Friday, March 21, 2014

Water in the Arab world: From droughts to flood, building resilience against extremes

A press release from the World Bank: The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) is the most water scarce region in the world, and its water stress is likely to worsen. In 1950, per capita renewable water resources were four times greater than they are today. By 2050, there are indications indicate that natural water resources in MENA will drop even further, to 11 times less than the global average.

Droughts hit the region with punishing regularity, bringing significant water shortages, economic losses, and adverse social consequences. Between 2008 and 2011, drought in Djibouti caused a yearly economic contraction of approximately 3.9 percent of GDP. Droughts are the third most prevalent hazard in MENA after earthquakes, but despite the alarming levels of water scarcity,  the opposite, floods,  also pose significant danger  in MENA too.

The 2008 floods in Yemen caused damages totaling US$1.6 billion, or six percent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP). The 2009 floods in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, brought losses of US$1.4 billion. The 2004 floods in Djibouti led to 230 deaths, US$ 11.1 million in losses, and affected 100,000 people.   Nine years later in 2013, slightly less flooding in Djibouti resulted in fewer victims, though 13 people still died, and there was a far shorter disruption of citizens’ livelihoods.

The difference was the emphasis the country placed in learning how to manage the risks caused by water scarcity and floods, and investing in protective infrastructure. Intense, unusual rains do not have to mean disastrous flooding. Neither does a drought have to become a source of malnourishment....

A view in Sana'a, shot by Tyabji, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license 

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