The Israeli government allows Gazan farmers only two randomly distributed hours of electricity each day, so all of the farm’s infrastructure—its greenhouse, tabun, rainwater harvesting tank, water pump, and seed bank—must operate off the grid. Through a series of ingenious regenerative practices, such as the use of solar power to maintain the greenhouse and to activate the water pump and irrigation system, farmers have been able to survive despite this unreliable access. Instead, they use what little electricity they do receive for other necessities. “We usually have a couple of hours of electricity a day,” says Amir Qudaih, “which we often use to charge our mobile phones. For everything else, we don’t use electricity.”
Gaza’s sole power plant stopped operating this morning due to a fuel shortage caused by Israel’s decision to block entry of fuel to Gaza via Kerem Shalom Crossing. Since Thursday, August 13, Israel has barred all entry of fuel to Gaza, one of several measures imposed, which amount to collective punishment. Since Tuesday, August 11, Israel has also blocked the entry of construction materials and banned access to the “fishing zone” it enforces in the Strip’s sea space. Officials at the power plant estimate that Gaza residents will now receive no more than four consecutive hours of electricity, followed by outages of between 14 and 16 hours, in each 24-hour period. Given the typical spike in demand during the summer, power may only be available for four hours a day.
Source: Gisha August 18, 2020. https://gisha.org/updates/11450
Power comes from three sources: Israel, Egypt and our single functional power plant, which runs on fuel. Before the current crisis, these sources provided roughly half of Gaza’s electricity needs. Then there was a dispute between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas over payment for the fuel, both refused to pay, and the plant shut down in April, reducing the overall supply by about 25%.
In June, Israel acceded to a Palestinian Authority request to cut the electricity it provided to Gaza in order to “dry up” funds to Hamas. This reduced supply by another 30%. That same month, Egypt began providing the fuel needed for the power plant, and the plant reopened. Even so, […] the new norm [is] four hours of electricity a day or less.
No electricity means trying to sleep in 95-degree weather without fans or air conditioning, but with the constant humming of generators. It means showering with only a trickle of water, scrambling to keep phones and laptops charged and never buying more than a day’s worth of meat or milk.
It means always taking the stairs to avoid the risk of getting stuck in an elevator. It means planning your outings around blackouts and checking the electricity schedule for a friend’s neighborhood before visiting. I have it better than most. Some children must do their homework by candlelight because their families cannot afford generators. Small business owners, already struggling, have had to dramatically reduce operations and use expensive generators to keep the lights on. For many families, swimming in the sea offers the only real relief from the grim day-to-day in Gaza, and they now must contend with spikes in sewage effluent as blackouts cripple treatment plants. Kidney patients in need of dialysis, which requires an uninterrupted electrical supply, are at particular risk. Having no electricity makes life a struggle for everyone in Gaza; for the vulnerable, it can mean life or death.