The report, “Environmental Assessment of the Gaza Strip: following the escalation of hostilities in December 2008-January 2009,” was requested in February by the UNEP Governing Council, made up of environment ministers from 58 countries, including Israel and the United States.
“The international community has indicated its willingness to assist with providing technical, financial and diplomatic assistance in order to turn environmental restoration into an opportunity for cooperation and restoration,” said UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner.
The report finds that strikes on buildings and other infrastructure have generated 600,000 metric tonnes of demolition debris, some of which is contaminated with asbestos. The removal and safe disposal of rubble is calculated at over US$7 million.
An estimated 17 percent of cultivated land, including orchards and greenhouses, was severely affected. The report estimates the costs in terms of damage to farmers’ livelihoods alongside clean-up measures at around US$11 million.
Other impacts include sewage spills as a result of power cuts to treatment facilities. Some of the sewage is likely to have percolated through the Gaza Strip’s porous soils into the groundwater, the report finds.