The latest report by the Arab Forum for Environment and Development (AFED), “The Green Economy in a Changing Arab World”, definitely doesn’t make for happy reading. In fact, it is positively terrifying. According to the report, Arab countries could be facing a severe water crisis as early as 2015, with the region’s estimated annual per capita water share at less than one-tenth of the global average. That would bring it to just 500 cubic metres per capita – anything below 1,000 cubic metres is considered to pose a “significant constraint to economic development, health and well-being”. All these findings point to the fact that we are slowly but surely running out of time.
The dire situation with regards to water has been attributed to political inertia and a misguided short-term outlook on the situation. “Arab states need to shift the focus from large-scale investments in supply-side projects and instead concentrate on demand-side policies that control and regulate water access, promote irrigation and water use efficiency, and prevent water pollution,” the report said. Inefficient use and management of water resources is a huge problem.
According to the report, over 85% of available natural freshwater resources are being used in agriculture but with a shocking low efficiency rate of less than 50% on average. In many Arab countries, the efficiency stands at just 30%. What’s more, the large volume of solid waste created in the region is hugely mismanaged which leads to the contamination of clean water.
As such, change is needed urgently to preserve what water is left and also to improve the situation for those already dealing with water shortages. The report found that more than 45 million people in the Arab world, or 10 % of the population, lack access to clean water and safe sanitation.
The report’s recommendations is quite simply that the Arab region embrace a green economy. It states that not only would this generate economic dividends, it would improve environmental and social conditions. The report adds: “In addition to meeting the demand for change, an Arab green economy will address the shortfalls of past Arab economic performance, from poverty and unemployment to food and water security threats.”
For more on water issues in the Middle East see:
Water Scarcity Leads More to Peace Than War (Interview)
FoEME Calms Water War Rhetoric Between Palestine and Israel
Egypt Hold On Tight To Nile Water Rights
Image of water tap from Shutterstock