Palestinian children play in a pool inside Sharm Park in Gaza city, on July 5, 2018. An artificial wave pool in the Palestinian Gaza Strip has become an essential attraction for Gazans who have been unable to swim in the enclave's polluted sea. (Xinhua/Stringer)
GAZA, July 7 (Xinhua) -- An artificial wave pool in the Palestinian Gaza Strip has become an essential attraction for Gazans who have been unable to swim in the enclave's polluted sea.
At Sharm Park in Gaza city, Zakariya al-Banna and his family enjoyed swimming in Gaza's first ever wave pool.
"I resort to safe and clean swimming pools as an alternative to the sea, which is extremely polluted ... this pool is just like a small sea," al-Banna, a civil engineer, said as he observed his kids swimming.
Municipalities in Gaza have been pumping sewage into the Mediterranean Sea due to the lack of wastewater treatment. The territory has been suffering power outages and fuel shortages since Israel imposed a tight blockade in 2007.
Palestinian water and ecology authorities have been unable to import the parts necessary for the maintenance and repairs of water and sewage pumping stations, as Israel bans the entry of such spare parts and machines.
The sea is considered the only relief for Gaza's 2 million populations in an enclave plagued by conflict and hardships.
Beachgoers find themselves exposed to clear health risks when swimming in sewage-contaminated seawater as the 40-km long coastline of the Gaza Strip is exposed to many kinds of pollution and harmful practices that negatively affect the marine environment and other aspects of public life.
"The idea of having waves in a pool makes children so happy as if they are really swimming in the sea," al-Banna said.
Al-Banna said that none of his family has swum in the sea for two years.
Not far away from al-Banna, Sahar al-Dalo, a school headmistress, was enjoying a glass of iced fresh juice at the poolside.
"We do not go to the beach because the sea is seriously contaminated," the lady said. "We do not even go to relax at the beach because of the bad smell coming out of the sea."
The lady said going to tourist resorts might be costly, "but still safer than going to the polluted sea."
Industrial wave technology is widely available in a number of countries in the Middle East, but it is unprecedented in the Gaza Strip.
The pollution off the beaches along the Mediterranean was a major reason why the park owners decided to build the wave pools, despite the high costs.
"Almost two years ago, we contacted major international companies specializing in water jet equipment and artificial wave technology from countries such as China, India and Germany," Mohammed Abu Qassem, head of maintenance and development at Sharm Park, told Xinhua.
However, he said, Israel banned the import of the artificial wave equipment. "Then we had to manufacture the equipment in Gaza."
"The Israeli ban doubled the cost of the project ... it also took us two years to complete (construction of) the pool," he said.
Abu Qassem noted that the computer-controlled machines can produce 10 different kinds of waves.
But he complained that the pool can only produce waves for 10 minutes every half an hour due to power cuts and large consumption of power generators.
The Gaza Strip needs 600 MW of electricity a day, with only 139 MW currently available, 70 of which is supplied by Israel and 14 from Egypt, while the rest is generated by Gaza's sole power plant, applying an emergency schedule for electricity distribution since 2006.
Gaza runs on an eight-hour cycle for electricity, under which power is supplied for eight hours and cut for eight hours in the normal condition.
In a worse scenario, power is on for only six hour a day or less, especially during summer and winter.