Water supplies under threat in MENA

The MENA region must urgently work to harness scientific advances to effectively utilise water supplies and equitably share resources.
Sunday 10/06/2018
An Iraqi youth washes his hands in a stream of water in the village of Sayyed Dakhil. (AFP)
Valuable resource. An Iraqi youth washes his hands in a stream of water in the village of Sayyed Dakhil. (AFP)

Water, the most basic natural resource that is central to countries’ economies and public health, has become a growing source of dispute in the Middle East and North Africa, one of the most water-stressed regions in the world.

Worsening pollution, irregular rainfall and soaring populations have severely limited access to clean water, leading to tensions between neighbouring countries.

In the Levant, Jordan, the Palestinian territories and Israel have long butted heads over access to the Jordan River basin, which they each share as their primary water source.

In Egypt, concerns that the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam project will reduce its share of water from the Nile have led to a longstanding diplomatic rift.

In Iraq, irregular rainfall and Turkey’s decision to soon begin filling its Ilisu Dam reservoir threatens to reduce the water level in the Tigris and Euphrates rivers.

With clean water supplies dwindling, water is no longer simply a natural resource but a valuable asset that has been referred to as the region’s “next oil.” If strategic measures are not taken to safeguard existing resources, this “next oil” could set off a wave of conflicts.

To steer clear of this, the region must urgently work to harness scientific advances to effectively utilise water supplies, protect the environment and equitably share resources.

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