Water Security in the Middle East and North Africa region
According to the new World Bank report, the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region has been encountering a huge amount of about US$21 billion yearly loss due to inadequate water supply and sanitation. This affects their economy heavily and this calls for the reason behind identifying multiple measures for distribution and management of water resources. Ideally, these reasons lack proper water management due to which 82% of the total wastewater does not get recycled and they water productivity of this parts of the world is also very low. As a result, the water demands have been always at a higher rate and adding to it are some other challenges including climatic changes, regional instability, rapid growth, transborder issues, etc. Lot of literatures has been reviewed from several sources so as to have a clear idea on understanding the reasons, the side-effects, the impacts, the measuring or innovative steps and other associated information that would help in adding value to this report.
Anders Jägerskog and Ashok Swain has tried to focus on the interlinkage between water and migration prioritizing on the Middle East area (Swain and Jägerskog 2016). Large number of Palestinian refugees has been flown to Lebanon after the eruption of war in 2011. This inflow of the population to the Lebanon area has severely affected its environment, mostly in meeting the water demands of its people. Ideally, the estimated renewable water resources of the country are around 926 m3/capita/ year (MOEW 2010) but its demand has been increased by about 0.1 million cubic metres per year, (MCM/yr) to 7.42 MCM/yr (mostly in the Bekaa region). The author further added the fact that most of the water source for the country is the public water but with the increase of 30% of the refugee population who primarily depends on this public water supply, not only the demand of usable water source has been increased but it has also added to the generation of unwanted sewage. The country lacks proper wastewater treatment facilities that adds to the increase in the undisposed and untreated sewage water that again holds the ability to affect the safe sources and medium of water. Migration of large-scale population certainly affects the climatic condition of a country along with creating challenges for availability of water, mostly in areas where there already lies a scarcity of water like in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) regions. The Paris agreement also added the fact that such interlinkages between the borders of countries adds to the change in the global temperature and thus it is the responsibility of every country to be prepare to encounter such situation to avoid water and climatic disaster along with socio-economic challenges.
An article penned by Droogers, P. and team have tried to anticipate the water resources trends in the future and how will it head towards the year 2050 based on the current and past data (P. Droogers et al. 2012). Authors have focused on four major reasons of changes in availability of the water resources which includes climatic changes, growth of population, environmental changes and economic development. They have used two-stage modelling approach for exploring the consequences and impact of these changes in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) regions. Their wok has also utilized the advanced hydrological model for determining the changes in the current and future renewable water resources. For analysing the data, they have taken help of combining the h sectoral water demands and the renewable water resources. Their result showed that there would be a significant increase in the water demand to about 393 km3 yr-1 in this reason by the year 2050. At the same time this region would witness about 199 km3 yr-1 shortage of water, where climatic changes would also add to the reason. Furthermore, the demand of the water would increase by about 50% while the rate of increase in its supply might get increase by about 12%, considering the current situations and conditions.
World Bank Group reported that water crisis has been the major challenges that the Middle East and North Africa regions have been facing since long (World Bank Group 2018a). Although this reason holds a major share in the world’s population, yet they had to face high to very high-water stress that has been affecting the countries’ economy since ages. With urbanization, climatic changes, growing fiscal constraints and other types of conflicts and political issues, the water scarcity has been increasing which has taken a toll on the pockets of the people and the government as well. If water can be managed effectively, equitably and sustainably, it will help in its security but this area has been facing issues with both internal and external factors that has been destroying the quantity and quality of water that is useful for good health, ecosystem, livelihood and production. Increase vulnerabilities to hydrological shocks have failed all the efforts of water security of the Middle East and North Africa regions along with the political, environmental, social fragility. Quality of the water of the region has been degraded due to brine discharge from pollution, desalination, unsustainable water consumption and unavailability of proper treatment of the wastewater and sewage. The group also reported the fact that more than half of the wastewater that has been collected in the region of the Middle East and North Africa gets returned to the environment untreated resulting in water wastage and health hazards.
An article published by the United Nations on 8 May 2013 was based on the water security and the global water agenda (United Nations University 2013). This analytical brief focused on four major aspects, one is understanding the definition and significance of the water security, second is the themes associated with it, third is the policy related to the water security and fourth one is the response to the established water security policy. It also emphasizes on the opportunities that the water security offers and those includes collaboration and cooperation which can be achieved through adopting cross-sectoral and multi-disciplinary approaches. The brief also includes some decisions based on the water security associated with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) so that rights of people of getting safe, secure and affordable water can be retained and safeguarded. These decisions would not only help in supporting the short-term and long-term gains for the people but would also help in making people more responsible and aware of ways of conserving and preserving water so that the current and future demands of safe water could be achieved. The main objective of this report is to protect the livelihoods, cultural and recreational values of people and the human rights and other aspects that are highly essential for proper functioning of the ecosystem. Considerations of various stakeholders are accounted for being transparent and follow good governance along with taking the accountability of acting according to the interest of conserving the environment and promoting freshwater sustainability.
Aaron T. Wolf tried to focus on the hydropolitices associated with the Jordan River along with evaluating its impact on the Arab-Israel relationships (Wolf, 1995). Jordan River watershed has been providing about 95 per cent of the annular renewable freshwater supply to the West Bank, Syria, Israel, Gaza and Jordan. This is the main reason for the disputes and tension between these regions. Middle East region is quite far from the origin of the river and that is the main reason there has been frequent conflicts considering any project on the river and its basins. Again, with increase in the population, demand for the water supply has been increasing and these regions are getting more dependent on the river then earlier which has created huge disturbances in the boarders. Three approaches have been projected that can help in adding value to the water resources management and the design of the project for the Jordan river basin. First is through establishing control and equity in the water division rights to the basins of Jordan, Israel, Gaza and the West Bank. Second is through focusing on various critical issues associated with the West Bank and dealing with different qualitative and quantitative ways through which mountain aquifer issues could be overcome. Third is through offering cooperation-inducted deign of the project that can help the regions covering the river and supporting the cause of providing safe and affordable water.
Water governance has been a critical aspect for the reasons where there has been constant conflicts and tensions with respect to the available freshwater resources. Along with meeting the demands of the freshwater supply of the people for their daily use and livelihood, agriculture has been the other most important aspect that depends on the supply of freshwater resources. In-fact, there has been a connection between the agriculture, water and livelihoods and the development of any region or country cannot be possible without having a proper balance among these entities. Rached, Eglal and Brooks have tried to focus on the governance associated with water an its supply in the Middle East and North African regions and to what extent this has been helpful in maintain peace and stability in that area (Rached, Eglal and Brooks, David 2010). Scarcity of freshwater sources in the Middle East and North Africa has worsen the institution among the countries and has been affecting the ecology largely. Water governance mostly refers to the social, political, administrative and economic law systems associated with the available water sources in an area and its management. It helps in maintaining the social relationships and ensuring that the services and the resources gets distributed equally among all and the rights and law is maintained. With the sudden influx and rise in the population in the Middle East and North African regions maintain the water governance has become highly essential but at the same time improving it has been a challenge for these regions since long.
It won’t be wrong to say that there have been constant water wars in the Middle East and North African regions as the nations have been battling over the limited water sources that are not enough to meet the increasing freshwater demands of their people. With time, this water war has gone much beyond the water limits and has been affecting their economic growth and development and causing tensions ate the boarders. Author Lauren Risi has tried to figure out to what extent these reasons have been fighting with each other for the availability of freshwater and to what extent their fight has gone (Risi, Laurne. 2018). Their water issues have mostly taken the shape of political wars which has been affecting in maintaining the inter and intra border peace. Again, most of these regions does not have effective wastage water treatment options and scope that again have affected the livelihood of the people at the general level. When such situation could be resolved with cooperation and coordination, government of respective regions have never come to a common agreement to do so.
Launched on 14 April 2004, the Arab Water Council (AWC) has extended its support at both regional and international levels for solving the water related issues in the Middle East and North African regions (The Arab Water Council (AWC) 2019). Being a regional non-profit organization, the council has been working collectively towards raising awareness and involving in various activities that can help in lowering the water pressure and demand in the region and bring peace among the neighbouring countries. They also have created various activities that can help in overcoming the challenges associated with the management and sustainability of the water resources. They just do not focus on the Arab states, but they also render their help and support to the neighbouring countries to make lives of people better and add to the sustainable development. They have been promoting deeper understanding of various methods and ways by which the available surface and ground water could be managed effectively along with establishing effective sewage water treatment methods for improving the amount of fresh water sources. An amalgamation of scientific approach and technical knowledge can help creating effective means of preserving and managing water. To achieve the integrated water resource management, government should support sharing of experiences and collaborations that can benefits all. Various strategies and policies have been directed and implemented yet they have been failing due to improper management and less legal enforcement. This council has been taking efforts to strengthening those policies and laws so that the rights of the people and the environment suitability could be preserved.
Hygiene, Sanitation and safe water has always been linked to have a healthy body and healthy body is the right of every individual. Ensuring good health is the prime objective of the UNICEF (The United Nations Childrens Fund) that primarily focuses on good health of the children because they believe healthy children means healthy nation. Therefore, child health should be the primary focus of all parents and the nation. Good health starts with good habits and one of the good habits is sanitation and hygiene. UNICEF always promote awareness of adopting sanitation and hygiene so that the rate of risk of falling ill gets lessen (The United Nations Childrens Fund (UNICEF) 2017). However, this has been a challenge in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region specifically because of the scarcity of available water supply. According to a recent report published by the Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP), around 850 million people still struggle to avail improved water sources while around 2.4 billion people does not have the basic sanitation facilities, most of which falls under the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. Report of the WHO (World Health Organization) 2017 indicated the fact that most people of the MENA reason do not have adequate facilities even for safe drinking water. Due to lack of proper water supply, people cannot afford to practice hygienic washing in their daily activities including regular handwashing. This increases the risk of infection that can take a toll on the health and lives of the people.
The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) (2013) has been trying to expand its support for enhancing the quality of lives of human along with adding value to it through economic development and creating sustainable opportunities for future. This human development organization prioritize people and their basic rights above and beyond anything and try to create opportunities for their wellbeing. They also ensure to articulate objectives for improving and developing lives of human being through creating a sustainable, stable and equitable planet. They have been focusing on creating and implementing the human development objective for 2030 agenda which will mostly align with the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). One of the primary focus of this program is to address the Water governance associated with the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. The main objective of doing so is to help narrowing down the gap between the demand verses the availability along with securing the water sources for the future. Water has always been the integral part of the life along with healthy food, yet this part of the world has always been struggling to avail and afford safe and secure water. The reason being its demographics, climatic changes, influx of population, improper facilities for water management, etc. According to the 2030 agenda, opportunities could be created to overcome so many internal and external glitches and could create scope for access to the needed water resources.
Author Johan Schaar focused on evaluating the consequences of the crisis associated with climate, water and security in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. This region has three major river basins that has been the primary source of water supply for years and those are the Jordan River Basin, the Nile River Basin and the Tigris-Euphrates River Basin. Three of them roughly covers an area of about 11.1 million square km.99% of the water supply from the Nile river gets consumed by the Egyptians, its sovereign boarders get very less amount of water which has been the reason of conflicts. On the other hand, two primary rivers form the Tigris-Euphrates River Basin and those are the Euphrates River and the Tigris River. Although both originates from the south-eastern part of Turkey, it covers 32 km range in Syria before entering to Iraq. This three-way diversion of the main river has been the reason behind the hydro political tensions. There has been a unilateral water resources development in place under which various dams were created between 1965 to 1974 that could help in managing the water supply. Jordan river has three headquarters, the Banias River, the Hasbani River and the Dan River. Origin of these rivers are from Syria, Lebanon and Israel respectively among which the Dan river has been the largest. All of them eventually merge in the Lake Huleh before flowing to the south of the Jordan river. USAF 2000 study reported the fact that 90% of the water of Syria has been utilized by its neighbouring countries like Israel, Turkey, Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon and Syria could only use only limited percentage of the water from the Jordan river sources. Again, 39% of water sources of Jordan gets shared by Israel, West Bank and Syria and more than half of the total available water source of Israel gets shared by Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and West Bank. This unequal sharing of water sources and not having a proper regulation in place has not only ignited the political conflict but has taken a toll on the blue peace of this region.
Study of Sharif Elmusa revolve around the with negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians (Elmusa 1996). On the Six-Day-War of 1967, West Bank was occupied by Israel and finally it was declared as the property of the state. This impacted the lives of the people of Palestine as their water supply gets fully diversified. Israeli ministry controlled most of the water sources and put imposition on the water movement. They also demolished most of the properties of the Palestinians creating a havoc in the normalcy of the lives of the people. Various cases had come up where the Israeli claimed that the unauthorized wells were drilled by the Palestinians. Various water infrastructures created by the Palestinians were either captured by the Israelis or were being destroyed by them. All these led to the creation of the poorest water supply system for the people of Palestine. Again, Palestinian agriculture is highly dependent on the water of the West Bank, but they were denied of using them along with imposition of heavy restrictions of creation of any kind of infrastructure on the river and its basins. All these affected the economy of Palestine significantly thereby increase in unemployment, poverty and terrorism. The average consumption of water by the Israel people is six times higher than that of the people of Palestine, yet they were not given the scope and opportunity of leveraging equality of water supply. Now, even Israel has become highly water-sufficient country, yet due to political issues, Palestine is still struggling with proper allocation of freshwater supply.
Work of Claudia Pahl-Wostl, Joyeeta Gupta and Anik Bhaduri would prioritise the water security concept and how that would help in overcoming the water related issues in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region (Pahl-Wostl, et al. 2016). Concept of water security is highly diverse and over the time, this concept has been adopted by many countries across the globe. This concept refers to the ability or availability of reliable and acceptable high quality and quantity of fresh water. Again, this water needs to be highly affordable and free from any kind of health risks like contaminants, pollution, etc. Enhancing water security would help in improving the quality and health of life. It would also help in adding to the hygiene and sanitation practices that would eventually ensure good health for all. Many countries facing water crisis came up with institutional collaboration to build infrastructure and facilities that can help in overcoming the water scarcity based on technical and educational knowledge and expertise. However, in the case of Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, there was a failure in maintaining any kind of water security program due various internal an external reasons like poor water governance, political and boarder disputes, unpredicted climatic changes, inflow of immigrants and rise in population, etc. This has resulted not only in the availability of the freshwater but also social inequality and other kind of economic challenges affecting the growth and development of the countries. With the advancement of technology, various measures could be taken so that the freshwater sources could be improvised and could be sustained for the future as well.
Taking about the water management in Egypt, it demands for highly complex and huge set of infrastructures along with the river length. Egypts 2050 strategy mostly focuses on improving the quality of the water available along with rationalizing and developing better and higher water resources that could be well enough to meet the demands of its people without significantly affecting the environment. It should also support the sustainable development and should be enough for irrigation and supporting agriculture all around the year. The Egyptian Ministry of Water Resources had planned to adopt the four-way strategy to support overcoming the water scarcity issue in the country (The Egyptian Ministry of Water Resources. (2019). As a part of the actin plan amendments has been made to the Agriculture Law No. 53 of 1966 for determining the areas that has the potentiality of adding to the creation and preservation of safe water. The government is also planning to utilize the solar energy power to support agriculture so that its dependency on the hydroelectricity could be reduced manifolds. Government of Egypt has also signed an agreement with the Agriculture Organization (FAO) to support overcoming its dependency on the underground water. Egypts 2050 strategy is also trying to focus on some of the critical aspects that has been affecting the water management like the climatic change, population growth, etc. so that the water stress on the country could be lowered by 2030.
Like other countries, Iraq has also been active participation in developing strategies that could help in overcoming its water related issues. Iraq’s National Water Resources Strategy is trying to improve the current water management program and finding alternative water resources so that the economic hinderance and the water related boarder issues could be reduced. Most of the water in Iraq comes from two major rivers, the Euphrates and the Tigris, but study showed a decline of 25% to 50% of the water capacity of these two rivers that would directly affect the economy and health of the people by the 2025. Considering the current volume of these two rivers which is about 18 billion cubic metres, demand of fresh water by the people of the country has been increasing significantly and this amount is not been able to meet them. Again, due to improper sanitation and sewage management program adds to the outbreak of many health issues and contagious diseases as well. Iraq’s National Water Resources Strategy is considering all these issues and trying to identify ways of dealing with them so that the level of dependency on the limited sources of water could be diversified. Iraqi Ministry of Water Resources (MWR) has also collaborated with the Turkey government to open the gates of the new dam and this is a symbol of lowering of water boarder tension between Iraq and Turkey.
All these data and many more indicates one thing that the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region need to seriously think about this water scarcity issues and should immediately act upon it so that it does nit get worsen in the future. If not addressed on time, it would not only affect the economy of the countries but would also increase the risk of war and political rivalry. These countries should try to collaborate and stand for a common cause to enhance and improve the water security. They should primarily focus on three major aspects and those are water service delivery, water resource management and mitigation of water-related risks. Israel can be an inspiration for many who has utilized its technology and made itself self-sufficient with water sources. Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region can also collaborate with Israel to adapt such technologies and alternatives that can help in overcoming the water scarcity issues and can help in preserving and conserving it for the future. They can also focus on various infrastructures and alternative measures based on their availability and abilities.
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