The Palestinian Environmental NGOs Network (PENGON) and MA’AN Development Center in cooperation with Heinrich Böll Foundation’s Palestine & Jordan Office published a study on “2014 War on Gaza Strip: Participatory Environmental Impact Assessment” in October 2015. The study was prepared by Dr. Ahmad Safi and a group of assistant researchers. The study discusses the findings of a participatory assessment that was performed between May and September 2015, investigating the environmental impacts of the July/August 2014 war on the Gaza Strip “Operation Protective Edge.”
The study and its findings are based on participatory research in which more than ten experts and almost a thousand Palestinians from the Gaza Strip participated. The research aims to identify potential environmental impacts of the 2014 war on Gaza (Operation Protective Edge). The assessment was conducted by a team of eight researchers, mostly new environmental science and environmental engineering graduates led by an environmental scientist.
As part of this study, 12 experts representing different governmental, educational, and non-governmental organizations interested in the issue of environment were interviewed. Additionally, 93 focus group sessions were conducted in 25 localities around the Gaza Strip in which 982 people participated. In addition, air samples were gathered from ten locations around the Gaza Strip to investigate potential air pollution with particulate matters and lead. Some municipalities’ staff members were brought in to investigate increased water pollution claims, and field trips were conducted to some communities to investigate claims of changes in the terrestrial ecosystems around the Strip.
The assessment is exploratory in nature as it aims at identifying questions that need further investigation to be answered. It is also participatory and so it does not establish facts, but gives voice to the people who suffer the most from wars including the last war of 2014. This assessment strives to widen the scope of interest for researchers and scientists interested in investigating the environmental impacts of the last war “Operation Protective Edge” and it hopes to be the seed from which many studies will blossom.
In this study, the researchers were able to identify many potential environmental impacts. The soil in many areas targeted by rockets or land invasions became infertile and in need of intensive rehabilitation. The air quality in areas in which demolition waste removal activities are still taking place is largely degraded with particulate matter and even lead. In many areas, losses in the number of wild animals and birds were noticed. Previously not well-known weeds are now aggressively distressing lands that were invaded by bulldozers and heavy machines causing harm to farmers. Rodent, animal, and insect nuisances are widely noticed in areas with huge amounts of demolition waste is still present. Fishermen noticed the decrease in availability of many fish types and an increase of others. No significant changes in water quality were noticed, but experts expect heavy metal pollution to be observed in the future.
In the study, the researchers discuss both the immediate and delayed potential environmental impacts of the 2014 war “Operation Protective Edge” on the Gaza Strip. They describe the assessment methodology in details. Then they list and discuss the results of the outcomes of this assessment. They later recommend further investigations and assessment work in addition to some interventions to assist those who suffered the most from the environmental impacts of the war as identified by this assessment.
The study can be downloaded from the link below: