People in the Gaza Strip who wanted to take a refreshing dip while visiting the city’s beaches would be hard-pressed to actually get into the water. Beachgoers who did brave the waves would sometimes end up getting ill due to the untreated sewage that was flowing straight into the waters off Gaza for years.
“We couldn’t come before because the sea was polluted and if we did, our children used to come back home with viruses and skin diseases,” said 52-year-old Gaza local, Sahar Abu Bashir.
The flow of untreated sewage caused an environmental disaster and effectively ruined one of the only affordable beaches and swimming opportunities for residents and visitors. However, things have since changed for the better thanks to internationally-funded sewage treating facilities. According to environmental officials, the facilities have set up operations and successfully reduced pollution to its lower rates in recent history.
Now, the water has retained its crystal-clear quality, the sand is clean, and the breeze smells fresh and salty. For the first time in a long time, the beach was full of families enjoying the beach.
“Today the area is clean and the sea is clean,” Abu Bashir was happy to report. “We felt as if we were in another country,” the mother of four told Reuters.
Are all the Gaza Strip beaches clean now?
According to the Hamas-run Environment Quality and Water Authority, the sewage that had been being dumped into the sea is partially treated at this time. This means that 65 percent of the beaches are safe and clean, with that number growing as time goes on.
“The summer season in Gaza Strip will be relatively safe compared to previous years because of the noticeable improvement of the quality of seawater,” explained Mohammed Mesh, director of environmental resources.
This isn’t just good news for beachgoers but also for business owners who are situated along the strip. Rama Al-Naa’ouq, the owner of “The Old Nights,” a beachfront resort in the southern Gaza Strip, is happy to see his business booming this season.
“When there is no pollution, I will have many customers in my place. That helps me make up for the losses of innovating and getting the place ready for the new year,” he said.