Ref: 29/2012

 

On Thursday morning, 15 March 2012, the
Economic and Social Rights Unit in the Palestinian Center for Human Rights
(PCHR) organized a workshop titled "Power Crisis in the Gaza Strip… Is It
Financial or Political?" This workshop was organized in the context of the
PCHR’s follow-up to the power crisis in the Gaza Strip and the right to receive
basic services.  The workshop was held in
the Commodore Hotel in Gaza City.  It was
attended by a number of representatives of governmental institutions,
non-government organizations, community-based organizations, the disabled
associations, workers in the electricity sector, in addition to the media and a
interested people.

 

Dr. Fadel al-Mzaini, a researcher in PCHR’s
Economic and Social Rights Unit, opened the workshop welcoming the
participants.  He pointed out that this
workshop was organized in the context of PCHR’s follow-up to the power crisis
in the Gaza Strip that started 6 years ago, as PCHR pays a special attention to
this crisis.  Dr. al-Mzaini stressed that
holding this workshop resulted from the absence of any expectations to end the
crisis completely, especially under contradictory statements in this regard and
the obscurity of assuming responsibility. 
Besides, he pointed out that PCHR had warned against the aggravation of
the power crisis, as it has direct repercussions on the life of 1.6 million
civilians in the Gaza Strip.  Dr.
al-Mzaini questioned the inability of the Palestinian Authority to offer basic
services to the Palestinians, in addition, he wondered about the reasons that
led to the crisis exacerbation and doubling the number of hours of outages, in
spite of rehabilitating the power plant?

 

In his intervention, Khalil Shaheen, Director
of PCHR’s Economic and Social Rights Unit, raised the question that Palestinian
civilians have to pay the electricity billd that increased, but receive the
power for a few hours.  He asked: “Are
Palestinian civilians obliged to search for alternatives that add extra
financial burden on them and endanger their children’s lives? Who is
responsible for the political conflict and involving the civilians in this
conflict with disregard for their dignity and right to a free and decent
life?”  Shaheen added that Palestinian
civilians in the Gaza Strip have been wondering who is responsible for the
ongoing power crisis with the unavailability of real prospects to solve the
problem.  He also said that it is claimed
that the power crisis is a technical crisis throughout the Gaza Strip.  Shaheen called for admitting that all parties
could end the crisis in two years, if not in the past five years.  Furthermore, the Palestinian civilians do not
have to bear any consequences resultant from this crisis and the authorities
have to ensure providing them with power.

 

In his presentation titled "Impact of the
Power Crisis on Services Offered by the Electricity Distribution Company in the
Gaza Strip," Mr. Jamal al-Dardasawi, Public Relations Officer in Gaza
Electricity Distribution Company (GEDCO), talked about the current crisis.  He said that GEDCO is firstly affected by the
power outages, and it is the link between people and official bodies.  Al-Dardasawi explained that GEDCO does not
have sufficient power to be distributed. Besides, it is unable to collect the
due payments from people, which constitute a major resource for the Company, as
the percentage of the bills collected constitute 30% of the due payments.  Al-Dardasawi denied that GEDCO is unable to
absorb additional power, pointing out that the electricity network can absorb
all what is produced by the power plant. 
He also said that the power received by the electricity network is
distributed on the civilians according to a timetable, pointing out that the
frequent outages result in heavy damage to the network.

 

Dr. Rafeeq Maleeha, Director of the Power Plant
in Gaza, spoke about the reasons of shutting down the plant, pointing out that
the plant can generate 140 MW, but it needs continuous maintenance.  He added that the plant had worked in the
past period, but the Palestinian Authority is indebted to the plant by US$ 30
million.  Dr. Maleeha said that the Gaza
Strip needs an immediate solution that guarantees finding a major and steady
source of fuel.  Besides, the power
crisis has to be urgently ended.  This
needs conjugated efforts and regional agreement, which will take 3-5 years.

 

In his presentation titled "Responsibility
of the Energy Authority to Provide Electricity Services," Engineer Ahmed
Abu al-‘Amrein, Director of Energy Information Center in the Energy Authority
in Gaza, pointed out that the power crisis lies in the lack of fuel supplies
necessary for the operation of the power plant.  Answering the questions raised with regard to
the responsibility of the Energy Authority for offering fuel to the power
plant, Abu al-‘Amrein said that we live under exceptional conditions, as we
live under the Israeli occupation and closure. 
However, the Energy Authority has exerted all efforts to provide the
plant with the fuel, according to Abu al-‘Amrein.

 

Engineer Yehya Shamiya, Member of the
Palestinian Legislative Council and the founder of GEDCO in Gaza, described the
current crisis as a political and security crisis primarily.  He pointed to the financial resources
invested in the electricity sector and turning the power plant into a national
company in order to improve the electricity sector to meet the Gaza Strip’s
needs.  Shamiya recommended that the
power plant be fully responsible for obtaining the fuel, whether natural gas,
diesel or industrial fuel, needed for its operation.



Dr. Fadel al-Mzaini, gave a chance for the
participants’ discussions, as a number of participants raised questions and
presented interventions.
 The
participants recommended the following:

 

 The
Energy Authority in Ramallah and Gaza has to be unified in order to put an end
to the power crisis.  Besides, the Energy
Authority has to exert all necessary efforts to provide the power plant in Gaza
with fuel.

 As a
Palestinian company with a Palestinian capital, the power plant in Gaza has to
be responsible for the fuel needed for its operation in order to avoid the
ramifications of the political conflict between the parties in offering
electricity services in Ramallah and Gaza.

 The
professional and technical considerations have to be prioritized over the
political ones, as the latter left more suffering behind.

 They
called the Palestinian President to personally and immediately intervene to
provide the power plant in Gaza with fuel.

 Calling
upon the Energy Authority in Gaza to assume its legal responsibility under the
Energy Authority’s law, particularly in the field of coordination between GEDCO
and the power plant and in providing the power plant with fuel to overcome the
current crisis.