Monday, July 19, 2010

Water in the Arab world

A few snips from an encyclopedic article in the Day Press via Al-Ahram (Egypt): Since around the 1960s the equilibrium between water resources and population distribution in the world fell out of kilter, that is giving rise to numerous conflicts over water, especially in Africa, Asia and Europe.

...[T]he water problem in the Arab region extends beyond the question of scarcity to the question of quality. For various reasons, the quality of water is deteriorating and large quantities of it are becoming unusable. The problem, moreover, extends to all sources of water in the Arab world. Because the major Arab rivers, such as the Nile and Euphrates, originate in non-Arab countries, those countries have a major strategic advantage over downriver Arab countries. Although the disadvantage could be offset by better use of subterranean water and rainfall, this would require huge investment in necessary projects and equipment. The alternative, water desalinisation projects, is not only costly but requires sophisticated technology. Clearly, then, the water problem is complex and multifaceted. The challenge requires a rational and innovative response, which in turn requires dynamic institutional mechanisms that are not yet available.

…The political repercussions of the water crisis are obvious. Countries that can control the source of water, as is the case of upriver riparian nations, can have a powerful influence on the political will of others. Ironically, just as Arab thought turned its attention to the importance of water resources, water crises began to emerge in the Middle East. Around this time, Turkey decided to complete its mega Southeast Anatolia Project, which entailed cutting off Euphrates water from Iraq and Syria for several weeks, nearly triggering a war between these two countries and Turkey. Also around this time, the Middle East peace conference opened in Madrid in 1991. One of its stated aims was to create a climate that would enable higher levels of development in the world….

From NASA: Completed in 1973, the Tabaqah Dam (center of image) on the Euphrates River can be seen in this near-nadir view. The Tabaqah Dam is an earth filled dam nearly 197 feet (60 meters) high and 3 miles (5 km) long. The dam holds the waters of Lake Assad (center to left center of the image), a 50-mile (80 km) long and 5-mile (8 km) wide reservoir.

No comments: