Address water crisis now, Arabs told
Manama, November 28, 2013
Arab states must address water challenges if they are to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, attain prosperity, and reach a future of sustainable human development, says a new United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) report.
Addressing water challenges now can also help strengthen resilience by managing the risk of potential crises that could result from inaction: such as unplanned migration, economic collapse, or regional conflict, according to the report entitled: “Water Governance in the Arab Region: Managing Scarcity and Securing the Future”.
The report was launched today in Bahrain.
The report stresses that the water scarcity in the region is fast reaching alarming levels, with dire consequences to human development.
While the region accounts for five per cent of the world’s population and 10 percent of its area, it accounts for less than one percent of global water resources. Its share of annual renewable water resources is also less than one percent, and it receives only 2.1 percent of average annual global precipitation.
Over 87 percent of the region’s terrain is desert and 14 of the world’s 20 most water-stressed countries are in this region.
The average Arab citizen has eight times less access to renewable water than the average global citizen and more than two thirds of surface water resources originate from outside the region, the report pointed out.
“While emerging challenges to water quality and quantity, such as climate change, are being experienced in many countries, those in the Arab states region are of particular concern as water scarcity is already acute here,” said UNDP administrator Helen Clark.
“Increased demand for water from expanding populations and economic growth is likely to deepen what is often described as a regional ‘water crisis’.”
The report argues that while scarcity is the foundation of the water crisis, the crisis is also one of governance of this under-valued and vulnerable resource. Major challenges for the water sector in the region include: fragmented institutions with unclear and overlapping responsibilities; inadequate capacities; insufficient funding; centralized decision-making; lack of compliance with regulations and ineffective enforcement; and limited public awareness.
“The water crises must be dealt with as a matter of priority and urgency. It deserves increased political attention and commitment even amid the challenging political environment of the region today,” said UN assistant secretary-general, UNDP assistant administrator and director of the Regional Bureau for Arab States, Sima Bahous.
“Indeed, we must seize the opportunity presented by the current Arab political and economic transformations to advance water governance reform.”
Key elements of good water governance discussed in the report include equity, transparency, accountability, environmental and economic sustainability, stakeholder participation and empower-ment, and responsiveness to socio-economic development needs.
The report argues that by reorienting policy; reforming institutions, promoting education and awareness; increasing stakeholder participation; establishing international agreements; and linking policy to research and development (R&D), governance can ensure efficient water management practices.
The report underlines that the nexus between water scarcity, food security and energy further emphasizes the social, economic and political implications of the water crisis in the region.
Water security is inseparable from social, economic, environmental and health considerations. All sectors—agricultural, industrial and municipal—and users must have equitable, reliable and sustainable access to water, and must use water efficiently. Effective governance must be flexible, able to adapt to climate change and incorporate the social and political changes accompanying modernization, it said. - TradeArabia News Service