GAZANearly every household in Gaza Strip depends on batteries to keep it running, 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 danger of these batteries being collected and stored in random places in the open air. Not in warehouses, stated Mohammed Musleh from 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 used batteries pose a number of threats to public health as well as the environment. While different types of batteries may contain dangerous metals, such as mercury, lead, or cadmium; some 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 sole power station during a 2006 fighting round and imposed the blockade against Egypt the year following the takeover of power by Hamas militants from rival Palestinian forces. The result: A daily blackout lasting at most eight hours, punctuated by longer outages that can extend for days during winter storms or conflict.
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, the head of the hazardous waste unit, claims that very few batteries reach him. A small private sector has sprung up instead.
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 been collecting the batteries for eight years and storing them in a warehouse in northern Gaza.
Ayyad’s goal is to export the batteries and make decent profits.
He stated that the Israeli side has allowed the batteries (to Gaza) to be brought in, and it must allow them to leave. “We can sell them in factories in Israel, Europe and around the world.
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 them, export them or dump them. In addition, he has been paying storage charges. 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. Through a crossing at Rafah, Egypt and Hamas have increased trade cooperation in recent times. It is used primarily to transport goods such as construction materials, fuel, and tobacco products into Gaza. It has also been used for shipping scrap metal to Egypt.
Ayyads warehouse has concrete floors, but most other storage locations can spill hazardous materials into the soil.
Although no studies have been done on the impact of lead exposure on the environment, research by a Gaza neurologist and an environmental scientist in 2013 found that children exposed to lead from people who use discarded batteries could be at risk.
Hamas authorities have since 2017 banned the importation of secondhand batteries in an effort to reduce danger.
Al-Mezan Center for Human Rights based in Gaza issued a 2018 warning about the danger from batteries.
Hussein Hammad, a rights group member, stated 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.
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