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Ref: 04/2015

 

The deaths of 26 persons, including 21 children, are not enough to
solve the end the electricity crisis?!

The Palestinian
Center for Human Rights (PCHR) expresses its deep concern over the failure of
the parties responsible for managing the electricity sector in the Gaza Strip to
solve the power crisis which has exacerbated with the beginning of the new
year. PCHR further condemns dragging of the Palestinian people into the political
conflict. The population of the Strip has lost many lives in their search for
alternative energy sources during the harsh weather conditions which hit the
area. PCHR calls upon the Palestinian Unity Government to assume its legal and
moral responsibilities towards the 1.8 million people living in the Strip who
suffer a suffocating economic and social siege. Furthermore, the residents of
the strip have been suffering deteriorating health and environment services,
including the deterioration of water and sewage infrastructure, as well as
educational, social, and economic services.

 

According to
PCHR’s follow-up of the chronic power crisis which started 8 years ago and
aggravated with the break of the new year, PCHR noticed the following:

 The Gaza
Electricity Distribution Company (GEDCO) and the Palestinian Energy Authority
announced their need for industrial diesel to operate the power plant and
fulfill the needs of the residents.

 The Energy
Authority in Ramallah, under the guidance of the Palestinian Unity Government, has
sent  2,774,000,000 liters of industrial
diesel enough to supply the needs of Gaza till 12 January 2015 through “Kerem
Shalom” border crossing since the first day of the new year.

 On
13 January 2015, the Palestinian Energy Authority announced that they were
doing their best to provide fuel for the power plant. They also said that due
to the strangling economic conditions in the Strip and the severe shortage of
collected money, they, along with GEDCO, borrowed money and transferred it to
the Ministry of Finance and the General Committee of Fuel to provide limited
amounts of fuel to supply the increasing demand for power during the polar depression
that hit the region. The Energy Authority confirmed that the imported amount of
fuel was hardly enough to operate the power plant for one day. They said they would
ration its use in order to get the most of it in operating the plant.

 The
Energy Authority in Gaza pointed out in its response to the statements of the official
in charge of the energy file in the Unity Government that it was hard to
provide 8 hours of electricity daily due to the lack of fuel. They demanded
Ramallah to exempt fuel purchases from taxes to ensure the operation of the
power plant and the distribution of electricity for 8 hours daily.

 The
Energy Authority in Gaza announced that they were not be operating the plant
despite the availability of the needed industrial diesel and saved it to the
expected polar low which was to hit the region the coming days.  On 04 January 2015, only one of the power generators
was operated to distribute electricity for six hours and then cut off for 12
hour. On 06 January 2015, two generators in the power plant were operated thus
providing 60-63 megawatts of electricity added to 120 megawatts from Israel and
32 megawatts supplied by Egypt.

 The
Energy Authority stated on their website that the available amount of energy is
215 megawatts which represent 67% of the total needs of the Strip during the
winter and summer consumption peak which is estimated at 320 megawatts. However,
the population suffered severe shortage of electricity as they had 4-6 hours of
electricity daily during the past 2 weeks. Some reported that they had access
to electricity only 4-6 hours in 48 hours.

 Complaints
and protests of the population escalated during the crisis and peaked after the
deaths of two children and injury of their father when fire broke out in their
house on 03 January 2015. The incident increased the number of victims who lost
their lives searching for alternative power sources to 26, including 21
children. The conditions of the electricity infrastructure continue to
deteriorate.

 The population
of the Strip has to bear extra costs although they do not have access to the necessary
power to meet their needs. They cannot find alternative energy sources as the
temperature reached its lowest levels during the polar depression, especially
with the shortage of the cooking gas. Nearly half a million students of all
school stages are suffering during their preparation for the final exams of the
first term of 2014-2015 school year. Residents of multi-storey buildings
suffered the obstruction of their movement and the conflict between the daily schedules
of water and electricity distribution. Patients, the elderly and people with
disabilities have suffered trying to access health services.

 It
should be noted that dozens of thousands of civilian facilities, including
houses and economic establishments no longer require electricity, thus decreasing
the amount of actual demand. Nonetheless, PCHR is fully aware of the systematic
destruction of the electricity infrastructure by the Israeli forces during
their last offensive against the Strip.

 

PCHR strongly
condemns the complete failure to manage the electricity crisis and the
deterioration of the power shortage which damaged most vital sectors necessary
for the decent life of Gaza population. PCHR asserts that:

1. The
current electricity crisis is completely political. It is a result of the absence
of honest Palestinian unity and the continuous political conflict despite the
establishment of a unity government. PCHR holds the Unity Government, the Energy
Authority in Gaza and GEDCO responsible for the aggravation of the crisis. PCHR
calls upon the Unity Government to immediately take initiative and open a full
objective investigation into the crisis.

2. The Palestinian
Unity Government must assume its authority in managing the energy sector in the
Gaza Strip and take all financial and administrative measurements to ensure transparency
and honesty. Furthermore, the Unity government must work to improve the electricity
infrastructure in the light of the extremely difficult circumstances. 

3. The
results of the failure of official bodies to handle the crisis should not be
shouldered by the residents who are committed to paying their monthly bills.
Therefore, official bodies must provide those individuals of their deserved
electricity service in all circumstances.

4. The
government and the Energy Authority have applied a mechanism by which the
Ministry of Finance collects money from government employees in advance and
GEDCO obliges the consumers to pay their bills and cuts the power off those who
do not pay. Thus, many questions and suspicions arise regarding the amount of
collected money and the availability of money needed for the industrial fuel
and electricity supplies obtained form Israel.

5. The total
closure imposed by Israeli forces for 8 years have contributed to the deterioration
of the catastrophic economic conditions of thousands of families. Therefore,
the mechanisms by which aid is provided for these families should be
reconsidered in cooperation with the ministries and competent authorities, to
take into consideration helping them in paying their electricity bills.

6. All
competent authorities must conduct campaigns for increasing awareness regarding
alternative energy sources to limit dangers of their misuse. All the population
of the Gaza Strip should follow the general heath rules and keep children safe
from the dangers of alternative lighting means.

7. An
independent professional committee, which should includes skilled individuals
in cooperation with representatives of the private and civil sectors,
 must be established to help the
unity government manage this sector which raises concerns of all people.