MEDRC Alumni Forums held in Gaza and West Bank, Palestine

In the final weeks of 2020, MEDRC Alumni Forums took place in Palestine with live events in the West Bank and Gaza as well as online presentations and discussion via Zoom. It was the third edition of the Forums, which have been held annually in both Gaza and West Bank since 2018.

The Gaza forum, Non-Conventional Water Resources: Opportunities and Challenges, was held on the 23 December. In his opening remarks MEDRC Center Director, Ciarán Ó Cuinn praised the efforts of the universities involved in MEDRC’s Water Research Fellowship program in Palestine as well as the individual researchers: “Against many challenges the universities of Palestine have consistently managed to achieve research excellence with researchers as talented as any on earth”, he said.

Also speaking at the event’s opening session were Prof. Bassam Saqaa, Dean of Research and Graduate Studies of the Islamic University Gaza, Dr. Mazen Abu Qamar, Dean of Graduate Studies of Al-Azhar University Gaza, Dr. Tamer Eshtaiwi, Forum Chair and Eng. Marwan Al Bardawil, Head of Gaza Program Unit, Palestinian Water Authority.

The 2020 Gaza forum was structured around three themes: recent trends for wastewater reuse in agriculture, desalination and water purification technologies, and groundwater sustainability. Although international developments were also discussed, the expert presentations and panel discussions mainly focused on local situations and solutions.

Researchers from MEDRC’s Water Research Fellowship program also presented their work. Zahra Ibaid talked about her research Improvement of the treated wastewater quality for reuse in agricultural irrigation using innovative multi stage constructed wetland system; Eng. Jaber Abu Shamallah talked about the Assessment of storm water infiltration basins in the Gaza Strip and Dr. Tamer Eshtaiwi, who also chaired the event, presented his project Modeling recharge rates of storm water ponds in the Vadose Zone: a case study in Gaza Strip. The series of presentations was concluded by Dr. Samer Abu Zer, Environmental and Public Health Officer at the Palestinian Ministry of Health, who looked back on the year and the impact of the coronavirus on the water sector in Palestine.

On 7 December a similar event was held in West Bank, entitled Entrepreneurs of Innovative Water Solutions for the Next Generation, under the patronage of H.E Eng. Mazen Ghuneim, Minister and Head of the Palestinian Water Authority (PWA). In his opening speech, the minister stressed the importance of promoting scientific research among young people and praised MEDRC, the PWA and the universities for their concerted efforts to support young researchers in the water sector. Prof. Maher Natsheh, President of An–Najah National University and MEDRC Center Director Ciarán Ó Cuinn also spoke.

The West Bank forum consisted of two sessions dedicated to speakers from the private sector and NGO’s and to presentations from researchers involved in MEDRC’s Water Research program. PhD researcher Bayan Khalaf discussed her work on the removal of pesticides using new synthesized cellulose derivatives; PhD researcher Abdullah Murrar discussed the financial sustainability of the Palestinian water sector and Dr. Ghadir Hanbali presented her research project Assessment and Removal of Heavy Trace Metals by Magnetic Multiwall Carbon Nanotube Decorated by Novel Functionality from Ground Water in Jericho, Palestine. (For an overview of the program, the book of abstracts and a video of the event, click here.)

The events were organized by a Student Steering Committee, consisting of researchers and alumni from the Fellowship program. The Forums aim to bring together MEDRC Fellows and industry experts from all sides of the water sector to discuss important, local, regional, and global water challenges in a collaborative environment, while highlighting some of the exceptional water research being conducted under the MEDRC Water Research Fellowship program in Palestine. To comply with measures against the spread of the Coronavirus pandemic, the events were attended by a limited number of participants and also held online via Zoom.

Since 2011 MEDRC and the PWA have supported around 265 water research projects in 7 universities across Palestine. There have been 225 MSc water research projects, 9 PhDs and 30 Innovation Initiative research projects.