By Gulsen Cagatay and Ebru Sengul
Turkish energy officials' visit to the Gaza Strip was crucial to show solidarity to the Palestinians in their plight to solve the major power outage problem, the Palestinian Ambassador to Ankara has said.
Turkish energy officials met their Palestine counterparts in Gaza to find a feasible solution to the decades-long electricity problems in mid-July 2016.
Faed Mustafa, the Palestinian ambassador to Ankara, told Anadolu Agency in an interview Tuesday that the majority of power outages persist mainly in the Gaza Strip rather than in the West Bank.
Mustafa also said that the Gaza Strip needs at least 450 megawatts of capacity to cover the needs in the region and this is set to rise to 820 megawatts by 2020. However the maximum capacity that is provided now is only 248 megawatts.
He underlined that currently the Palestinian power plant produces 100 megawatts (MW) at full capacity and operates by diesel, while the Israeli line, known as 161, provides 120 megawatts of capacity and finally the Egyptian lines provide 28 megawatts capacity. According to World Bank records in 2013, Palestine's population was 4.17 million.
Turkey's visit was significant
Mustafa said the delegation from the Turkish Ministry of Energy along with business representatives in energy visited Palestine to meet Palestinian officials to identify the nature of the power problems and to determine how Turkey could assist in solving the issue.
"They discussed all possible options to resolve the problem including increased amounts of electricity provided by line 161, the expansion of the current power plant and the conversion from diesel to gas to reduce operational costs, the power line provided by Egypt and well as the possibility of installing a prepaid system and the construction of solar power systems, all to mitigate the suffering of the citizens in Gaza," he explained.
Water issue is a political problem
Mustafa also highlighted what he termed the "political problem" of water shortages in the region. He explained that this issue threatens almost two million people in the Gaza Strip with water shortages.
"The basin has a sustainable estimated capacity of 60 million cubic meters while the actual consumption is about 190 million cubic meters - a deficit and depletion of 130 million cubic meters. As a result of the failure to regulate this process, sea water will penetrate and mix with ground fresh water," he underlined.
He warned that the water quality is a threat to the health of many with the onset of diseases, such as baby blue phenomenon due to the surplus amount of nitrates and kidney diseases due to excess salt in drinking water. The World Health Organization have also cautioned on yellowing of teeth because of the concentration of fluoride in the water, as well as many other diseases.
To solve water issue is vital
Mustafa explained that a rescue program to instigate projects to alleviate the harmful effects of poor water was released in 2011. The projects include the creation of small desalination plants, increasing the amount of water bought from the Israelis, building sewage plants and using treated water for irrigation and reducing the seepage from unlicensed agricultural wells.
"The biggest rescue project involves the construction of a water desalination plant with an initial capacity of 55 million cubic meters per year to be duplicated in the future, building a 43 kilometer-long water pipeline all along the Gaza Strip in addition to networks, reservoirs and carrier lines to reduce water losses," he said.
This project continues to be discussed in partnership with the Union for the Mediterranean and the Islamic Development Bank who agreed to finance 50 percent of the estimated total cost of the project.
Floating electricity ship from Turkey to Gaza
Mustafa welcomed Turkey's proposal to urgently address the electricity shortages in the Gaza Strip through the provision of a floating electricity ship in the Gaza Strip.
"We are really grateful to the Republic of Turkey for its efforts exerted to resolve the problem of electricity in the Gaza Strip, but unfortunately, this proposal has not been accepted by the Israelis and their refusal brought discussions on the project to an end," he said.
Normalization of Israel and Turkey
He reiterated his thanks to Turkey for its support and assistance provided to Palestine, as well as political support for the rights of the Palestinian people.
"We will certainly be confident of any Turkish role in the peace process, I actually believe that the normalization of Turkish relations with Israel will open the way for a greater Turkish role to engage in the process of political settlement related to the Israeli-Arab conflict and the Palestinian cause at the center of it. These are our aspirations," he concluded.