شمعة و كهرباء = electricity and candle
There are rolling black-outs in the Gaza Strip every day. In fact, most families know when they will have electricity and when they won’t — almost like clockwork. 10-12 hours on, 10-12 hours off.
When the power shuts down, the commercial areas and more well-to-do residential neighborhoods have back-up generators. The sound of all those generators running on the sidewalks with extension cords stretched into the stores is deafening. Omar al Mokhtar Street, a major commercial center in downtown Gaza City, is particularly noisy. And these generators can’t be good for the air quality.
The homes without generators either use battery-powered lamps or candles when the electricity is cut. You might think — “That’s not so bad. Almost sounds romantic!”
The reality is horrific! Three entire families have died this winter in Gaza when the candles burned their homes down. Mother, father and all the children in each family.
And having the power cut for hours each day is extremely disruptive for all sorts of activities we take for granted in the West, such as cooking, washing clothes, researching on the Internet or Skyping with family or colleagues. Gazans consciously plan their schedules around the electricity schedule.
The Gisha Legal Center reports that nearly 26% of the electricity demand is not being met.
Today the Gaza Strip needs a total electricity supply of 280 MW at times of peak demand in the summer and winter: 120 MW comes from Israel, 17 MW from Egypt and the rest of the needed electricity, 143 MW, is supposed to be supplied by the Gaza power plant, whose actual manufacturing capacity is limited to 60-70 MW because of shortages of spare parts and/or industrial diesel. Therefore, there is a permanent deficit in Gaza of at least 73 MW, or nearly 26% of the required electricity.
As a result, the Gaza Strip is subject to power outages, lasting 35-40 hours per week. In addition to the impact on the daily lives of Gaza residents, the power outages disrupt the normal functioning of civilian infrastructure in the Gaza Strip, including health and educational institutions, water and sewage facilities and the agricultural sector.
Who is to blame for putting 1.7 million people in the dark in the 21st century?
Press TV says the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip is responsible. Sufficient quantities of industrial diesel are not being allowed into Gaza. And Al Jazeera notes that Israel will not allow the mechanical parts to enter Gaza that are needed to repair and support the power station.
Israel counters that it has recently upgraded parts of the electrical grid, according to the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The Jewish Press points the finger at Hamas and reports:
There is a power shortfall in Gaza, chiefly because the Hamas regime which rules Gaza has, as a matter of deliberate and very cynical policy, refused to allow the import of fuel from Israel, resulting in its one and only power station operating at 20% capacity.
Wherever the truth may lie, Gaza’s future clearly depends on gaining control over its own power. Alternative energy must be the answer, and engineering students at the Islamic University of Gaza are designing exciting new projects to meet this challenge.