Libmonster ID: KZ-2102
Author(s) of the publication: P. GUSTERIN


Water is highly valued in all Arab countries. And it's easy to explain. Some areas of Algeria, Iraq, Lebanon, Morocco, Palestine, Sudan, Syria, and Tunisia are characterized by a" Moscow level " of precipitation, i.e., about 600 mm per year. But if the evaporation rate in central Russia is about 500 mm per year, then in most of the Arab countries - more than 2000 mm, and in some areas of Egypt and Sudan - more than 2500 mm per year. As a result, the difference between the amount of precipitation and evaporation on the territory of Arab countries is never positive. This leads to the fact that while the dry season can be clearly distinguished in Southern Arabia and on the Mediterranean coast of Asia and Africa, the rest, and most of the territory of the Arab countries, is constantly arid1.

The Millennium Development Goals, put forward by world leaders at the Millennium Summit in 2000, aim to halve the proportion of people without access to safe water and sanitation by 2015 (Target 10). Arab countries as a whole have achieved remarkable results in this area: the number of people with access to improved water has increased from 180.1 million (84% of all those in need in the region) in 1990 to 231.8 million (86%) in 2004, and the number of people with access to sanitation has increased from 120.6 million. million people (61%) to 196 million people (71%). By 2015, these figures are expected to grow to 335.8 million people by water and 267.2 million people by sewage. However, it is already clear that the Arab countries are lagging behind the schedule for this Task.

In these Countries, the proportion of the population without access to improved water fell from 16% in 1990 to 14% in 2004, which was 37.7 million people, and without access to sanitation - from 39% to 29%, respectively, which was 80.1 million people. The situation is not the same in all countries: while in Yemen 67% of the population is covered by water supply, in Mauritania - only 53%, and in Somalia-29%; in sewerage-43%, 34% and 26%, respectively. In the poor countries of the Arab world - and these three countries are among them-these problems are most acute.

The article is based on the UNDP (United Nations Development Programme) Human Development Report 2006. The report titled "What Lies Behind Water Scarcity: Power, Poverty, and the Global Water Crisis" was published in Russian in 2006 by Vse Mir Publishing House.

page 33

There is also a significant difference between urban and rural areas. For example, access to improved water and sanitation in Yemen is 85% and 27%, respectively, in Mauritania-47% and 8%, in Somalia-47% and 14%.

In an effort to solve their water supply problems, most Arab countries resort to excessive extraction of water from renewable sources, which causes great damage to the environment. It is interesting that financially secure countries spend water resources more intensively than others. So, the total volume of extracted water in relation to the total volume of renewable water resources for Kuwait is 2200% (!), the United Arab Emirates-1553%, Saudi Arabia-722%, Libya -711%, Qatar-547%, Bahrain -259%, while for Yemen-168%, Oman-138%. In all these countries, there are practically no rivers or lakes, and therefore mainly underground water is consumed. 6 of the 8 named states belong to the Persian Gulf basin. Water desalination plants are also widely used in them. The first such installation began to operate in Saudi Arabia in 1907. In addition, there are entire desalination plants, but they, as can be seen from the above data, can not solve the problem of water supply completely.

The consequences of excessive water use are manifested in different ways. Most worryingly, the water mirror is being lowered as groundwater reserves are being extracted faster than they can be replenished by the hydrological cycle. For example, in Yemen, the water mirror decreases by more than 1 m every year.Austrian experts warned the country's authorities back in 2004 that the water sources in the capital city of Sana'a, whose population is rapidly increasing (from 1994 to 2004, approximately 2 times), may run out in 20082.

Drying up of rivers is also one of the symptoms of so-called "water stress". According to the UN Millennium Ecosystem Assessment report, water-based ecosystems are currently among the most degraded natural resources in the world. River ecosystems characterized by excessive water abstraction and reduced drainage as a result include the Euphrates, Jordan, Nile and Tigris, in the basins of which 7 of the 14 Arab countries of the Middle East lie.

Today, with an average annual water supply of 1.2 thousand cubic meters per person, the Middle East is the region of the world most experiencing "water stress" (water supply of less than 1.7 thousand cubic meters of water per person per year). Of the Arab countries in the region, only Iraq and Lebanon are above this threshold.

Water supply problems are compounded by rapid population growth, which in Arab countries is projected to increase from 310.5 million in 2004 to 386.0 million in 2015. Thus, population growth in these countries averages 2% per year and is one of the highest in the world, second only to sub-Saharan Africa (2.2%), while the global average does not exceed 1.1%. It is estimated that by 2025, water availability in the Middle East and North Africa will average about 500 cubic meters per person per year, and more than 90% of the population of these regions will experience "water stress". Water scarcity (water availability of less than 1 thousand cubic meters of water per person per year) and "water stress" in Arab countries will increase by 6.5 and 3.5 times by 2050 compared to 1990, respectively.

At the same time, water prices in the Middle East and North Africa are unreasonably low. For example, in Algeria, current tariffs cover from 1% to 7% of the minimum water supply costs. Such pricing policies hinder efficient water use and threaten sustainability in the economy. According to expert estimates, in these regions only 30% of flood water used for irrigation reaches crops, and the share of irrigated land in Arab countries is about 25% of the total area of agricultural land. At the same time, the diversion of water resources to non-agricultural sectors of the economy in these countries is constantly growing: if in 2000 it was 6%, then by 2050 it will reach 28% of the total volume of water resources.

When we talk about the water situation in the Middle East, in addition to the Arab countries, we cannot ignore Israel. Nowhere is water scarcity more acute than in the occupied Palestinian territories. Palestinians, especially those living in the Gaza Strip, are experiencing one of the most acute water shortages in the world. Here, on average, no more than 320 cubic meters are consumed. m of water per person per year, which is significantly lower than the level that is referred to in official documents as "absolute insufficiency".

The solution to this problem depends not only on the physical availability of water, but also on the political management of this resource. The uneven distribution of water from aquifers shared with Israel reflects the asymmetry of power relations in water resources management, which is reflected in the huge difference between the levels of water use by Palestinians and Israelis. The population of Israel is about 2 times larger than the population of the Palestinian territories, but the total amount of water consumed by the latter is 7.5 times less. In the West Bank, Israeli settlers use about 9 times more water per person than Palestinians. Moreover, the situation is getting worse: in 2002, an average of 71 liters of water per day per Palestinian, and 350 liters per Israeli, 3 i.e. the difference was approximately 5-fold.

page 34

Why is water distributed so unevenly? The fact is that the Palestinian National Authority has no established rights to the waters of the Jordan River-its main source of water on the surface. This means that the Palestinians can meet almost all their water needs using only underground water. The Western aquifer, which is part of the Jordan River basin, is the most important renewable water source for the Palestinian territories. About 70% of the layer's resources are replenished within the territory of the West Bank, from which water seeps towards the Mediterranean coast. Much of this water is not used by the Palestinians due to the fact that Israeli representatives in the Joint Water Committee strictly control the number and depth of wells available to the Palestinians. Israeli settlers, on the other hand, are subject to less stringent requirements, which allows them to drill deeper wells. Thus, settlers receive about 53% of the total water produced from the aquifer, while they own no more than 13% of the wells located in the West Bank. Water that is not used by the Palestinians penetrates under the territory of Israel and is already extracted there for the benefit of another people.

The same situation occurs with the water resources of the coastal basin, whose waters barely reach the Gaza Strip, since water is extracted very intensively on the Israeli side. As a result, the amount of water pumped out in the Gaza Strip far exceeds the so-called "renewal volume", which leads to salinization of both the water and the land where this water enters.

Limited access to water hinders Palestinian agricultural activities. Although agriculture accounts for a relatively small share of the economy of the Palestinian territories (no more than 15%), it is of great importance for ensuring the normal existence of the poorest groups of the population. The irrigation system is currently undeveloped in Palestine and, due to water scarcity, covers less than a third of the available land.

Insufficient development of water supply leads to the dependence of Palestinians on water supplies from Israel, which becomes a lever of pressure during the aggravation of relations between the parties. In addition, Israel's construction of the separation wall, which the Arab media called the "new Berlin Wall", threatens the Palestinians with a deterioration in the water supply situation. This has already led to the loss of several wells by the Palestinians.

The situation in the Palestinian territories is different from that which has developed since Israel concluded cooperation agreements with other countries. For example, since the signing of the peace treaty in 1994, Israel and Jordan have jointly created water catchment facilities near Lake Tiberias to facilitate access to water for Jordanian farmers. In addition, the Middle East Desalination Technology Research Center in Muscat (Oman) has successfully completed a 10-year research program to find effective ways to desalinate water. The Center's Board includes representatives from the European Commission, Israel, Japan, Jordan, the Republic of Korea, the Netherlands, the Palestinian National Authority, and the United States.

The issue of water security, like no other, is linked to the problem of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. At the same time, water is a kind of symbol of the hydrological interdependence that binds both sides. However, this interdependence should ensure equality in everything related to the use of water resources. And this equality will be another contribution to overcoming difficulties and contradictions between countries and to establishing peace in this long-suffering land.

1 Geographical Atlas, Moscow, 1982, pp. 36, 40-41.

Armin Graf. 2 Water recourses of Sana'a to be finished by 2008 // Yemen Times, 2004, N 762.

3 The Atlas of Water. L., 2004, p. 79.


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P. GUSTERIN, WATER AS A FACTOR OF STABILITY IN THE ARAB EAST // Astana: Digital Library of Kazakhstan (BIBLIO.KZ). Updated: 22.06.2023. URL: (date of access: 02.03.2024).

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