GAZA CITY (AP) Nearly every household in Gaza Strip depends on batteries to keep it running. This is a result of years-long power outages.
These batteries have helped to mitigate one crisis. However, they are causing another crisis by accumulating large amounts of old and unused batteries in a region that isn’t equipped to dispose of them safely.
There is a real risk that these batteries are randomly collected and stored in the open, not in warehouses, according to Mohammed Musleh, an official of Gazas Environment Authority.
He stated that the most serious threat to the battery’s integrity is the release of sulfuric acid-containing liquid into the soil and water aquifer.
The Gaza Environment Authority estimates that there are approximately 25,000 tons of batteries lying around in the overcrowded coastal territory. There are no recycling facilities in Gaza, and Egypt and Israel have imposed a severe blockade that prevents the safe shipping of batteries abroad.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA), used batteries pose a variety of risks to the environment and public health. While different types of batteries may contain potentially hazardous metals like lead, mercury, and cadmium; some batteries can catch on fire.
These risks are especially acute for Gaza, where the health-care system is already in crisis and the environment is already in a difficult place. Due to the high saline levels resulting from overextraction, almost all Gaza’s water is unfit for drinking.
Israel bombed Gaza’s only power plant in 2006 during fighting and imposed a blockade on Egypt in the following year, after Hamas militants seized control of the strip from other Palestinian forces. The result was a daily blackout lasting at least eight hours. This was punctuated by longer outages that can last days during winter storms and conflicts.
This has made batteries an integral part of daily life for the 2 million residents.
A hazardous waste unit is located in Gaza City, which is designed to dispose of old batteries safely. Ahmed Abu Abdu is the head of this hazardous waste unit. He says that very few batteries reach his facility. Instead, a small private business has emerged.
Every day, people in Gaza call over loudspeakers to ask for old batteries. Old batteries can fetch as much as $2 per piece depending on their size.
Khaled Ayyad, one of many merchants who buy the batteries, is one of many. He has kept the batteries in northern Gaza for eight years.
Ayyad’s goal is to export the batteries and make decent profits.
He said that if the Israeli side allows them (batteries), it must allow them to leave Gaza. We can sell them to factories all over the globe, including in Europe and Israel.
However, exporting batteries is still prohibited and Ayyad now faces a new dilemma: He has approximately 500 tons of batteries stored in his warehouse.
He cannot resell, export, or dump them and has been paying storage fees. So, he sent a message out to Hamas: We request that the Egyptian officials speak with us about exporting them to Gaza.
There is a precedent. In recent years, trade cooperation between Egypt and Hamas has been boosted by a crossing in Rafah. It is used primarily to deliver goods such as construction materials, fuel, and tobacco products into Gaza. It has also been used for shipping scrap metal to Egypt.
Ayyads warehouse is concrete, but most other storage locations are outside, which can lead to spillages of hazardous materials directly into the soil.
There have not been any studies done on the danger to the environment. However, research by a Gaza neurologist and an environmental science expert in 2013 found that children exposed to lead from people who deal with discarded batteries could be at different levels of poisoning.
Hamas authorities have since 2017 banned the importation of secondhand batteries in an effort to reduce danger.
Al-Mezan Center for Human Rights in Gaza, which is based in Gaza, issued a 2018 report warning of the danger of batteries.
Hussein Hammad, of the rights group, said that there is a problem. The batteries have begun to affect human rights, including the right of health, the right for clean environment, and the right of life.