Israeli firm in Gaza extracts drinking water from air

Israeli firm in Gaza extracts drinking water from air
A solar-powered water generator that extracts potable water straight from the air is seen in Khan Younis in southern Gaza Strip in this Nov. 16, 2020 photo. (AFP)
Short Url
Updated 06 January 2021

Israeli firm in Gaza extracts drinking water from air

Israeli firm in Gaza extracts drinking water from air
  • Technology is suited to Gaza because it runs on solar panels, an asset which does not require imported fuel

GAZA CITY: The densely populated Gaza Strip has long lacked sufficient drinking water, but a new project helps ease the shortage with a solar-powered process to extract potable water straight from the air.

Unusually, the project operating in the Islamist-run Palestinian enclave, which has been blockaded by Israel since 2007, is the brainchild of a Russian-Israeli billionaire, Michael Mirilashvili.

The company he heads, Watergen, has developed the atmospheric water generators that can produce 5,000 to 6,000 liters (1,300 to more than 1,500 gallons) of drinking water per day, depending on the air’s humidity.

With just a few machines operating in Gaza, Watergen is far from meeting demand for the 2 million people who live in the crowded coastal enclave wedged between Israel, Egypt and the Mediterranean Sea.

“But, it’s a start,” said Fathi Sheikh Khalil, an engineer with the Palestinian civil society group Damour, which operates one of the machines because Israeli firms cannot work in Gaza.

The strip, plagued by severe economic woes and regular power shortages, has also been facing a worsening water crisis for years.

Its overused aquifer has been degraded by saltwater intrusion and contaminated by pollutants, making most available water salty and dangerous to drink and forcing the import of bottled water.

Only 3 percent of Gaza’s own water meets international standards, according to the United Nations, which had in 2012 predicted that ecological pressures would have made Gaza “unliveable” by now.

Multiple studies have linked rising rates of kidney stones and high incidence of diarrhea in Gaza to the consumption of substandard water.

Several players are working to solve the water shortage, including the European Union, which is supporting a massive seawater desalination plant.

Watergen’s offices are located in a glass tower in Tel Aviv, some 80 kilometers (50 miles) north of Gaza.

Mirilashvili bought Watergen after moving to Israel in 2009, and the company has since exported its machines to more than 80 countries.

The company CEO and president has a colorful personal history, including time spent in a Russian prison following a kidnapping conviction in a trial the European Court of Justice later found was flawed.

Mirilashvili told AFP that when he learned about Gaza’s water crisis, he immediately wanted to help.

“Our goal was that everyone on Earth could be supplied with drinkable water ... It was immediately clear that we had to help our neighbors first.”

Israel tightly controls imports to Gaza and Mirilashvili acknowledged that getting his machines approved “took some time.”

Israel’s army “liked the idea, but needed to check the equipment,” he said.

Watergen’s technology is suited to Gaza because it runs on solar panels, an asset in the enclave where the one power plant, which requires imported fuel, lacks the capacity to meet demand.

Mirilashvili lamented that he cannot see his machines at work, as Israelis are forbidden from entering the strip.

Watergen has donated two machines, which cost $61,000 each, to Gaza.

A third machine was sent to the strip by the Arava Institute for Environmental Research, based on a kibbutz in southern Israel.

One of the machines, a metal cube that roars as it runs, is located at the town hall in Khan Younis in southern Gaza.

After capturing humidity, the machine condenses it into water and then filters it into instantly drinkable water.

When the air’s humidity level is above 65 percent, Watergen’s machines can produce about 5,000 liters of drinking water per day, said Khalil of the Palestinian group Damour.

An additional 1,000 liters can be produced when the humidity level exceeds 90 percent.

Some of the water is consumed by city hall employees and some transported to a local hospital for patients with kidney problems, Khalil said.

“One or two machines won’t change anything,” he told AFP. But “it shows there is a solution.”


Yemen’s government vows to mitigate effects of Houthi terrorism designation

Yemen’s government vows to mitigate effects of Houthi terrorism designation
A military vehicle is stationed on the tarmac of Yemen’s Aden airport. Yemen says the Stockholm Agreement has failed to bring peace to the country. (File/AFP)
Updated 18 January 2021

Yemen’s government vows to mitigate effects of Houthi terrorism designation

Yemen’s government vows to mitigate effects of Houthi terrorism designation
  • International community urged not to surrender to ‘blackmailing and intimidation’ 
  • Stockholm Agreement has failed to bring peace, Yemen PM said

AL-MUKALLA: Yemen’s prime minister has vowed to address any impact on humanitarian assistance or the remittances of citizens abroad following the US move to designate the Iran-backed Houthis as a terrorist organization.

Maeen Abdul Malik Saeed also urged the international community not to surrender to “Houthi blackmailing” and intimidation.
Saeed defended his government’s strong support of the designation during a virtual interview with foreign journalists sponsored by the Sanaa Center for Strategic Studies.
He said that his government had formed a committee to handle any effects on the delivery of humanitarian assistance inside Houthi-controlled areas and the remittances of Yemenis abroad.
“We are determined to prevent any impact of the decision on the Yemenis. We have formed a committee to mitigate effects of the decision,” he said.
When the US announced its intention to designate the Houthi movement as a terrorist organization last week, Yemen’s government quickly urged the US administration to put the decision in place, predicting it would stop Houthi crimes and their looting of humanitarian assistance, and would smoothe the way for peace.
Referring to the impact of the US designation on peace talks between the Yemeni government and the Houthis, Saeed said that the decision would not undermine peace efforts. He said that the Houthis would be accepted as part of the Yemeni political and social spectrum when they abandoned hard-line ideologies and embraced equality and justice.

The Yemeni government agreed to go to Stockholm for reaching a solution to stop fighting and saving the city. This model has failed.

Maeen Abdul Malik Saeed, Yemen’s prime minister

“This is an important pressure card on them and a real definition of them,” he said, adding that the Yemenis would not allow the Houthi movement to rule them.
“Yemen would not be ruled by a racist and terrorist group,” he said.
Formed under the Riyadh Agreement, Yemen’s new government’s ministers narrowly escaped death on Dec. 30 when three precision-guided missiles ripped through Aden airport shortly after their plane touched down.
The government accused the Houthis of staging the attack, saying that missile fragments collected from the airport showed that they were similar to missiles that targeted Marib city in the past.
The prime minister said that the Yemeni government had offered many concessions to reach an agreement to end the war. It had agreed to engage in direct talks with the Houthis in Stockholm in 2018 despite the fact that the Yemeni government forces were about to seize control of the Red Sea city of Hodeidah. However, the Stockholm Agreement had failed to bring peace to Yemen, he said.
“The government forces were about to capture the city within five days maximum. The Yemeni government agreed to go to Stockholm for reaching a solution to stop fighting and saving the city. This model has failed,” Saeed said.
In Riyadh, Yemen’s president Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi on Friday appointed Ahmed Obeid bin Daghar, a former prime minister and a senior adviser to the president, as president of the Shoura Council.
Hadi also appointed Ahmed Ahmed Al-Mousai as the country’s new attorney general.
Fighting continues
Heavy fighting between Yemeni government forces and the Houthis broke out on Sunday for the third consecutive day in contested areas in the districts of Hays and Durihimi in the western province of Hodeidah. Official media said that dozens of Houthi rebels and several government troops were killed in the fighting and loyalists pushed back three assaults by Houthis in Durihimi district.
In neighboring Hays, the Joint Forces media said on Sunday that the Houthis hit government forces with heavy weapons before launching a ground attack in an attempt to seize control of new areas in the district.
The Houthis failed to make any gains and lost dozens of fighters along with several military vehicles that were burnt in the fighting, the same media outlets said. Heavy artillery shelling and land mines planted by the Houthis have killed more than 500 civilians since late 2018, local rights groups said.