Bet­ter use of wa­ter key to Mid­dle East’s fu­ture — WB

Business World - - AGRIBUSINESS -

PO­LIT­I­CAL STA­BIL­ITY and eco­nomic growth in the Mid­dle East and North Africa could hinge on bet­ter man­age­ment of scarce wa­ter re­sources, the World Bank ( WB) said in a re­port released Tues­day.

With poor ac­cess to wa­ter and poor san­i­ta­tion, the re­gion is suf­fer­ing an­nual eco­nomic losses of as much as $ 21 bil­lion, ac­cord­ing to the re­port, pub­lished to co­in­cide with the global “Wa­ter Week” events which opened Mon­day in Stock­holm fo­cus­ing on in­no­va­tive so­lu­tions for these is­sues.

The es­ti­mate re­flects costs from health care and lost pro­duc­tiv­ity due to ill­ness and pre­ma­ture death from wa­ter-borne dis­ease, Anders Jager­skog, a World Bank spe­cial­ist in wa­ter-re­lated mat­ters, told AFP.

Hafez Ghanem, World Bank vice-president for the Mid­dle East and North Africa, said the re­gion was liv­ing be­yond its means in terms of wa­ter.

“If we think of wa­ter re­sources as a bank ac­count, then the re­gion is now se­ri­ously over­drawn,” he said in a statement, adding that con­sum­ing wa­ter faster than it could be re­plen­ished un­der­mined the re­gion’s long-term wealth and re­silience.

Wa­ter scarcity also can spark con­flicts, the re­port’s au­thors warned.

The “fragility and con­flict” in the re­gion can be blamed on “the fail­ure of gov­ern­ments to ad­dress/man­age wa­ter scarcity,” Clau­dia Sad­off, who led the study, told AFP.

“The of­ten-cited ex­am­ple is Syria, where decades of poor wa­ter plan­ning made peo­ple and agri­cul­ture vul­ner­a­ble to drought,” she said. This in turn led to “failed agri­cul­tural har­vests (that) con­trib­uted to un­em­ploy­ment and un­rest.”

The so­lu­tion re­quires im­prov­ing wa­ter man­age­ment meth­ods, they said.

More than 60% of the re­gion’s pop­u­la­tion live in ar­eas un­der high or very high wa­ter stress com­pared to just 35% world­wide.

De­spite the scarcity of wa­ter, the re­gional au­thor­i­ties im­pose the world’s low­est con­sump­tion charges.

“Low ser­vice tar­iffs dis­cour­age ef­fi­cient use of wa­ter,” said the au­thors, who are calling for higher fees that re­flect wa­ter’s true value.

More re­al­is­tic fees could en­cour­age the pub­lic to re­duce con­sump­tion while gen­er­at­ing rev­enue to pay for re­source pro­tec­tion mea­sures and main­tain­ing in­fra­struc­ture, they say.

Guangzhe Chen, head of the World Bank’s Global Wa­ter Prac­tice, also rec­om­mends less con­ven­tional meth­ods of sourc­ing wa­ter, such as de­sali­na­tion and re­cy­cling.

Cur­rently, more than half of waste wa­ter in the re­gion is dumped into the en­vi­ron­ment un­treated, re­sult­ing in waste and health risks.

Jor­dan and Tu­nisia al­ready safely re­use waste wa­ter in ir­ri­ga­tion and to re­plen­ish sup­plies, ac­cord­ing to the World Bank. —

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