The rubble brings opportunities and risks to Gaza

The Gaza Strip, a Palestinian area on the Mediterranean Sea, has few jobs, little electricity and almost no natural resources. But after four wars with Israel in just over 10 years, there are many destroyed buildings or rubble.

Local businesses are now finding ways to profit from the rubble left behind after years of conflict.

The Gaza Strip suffers from a shortage of building materials. Thus, a new industry has started to reuse stones, bricks and concrete rubble. It provides money to certain people. But some worry that reused rubble is not of high quality and could be dangerous.

“It’s a lucrative business,” said Naji Sarhan, who oversees housing in the territory. He added: “We are trying to monitor and correct the misuse of these materials.”

Israel and Gaza’s Hamas leaders have gone to war four times since the Islamic militant group seized control of the territory in 2007. The most recent fighting took place in May. Israeli airstrikes damaged or destroyed tens of thousands of buildings in the fighting.

The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) says it has worked with local companies to remove around 2.5 million tonnes of rubble left behind by the wars. Gaza’s housing ministry said the 11-day war in May left an additional 270,000 tonnes.

This includes the Al-Jawhara building in downtown Gaza. Over the past three months, workers have been dismantling the large building floor by floor. They separated twisted rubble metal, to be straightened and reused as building material.

Israel and Egypt maintained a blockade on Gaza over the past 15 years. The blockade limits the entry of much-needed building materials into the region. Israel says such restrictions are necessary to prevent Hamas from using things like concrete and steel for military purposes. Since 2014, it has authorized certain imports. But thousands of homes need to be repaired or rebuilt, and shortages are widespread.

UNDP has placed restrictions on the reuse of materials. He says the renewed rubble is not safe enough to be used in building homes and other structures. But it can be split into smaller pieces to be used for road projects.

Palestinian workers make concrete bricks from recycled rubble. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)

UN road projects have provided a partial solution to the rubble problem. But most of Gaza’s rubble continues to be used by private companies. Sarhan said it is illegal to use renewed rubble in major constructions. But he said it was very difficult to enforce this ban.

Ahmed Abu Asaker is an engineer in Gaza. Many brickyards use the rubble, he said, which is not a “big concern”. But he said a few times he was mixed with concrete, which is much more dangerous.

No building collapses were reported. But Abu Asaker estimates that thousands of homes have been built with materials from repurposed rubble since 2014.

Antar al-Katatni runs a brick factory that uses materials from the rubble. He said that internationally supported projects do not use his bricks because they are not allowed to do so. But “poor people do it,” he added.

A brick costs 2 shekels, or about 65 cents, when made from higher quality Israeli materials. The price of those made by al-Katatni is 1.7 or 1.8 shekels. A building often requires several thousand bricks and the difference in price can save a poor family a lot of money.

I am Dan Novak.

The Associated Press reported this story. Dan Novak adapted it for VOA Learning English.


words in this story

concrete —​ nm a hard, strong material used for construction and made by mixing cement, sand, and broken rocks with water

lucrative adj. to produce money or wealth

twisted v. bend or twist to change its shape

blockadenm an act of war in which a country uses ships to prevent people or supplies from entering or leaving another country

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