Gaza Strip: The Politics of Water and Electricity
Published on Monday, July 3, 2006 by
Gaza Strip: The Politics of Water and Electricity
by Laray Polk

The Gaza Strip, Qita Ghazzah, is a geographical region with a land mass of approximately 146 square miles. It is one of the most densely populated areas in the world with approximately 9, 000 inhabitants per square mile. In 1948, there were roughly 80,000 native Gazans. By the end of the year, Gaza had received an influx of 200,000 permanent refugees, a number that has increased with every successive year. Refugee camps comprise the most heavily populated regions of Gaza Strip. U.N.R.W.A. estimates that Jabalia, the northern most camp, has 103, 646 inhabitants. Rafah, the southern most camp, has an estimated population of 90, 638 inhabitants.

The people of the Gaza Strip have been dependent on basic items of sustenance from the outside for many decades. 80% of material aid -- medical supplies, food, and clothing, has been provided by the U.N. and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Over the last year, the Israeli and U.S. governments have made it increasingly more difficult for NGOs to provide the delivery of such basic supplies. 35% of the people of Gaza fall in the malnutrition category with numbers rapidly rising among children. In 2003, Jean Ziegler, U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Right of Access to Food, reported that 50% of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza exist on one meal a day.

The Gaza Strip is surrounded by the Mediterranean Sea on the western border but has no desalinization plants. There is one aquifer that is heavily polluted. Water arrives in Gaza via the Kinneret-Negev Conduit which runs parallel to the eastern border.

The recent destruction of the main power plant in Gaza, along with three bridges, signals humanitarian devastation for the total population of the Gaza Strip. The power plant made it possible to pump water. The bridges made it possible to deliver water by tankers as well as other meager supplies necessary for supporting daily life. The lack of electricity stops the flow of water and it ceases the necessary current for medical machinery such as incubators, dialysis machines, and oxygen.

It is not clear how this most recent program of collective punishment will result in political gain. It is clear, however, that the strategic targeting of the main power plant and bridges by Israeli forces has placed the collective population of the Gaza Strip in immediate peril.

Laray Polk is an artist, activist and member of the Dallas chapter of Women in Black. Email to: