I found this interesting article in the Ecologist today setting out a vision for providing stable power supplies in Gaza, by solar power expert Keith Barnham, of Imperial College London. A major problem with the blockade of Gaza has been electricity – residents describe it as one of the most soul-destroying aspects of life there. And in July the only power plant in Gaza was destroyed by Israeli fire.
I can’t really imagine living somewhere when you only have a few hours of electricity each day, and not even knowing when they will happen. It means any industrial processes or high-tech industry is unfeasible. It destroys a country’s development.
Barnham’s vision is for a massive investment in wind and solar power in Gaza, by the international community, to power the relief efforts. It would remove the country’s dependence on Israeli supplies. “Fundamentally the conflict is about who owns the land, trees, water and holy sites. But no one owns the wind above the land and the sunlight falling on the land.”
Electricity is also an issue in the West Bank, with supplies often being cut-off, or threats being issued. I was following the spats between Israel and the West Bank earlier in the year, when the Israel Electric Company (basically a state-owned, state-controlled company) was trying to recover massive debts totaling billions of dollars from the PA, and threatening to end supplies to the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Obviously the PA can’t pay these debts, but neither is its jurisdiction properly recognised. So it is liable? I gather that the debts were run up by illegal harvesting of electricity via tapping into the cables – so not directly a PA action but something no doubt the Electrical Company sees as the responsibility of a local government to prevent. Perhaps solar power is the answer for the West Bank too! I didn’t see many solar panels when I visited Bethlehem.