Sunday, March 18, 2012

Scarce water resources will drive life-and-death politics

Afshin Molavi in the National (Abu Dhabi): Every day, around the globe, nearly 4,000 children die from waterborne diseases. That is 166 children every hour, nearly three per minute. More than one billion people lack clean drinking water, and more than 2.5 billion lack adequate sanitation. Those numbers tell the story: while increased attention has been paid lately to a "coming water crisis", for many, that crisis has already come.

For Arab countries, water scarcity has certainly arrived. Middle East and North African states have the least renewable water supply per capita of any region, and are considered to be one of the highest "water stress" regions in the world. With some 5 per cent of the globe's population, the Arab world has less than 1 per cent of the world's fresh water. For a region rich in other natural resources, water is not one of them.

This brewing water crisis will have diverse effects in different countries, ranging from the possibility of near-term humanitarian crises in Yemen and drought-affected North African countries, to the long-term slowing of development in the GCC.

The GCC countries are also overly reliant on others for their food security. According to an official UAE white paper prepared for the G20 summit in Cannes last year, the UAE imports 85 per cent of its food. Food security is tied up with weather patterns, rainfall and water access issues around the world....

Jebel Dhanna in the United Arab Emirates, shot from the International Space Station

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