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Palestine: Surviving with Portable Generators in Gaza

The only power plant in Gaza shut down temporarily on June 25, as fuel ran out due to a payment dispute between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority (PA) in Ramallah. The residents of Gaza are now suffering from power cuts for 12 or more hours a day, and have been forced to depend even more on diesel generators.

In 2006 the Israeli Air Force bombed the Gaza Power Plant (GPP), and since that time it has operated at reduced capacity, a situation exacerbated by the imposition of the blockade on Gaza in 2007. The European Union subsidised fuel for the GPP until the end of last year, but that responsibility then passed to the PA in Ramallah. Since that time fuel imports have been in decline, and officials in Gaza claim that the PA has deliberately been curtailing the supply. For its part, the PA has blamed Hamas for not making Gazans pay their electricity bills. (For a detailed report on the history of the electricity crisis and its impact on the humanitarian situation see this United Nations report [pdf].) After a weeklong shutdown, a delivery of fuel means that the power plant is now working at 50-60 percent of its capacity.

Darkness in Gaza, sourced from Free Gaza Movement on Flickr

Generators have become a essential part of life in Gaza. However, more than 100 people are known to have died from fires or carbon monoxide poisoning caused by generators, and earlier this year the international charity Oxfam launched an awareness-raising campaign about using them safely.

Gazan blogger Abu el Sharif writes at Shajar El ba6a6a:

غزة صارت إشي ماشي على مولدات الكهربا…وين ما تروح بأي ساعة من اليوم بتلاقي الموتورات شغالة…و عمالها المدة كل مرة بتطول…زمان كانت تقطع 5-6 ساعات باليوم و الواحد كان بالعها…بس هلأ صارت تقطع بال12 ساعة و يمكن اكتر…
و كل واحد بدور على رزقتوا و فش فيها مشاكل…بس لما يكون مصفوف اكتر من 16 موتور جمب بعض بالسوق…كلهم بطلعوا صوت زي الحمار اللي عندوا عسر هضم و بطلعوا دخان اكتر من المحروس (Eyjafjallajökull) بعز شبابو !
Gaza has become something that works on generators… Wherever you go, at any time of the day, you will find generators working… And they're working for longer and longer… Before it was for 5-6 hours a day, and people were accepting it… But now there are power cuts for 12 hours and sometimes more…
Each person is trying to earn a living, and there are no problems in that… But when more than 16 generators are lined up side by side in the market…all of them making a sound like a donkey which has indigestion, and making more smoke than the precious Eyjafjallajökull in its tender youth!

Abu el Sharif continues:

الواحد بلف و بدور عن الاسباب و الصدمة هي لما يحكولك الخراف هادا…
الاتحاد الاوروبي بطل يدفع مصاري عشان يشتري بنزين للمحطة…هادي قديمة!
و السلطة الفلسطينية هي اللي كانت تدفع المصاري عشان المحطة و زي ما انحكالي 100 مليون شيكل بالشهر !
بس المشكلة انو السلطة الفلسطينية بطلت بدها تدفع بحجة انو السلطة الفلسطينية التانية اللي في غزة بدهاش تشارك بدفع حق البنزين للمحطة…طيييييييب ؟!
بديش ابالغ احكي و كل غزة بتدفع حق فواتير الكهربا عشان كتير من اهلها مش لاقيين…بس يا جماعة تقريبا نص الشعب بدفع فواتير الكهربا…و يا عمي اسمها فواتير الكهربا….يعني للكهربا…يبقى ليش و بأي حجة و تندفع لغايتها و هي الكهربا !!
بضل صراع سياسي بين احزاب و الاهل غزة مطحونين بالنص !
You go around looking for the reasons, but you really get shocked when they tell you such nonsense…
The European Union stopped paying funds to buy fuel for the power station – this we know already!
And the Palestinian Authority was the one which had been paying the money for the power station, from what I was told, 100 million shekels a month!
But the problem is that the Palestinian Authority stopped paying on the pretext that the other Palestinian Authority which is in Gaza did not want to contribute to paying for the fuel for the power station…OK?!
I don't want to exaggerate and say that the whole of Gaza is paying its electricity bills, because many people are unable to… But guys, nearly half the people pay their electricity bills… And they're called electricity bills, meaning for electricity… So why and for what reason are bills paid for this very purpose, electricity??
The political struggle continues between the factions, and the people of Gaza are broken in half.

One result of the widespread use of generators is the increase in pollution of various kinds. Lina Al Sharif, blogging at 360 km2 of Chaos, writes:

Gazans as always find their humble and often risky ways to cope up with the endless obstacles they face. Power generators are problematic solution, while they solve some of the problems, they cause many others.
Most of the buildings have purchased a generator, Gaza has become like one giant factory. These power generators are risky; their choking gas emanations can cause many respiratory diseases. To add insult to the injury, their chugging-like noises are deafening. Walking in the street has become torture: noise, pollution and the hot weather, you go home like you’ve been working as some chimney sweeper!
Many incidents occurred where people were killed or hurt because of these generators.
But it is hard now to imagine life in Gaza without these generators, though they are not human or environment friendly, they still make things a little bit easier for Gazans. Not to mention, it has become a thriving trade to many.

Lina concludes:

The only solution is considering those who are suffering from occupation, siege, and dehumanization, humans who deserve to live in dignity.
And so far politicians are failing to see the humanity of the Palestinians in Gaza.

At group blog Beyond our borders, Derar Mohamed writes:

“What! What have you just said?”… That was me; I was compelled to raise my voice, in an attempt to understand what my friend was trying to tell me few seconds rightly before crossing the street to another. By coincidence, the opposite street was out of electricity because Israel has prevented fuel, used for the electric-power station, from entering the Gaza strip. Therefore, all shopping markets had to turn on their electrical generators to high spot the dusty goods they sell during daylight and night. That scene is one of the most frequent things that occur in the blockaded city. Moreover, a harsh series of offensives and assaults affected, deeply, all aspects of Gazans’ life, from the war-torn infrastructure caused by lack of funds and needed equipments, to the damaged superstructure caused by the destructive Israeli military operations and thorough lack of building materials. But, the closed borders, the damaged facilities and the political tensions are all imposed realities on the people that have nothing to do with it.

He continues:

Since the end of the last Israeli offensive, a full wrong stereotype started to rise inside the global mainstream imagination about Gaza; death, explosions, landmines and destroyed buildings everywhere. With more clear words they used to say: the entrance of Gaza is poles apart from the exit. I tell them yes indeed, it is. You will enter Gaza with your thoughts about lack of security and the death moments. However, you will leave Gaza with much better views, friends and lovely memories. When you visit the historical town of Gaza, when you taste that hot Falafel from Gaza’s restaurants and when you take a picture side by side with a group of Gazan kids. You will definitely come back again, and if you were worried about electricity; don’t worry, generators will just be turned on. So, WELCOME TO GAZA.

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