As the reality of its dire water straits settles in, Abu Dhabi must prioritize what is grown and where.
The planet is heating up, creating change. And with those changes we have new choices. Hard choices. In addition to numerous other functions, trees are necessary to absorb the deadly carbon emissions behind so many climatic upheavals. Without trees, the planet will heat up even faster and our air quality will worsen. Without water, on the other hand, life simply can’t exist; life grows where water flows.
So which is the lesser of two evils? Most people would agree that water must take precedence, particularly in the Middle East. Which is why, albeit admirable, an ongoing campaign to plant one million trees in Abu Dhabi seems like one more luxury the Emirate can scarcely afford. This is especially true in light of the rampant press coverage that Abu Dhabi has only days of backup water supply.
The Emirates Environmental Group (EEG) has planted one million trees in four years in order to stave off climate change and desertification, and to restore its heritage of indigenous trees.
Although the group has planted trees that are accustomed to the desert environment and therefore well-adapted to scant water resources and high temperatures, the Federal National Council (FNC) addressed the Ministry of Environment and Water with concerns about Abu Dhabi water scarcity.
“The UAE used 4.5 billion cubic metres of water in 2009. Slightly more than half of the water supply comes from groundwater,” according to The National. “The agricultural sector uses 97 per cent of that groundwater, while contributing 3.3 per cent of GDP.”
Referring mostly to water used for growing food, but applicable to all vegetation, FNC members stressed that the Ministry must re-evaluate its growing scheme.
“Agriculture needs a fundamental rethinking,” Mr al Zaabi, an FNC member from Sharjah, said at a recent meeting with the Ministry. “What do we plant, where do we plant it, and how do we plant it?”
Failure to do so could deplete groundwater sources. Meanwhile, various FNC members voiced urgent concerns about the Emirate’s backup in the event that an emergency compromises the 83 desalination plants that The National suggests provides 65% of Abu Dhabi’s commercial and residential water supply.
The Ministry was reluctant to respond but did acknowledge that the situation is dire and that better conservation methods must be implemented.
“Water is a challenge and is considered the primary challenge in the UAE,” Environment Minister Rashid bin Fahad. “We are not in a comfortable position. On the contrary, we are under a lot of pressure and challenges.”
:: The National
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image via Kyknoord