It’s impossible to point to any one issue and claim it as the final explanation for the protests unnerving leaders in the Middle East. Weeks ago one Tunisian man set himself on fire when he was told he couldn’t sell his wares, and his fire has raged on since. But the root of today’s discontent, and the root of tomorrow’s continuing trouble, will have a close correlation with water. Siting the same document we reported on last week, Blue Peace, The Guardian reports that in time water will be of more geopolitical consequence than even oil. Because, quite frankly, we’re running out. And thirsty people can’t be stifled.
Here are a few startling facts taken from The Guardian:
- In forty years, Abu Dhabi will have completely depleted its ancient fossil water resources;
- 19/21 of Yemen’s main aquifers are no longer being replenished. That country is considering moving its capital as a result;
- In 25 years, Saudi Arabia’s water demand increased by 500%, a demand that will double again in the next 20 years;
- Within the next 30 years, Jordanians will only have 91 cubic meters of water each year, compared to the minimum average of 1,000 cubic meters considered bearable. Already, their water poverty is at 200 cubic meters;
- 1,500 desalination plants along the Gulf and Mediterranean make up for shortfalls, at high costs to energy consumption and ecosystems;
- Turkey has water, but they don’t care to share.
The unfortunate irony in many of oil-rich states, is that their economies depend largely on rising oil prices, but many of them import up to 90% of their food (like Qatar). Oil money until now has keep down political unrest since it was used to subsidize food and water, but that trend is spiraling out of control and many in the Middle East are going hungry. And they site corruption as the cause of their suffering.
Nor is desalination the catchall answer since it pours huge volumes of concentrated salt back into the waters from which it was taken, causing incredible damage to marine ecosystems.
Rising temperatures – some predict as high as 10 degrees in some places – (and therefore rising evaporation in already dry areas) and population growth combined with food shortages makes the Middle East’s future a very inhospitable place indeed.
The Guardian and the Blue Peace report both emphasize the necessity for governments to cooperate and share resources. Otherwise, riots and even greater suffering could easily become a permanent fixture of life in the region.
:: The Guardian
More on the Middle Eastern riots:
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