Water scarcity meets fragile states

In Iraq, water management issues, combined with weak state institutions and a situation of armed conflict, fuelled instability.
Sunday 11/11/2018
Dead trees tower over the area of Siba in the Iraqi city of Basra, last July. (AP)
Dead trees tower over the area of Siba in the Iraqi city of Basra, last July. (AP)

In a recently released report titled “Water Management in Fragile Systems,” the World Bank and the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) highlighted the compound risks faced by the North Africa and Middle East region as its precarious state institutions struggle to meet the challenges related to water scarcity and mismanagement.

Armed conflict, the displacement of millions and ongoing upheavals have sorely tested the ability of all MENA countries to meet immediate and more long-term water challenges.

“Existing water management systems, already plagued by weak governance, limited resources, and degraded infrastructure, are now failing when they are needed the most,” the report warned.

In Iraq, water management issues, combined with weak state institutions and a situation of armed conflict, fuelled instability. The World Bank-FAO report points out that “as water issues are left unaddressed, their impact increases, eroding government legitimacy and destabilising fragile contexts.”

Better water management should be part of post-conflict reconstruction efforts. Abdessalam Ould Ahmed, assistant director-general of the FAO, called for a public service-private sector partnership that could muster the means for better water management, the creation of jobs and alleviation of the burden of frayed state institutions.

He also called for more cooperation between Arab countries and MENA nations.

“A regional collaborative approach is necessary, as surface and groundwater resources often cross national borders,” he said.

6