Water scarcity in the Middle East is affecting life and causing diplomatic tensions between countries. Turkey’s dam project, which includes the great Ataturk and Ilisu dams, has reduced the flow of water to the Tigris River’s natural channel, which affects Syria and Iraq. Pictured here is Koctepe – a village covered by water as part of the Ilisu Dam project. Credit: Mustafa Bilge Satkın/Climate Visuals Countdownby Hisham Allam (sharm el sheikh)Thursday 17 November 2022Inter Press Service
SHARM EL SHEIKH, Nov 17 (IPS) – The Middle East and North Africa are the world’s most water-scarce regions – with 11 of the world’s 17 water-scarce countries.
According to UNICEF, nine out of ten children live in areas of high or very high water stress, with significant consequences for their health, cognitive development and future livelihoods.
Now, climate change is resulting in less rain for agriculture and a deterioration in the quality of freshwater reserves due to saltwater transfer into fresh aquifers and increased concentrations of pollutants.
Maha Rashid, a member of the Middle East Management Committee of Blue Peace, which advocates water cooperation across borders, sectors and generations to promote peace, stability and sustainable development, says the situation in the region is dire.
“More than 60% of this region’s population lives in areas of high or very high water stress, compared to the global average of around 35%. While the Middle East and North Africa have suffered from water scarcity for thousands of years, today several interrelated challenges threaten the region’s environmental sustainability and water security.”
Water shortages are expected to hamper development in the Middle East. Credit: Hisham Allam/IPS
As COP27 negotiations continue in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, people in the Middle East are grappling with the impact of climate change. Rashid explained that Iraq relies on water from Turkey and Iran, as well as rain and snow, to feed its rivers, especially in spring. Water revenue for Iraq’s Tigris and Euphrates rivers fell for the third consecutive month. The current season has seen a more severe and unprecedented decline not seen in several years, and water levels in the Euphrates and Tigris rivers have fallen and drought conditions are occurring in the rivers and lakes in Diyala Governorate.
Turkey’s dam system, which includes the great Atatürk and Ilisu dams, has reduced the flow of water to the Tigris’ natural course. This will result in an annual reduction in water flow of 10 billion cubic meters for downstream countries – such as Syria and Iraq.
Despite large arable land, Iraq will not be able to achieve food and water security. Instead, in the long term, water will constrain development, plans and programs and will not bring food or water security, Rashid, who is also a professor at Tigris University, told IPS.
Water insecurity in the region had also impacted international relations, with tensions surfacing over Ethiopia’s construction of the Renaissance Dam for irrigation and power generation without considering the significant impact on Egypt and Sudan. Now the threat of water scarcity for the two countries is growing, followed by food security and potential future natural disasters.
The Middle East is now experiencing rising temperatures, which is one of the effects of climate change. As a result, North Africa is now experiencing drought in some regions and torrential downpours in others.
According to Rashid, since 2010, countries that have set new temperature records in 19 countries, including many Arab nations, have been experiencing summer temperatures of up to 54 degrees Celsius, including in Iraq and Morocco, where two-thirds of the oases have disappeared as a result of reduced rainfall and increased Evaporation. Saudi Arabia and Sudan are also experiencing heavy sandstorms.
These climatic changes are expected to worsen unless the region’s residents and governments take appropriate and urgent action over the next fifty years.
Rashid claimed that this requires more prudent resource management, as well as adjustments to sectoral and economic models, mindsets and behaviors. Although she is optimistic about the outcome of the climate negotiations, most countries have not committed to implementing the recommendations and reducing CO2 emissions since the COP 26 climate summit in Scotland.
“I believe COP27 will address climate change issues and end up insisting on finding a method that works to save poor communities.”
Report of the IPS UN office
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© Inter Press Service (2022) — All rights reservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service
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