“As soon as I enter the water and take the waves, I feel free and happy, I replace all the negative energy with positive energy”, enthuses the young woman of 22 years. “For years I had not surfed”.

Marine pollution has worsened in recent years in the Gaza Strip, a micro-territory of 2.3 million inhabitants under Israeli blockade, where the Mediterranean Sea had become the receptacle of wastewater for lack of enough treatment plants. effective.

These, too small given the scale of the problem, also depend on the electricity supply from the only local power station, damaged by Israeli strikes during the wars with Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist movement in power in Gaza.

But last year, a large German-funded plant began operating in the center of the territory, treating around 60,000 cubic meters of wastewater per day, a volume that corresponds to half of the enclave’s discharges, according to Mohamed Masleh, an official at the Ministry of Environment in Gaza.

Thanks to the installation of pumps connected to the plant, to the filtering of the water and to a better electrical connection, with generators and solar panels, the quality of the water has improved significantly, in evidence from water samples recently taken at sea and analyzed by local authorities, explains Mr. Masleh.

Now, 65% of Gaza’s beaches are suitable for swimming, he said.

– Escape –

The treatment plant, located in Bureij, is a clear game-changer in the Palestinian territory where 300 million dollars (283 million euros) of projects have been financed for 10 years to address the problem of wastewater, according to Maher Najjar , Deputy Director of the Coastal Waters Authority.

After filtering the water in Bureij, 60 tons of waste are recovered every day, as many residues that do not end up in the Mediterranean, he notes, hoping for completely healthy water in Gaza within two years.

With the school holidays having recently started and the summer temperatures, the frequentation of the beaches, one of the only breaths of air in this territory undermined by poverty and wedged between the Mediterranean, Israel and Egypt, has skyrocketed.

If Sabah Abou Ghanem has decided to get back on her surfboard since the authorities announced in early June that the sea was clean again, she admits to being reluctant to send her children there who “have sensitive skin and could catch infections “.

Sitting on the beach in Gaza City with her children and grandchildren, Oum Ibrahim Sidr is also reserved.

“I said no one should bathe but we couldn’t control the children when they saw all these people in the water and they went anyway,” said the 64-year-old Palestinian.

One of his grandsons, Ibrahim, 13, insists on staying in the water despite his salt-reddened eyes. “I had missed swimming in the sea”.