Houses in Gaza under threat of collapse
Gaza strip has seen remarkable activity in construction after a freeze that lasted for years was lifted in 2004. Israel, however, has maintained a ban on the import of construction material, saying that those materials would be used by Palestinian militant groups but the constraints of that ban have been broken using hundreds of tunnels along the borders between Egypt and Gaza. These tunnels have kept Gaza supplied with all its needs.
Gaza Municipality announced the need of 100,000 housing units which enhanced the growth of the construction market that shifted the compass of tunnels business towards the trade of prime construction materials like concrete, aggregate and steel which enters Gaza through more than a thousand underground gates without being checked or tested by the government.
At least 120 construction licenses are being awarded monthly by Gaza Municipality to build new houses. The houses are being built and sold without obliging the contractor or the owner to pass a concrete core test. This has caused much alarm among the Palestinian Contractors Federation which has warned on the possibility of the collapse of structures, especially those built with cement smuggled in from Egypt. The federation has warned of enormous risks in the future in the absence of any governmental control over material being smuggled in for construction purposes.
“The concerned authorities are not playing their due role,” said Osama Khail, the head of the Palestinian Contactors Federation.
“People building their homes themselves are ignoring the importance of the core test. I have seen myself construction whose strength was half of what it should have been.”
The ministry of housing and public works in the Gaza strip ─ which is ruled by Hamas ─ denied the federation’s accusations and defended the supervisory role of the ministry of economy which oversees the tunnels to ensure the quality and validity of the construction material. They did, however, admit to not having any control over the situation in Rafah, south of the Gaza strip where all the tunnels lie.
While there is laxity among common contractors and ordinary people seeking construction licenses, who do not get concrete core tests, those seeking to build in the public sector have to pass the test, without which they cannot proceed with their construction.
“We can’t walk across the city and ask each civilian if his concrete is good,” said Naji Sarhan, first deputy in ministry of housing and public works. “We are reliant on the 16 ready mix concrete factories in Gaza who check the quality of the concrete.”
Khail added that they can’t count on the good will of the factories’ owners. “They could have been cheated in the quality of cement … We are always receiving complaints about a partial collapse of a building where their concrete was checked, so imagine the houses whose concrete has not been checked?”