Crisis in West Asia

Unless drastic steps are taken, West Asian countries will soon face severe water crisis

Published: Thursday 15 April 1999

a study conducted by scientists from five countries including the us and Canada stated that Israeli, Jordanian and Palestinian authorities should work together to preserve aquatic eco-systems in the region. Fresh water supplies in the Middle East now are barely sufficient to maintain a quality standard of living, said Gilbert White, chair of the study committee and professor emeritus of geography at the University of Colorado, usa. The problem of sustaining fresh water resources was identified as one of the most pressing concerns facing the region.

The area is largely arid and receives less than 250 millimetre of rainfall annually, typical for a desert climate. But the total water use was estimated to be about 3,183 million cubic metres in 1994, and has been increasing steadily as economic and agricultural development continues. This increased water use, the committee said, guarantees that inhabitants will probably live under conditions of significant water stress in the near future. Many important sources of high-quality water in the region are deteriorating with urban development and agricultural use, the committee said. Some 97 per cent of the regions wetlands -- important for purifying water and minimising damage from floods -- have been drained to support human activity.

In addition to preserving water systems, the committee identified four other priorities that guided its analysis. They were identified as (a) regional approach should be taken in water resource development (b) water quality and quantity are interdependent and should be given equal importance (c) the needs of the future generation should be taken into account and (d) water resource managers in the region should jointly examine all options before taking action. The committee said that conservation efforts should be continued and expanded. For example, by adopting modern farming techniques such as computer-controlled drip irrigation methods.

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