Pressure on water,
While in some capitals experts and politicians talk about climate change
and its threatening consequences, many people in the developing world
have spent decades learning how to cope with less water. Available projec-
tions indicate that there will be even less water available to many develop-
ing countries in the coming decades.
A recent report on the state of the environment dicate that the population will rise from 6,700
in the Arab world paints a very gloomy pic- million in 2008 to 9,000 million in 2050.
ture. The Middle East and North Africa faces a ing demand for water despite its declining avail-
temperature increase of about 2°C, perhaps as ability could rapidly increase water stress. In a
much as 5.5°C by the end of this century, lead- region already known for its violent conflicts,
ing to a rise in sea levels that will affect urban water stress could be an additional factor fuel-
areas and farm land. Climate change will also ling instability and conflict. In the words of Meir
mean a 20 per cent decrease in precipitation. Ben Meir, former Israeli Water Commissioner, “I
In 2001 the average available water supply per can promise that if there is not sufficient wa-
person in the Arab region was 977 cubic metres ter in our region, if there is scarcity of water, if
– less than the UN definition of water scarcity, people remain thirsty for water, then we shall
according to the report. Projections put this doubtless face war”.
figure lower still, at 460 cubic metres by 2023.
UNEP estimates that by 2025 some 165 million Some countries have invested massively to
people in the Mediterranean basin may be liv- cope with water scarcity. Libya has been work-
ing with less than 1 000 cubic metres per capita ing for decades to extract underground “fossil”
per year, including 63 million with less than 500 water from its southern regions and transport
As long ago as 1990 six Mediter- it to the urban centres in the north through a
ranean countries, including Libya, Tunisia, and network of pipes. The Great Man-Made River,
faced severe water shortages. as the project is known, was started in 1984.
The 1 300 wells and some 4 000 km of pipes
High population growth is putting further pres- cost US$25 000 million. Libya is planning to
sure on fresh water demand. UN estimates in- invest a further US$33 000 million over the