, raised their eleven children in these challenging conditions. The family's daily life revolved around managing their water consumption and sewage disposal. "If we consume the normal average of water, use bathrooms, and wash the dishes, the sewage around the home floods into the garden and the street," Hajja Fadia
For the Al Buraim family and thousands of others in Khan Younis City, taking a simple shower became a luxury they couldn't afford. The foul smell and insects plagued their daily lives, affecting not only their physical health but also their finances. When the septic tanks reached capacity, Haj Mohammed had to pay 18$ to pump out the sewage, often sacrificing necessities like food and clothing to save the money for the pumping.
The root of Khan Younis City's water and sanitation crisis where around 430,000 Palestinian lives, lay in the absence of an effective wastewater treatment system. The sewage from inhabitants' homes was collected into limited-capacity collection basins, and most houses were not connected to a sewage network that could handle the city's needs. Approximately 30,000 random septic tanks were used, and the semi-treated sewage was eventually pumped into the sea, causing environmental disaster.
Despite all these challenges, a ray of hope emerged with the reconstruction of the Khan Younis Wastewater Treatment Plant (KYWWTP). Funded by the Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development, the Government of Japan, and expertly implemented by the United Nations Development Programme, this project aimed to address the city's water, natural, and environmental crisis.
The KYWWTP, with an initial capacity of 26,600 cubic meters of treated water per day, revolutionized the city's infrastructure, enabling better treatment of wastewater and reducing hazards to septic tanks in the city. The state-of-the-art plant has delivered the highest quality treated water for the inhabitants of Khan Younis, as confirmed by the Palestinian Ministry of Agriculture's tests in 2022, where it was stated that the treated wastewater in the plant is the most suitable for the irrigation purposes amongst other plants in the Gaza Strip. Furthermore, the facility is efficiently controlled through an advanced SCADA system, which is both user-friendly for technicians and engineers and manageable online.
The impact of the KYWWTP is tangible in the lives of residents like Haj Mohammed and his family. Their home is now connected to the sewage network, allowing for proper treatment of wastewater, and reducing the hazards associated with septic tanks. The once-muddy garden is now a safe place for their grandchildren to play. Mutasim and Mohammed, the grandsons of Haj Mohammed, joyfully express, "We are very happy that we got rid of the sewage, and we can gather here to play again."
Haj Mohammed's social life has also been transformed. He no longer has to discourage his married daughters from visiting, fearing an increase in water consumption and septic tank problems. Now, he invites them to come and visit anytime. He's even started planting trees and plans to enjoy the fruits of his land again.
Reflecting on the changes, Haj Mohammed concludes with a laugh, "I was 24 hours employed for the septic tank pumping, but thanks to Allah, now I am unemployed."
The Khan Younis Wastewater Treatment Plant is not just a project; it is a testament to the advancement of Sustainable Development Goal 6: "Clean Water and Sanitation." By providing clean and sustainable water solutions, it has not only improved the lives of
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