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Webinar hears of ‘politics of water scarcity’ in region

By Saeb Rawashdeh - Oct 03,2021 - Last updated at Oct 09,2021

In this undated photo, an agricultural terrace is seen overlooking the Dead Sea (Photo courtesy of the CBRL)

AMMAN — Forty per cent of water resources in Jordan are transboundary, water shared by two or more states, according to a Jordanian scholar.

Speaking during a webinar titled “The politics of water scarcity in the Levant” on Wednesday, Hussam Hussein from the University of Oxford said that Jordan’s groundwater resources are over-extracted, and their level and quality is rapidly decreasing.

The webinar was organised by the Council for British Research in the Levant in Amman.

 “When we look at the lower part of Jordan River, the flow decreased by 97 per cent and biodiversity by 50 per cent. It also impacts the Dead Sea, which is decreasing by one metre per year,” Hussein warned.

He noted that 54 per cent of current water sources comes from groundwater, 33 per cent from surface water and 13 per cent from treated wastewater.

Moreover, data from 2017 showed that 52 per cent of water was used for domestic purposes and it has increased due to the population boom in Jordan, said Hussein.

 “The water scarcity narrative claims that Jordan suffers from unfair sharing of water with its neighbours, climate change and aridity, as well as population growth, immigration and the influx of refugees,” Hussein said.

The water mismanagement narrative revolves around leakage and physical loss, illegal wells and illegal use, and unsustainable agricultural use, he added.

Some of solutions that Hussein proposed are: Desalinisation, dams, the Disi water project, the treatment of wastewater, the prevention of leakages and the prevention of illegal extraction of water.

Speaking also during the event, Martin Keulertz from the American University in Beirut, said: “The Arab world is one of the most food import dependent regions in the world and at the same time the local food production is limited due to water scarcity and land degradations.

He added that rural areas will be the most affected by economic decline, which will lead to urbanisation.

“If it’s not addressed, food insecurity can lead to political instability and hungry people may adopt radical political ideas,” noted Keulertz.

Majd Al Naber from the West-Asian and North African Institute highlighted the effect of climate change in the region.

“Deforestation rate has increased by 4 per cent, “ Naber said. She noted that the region is known for its internal migration, which includes 7.2 million of refugees and 12.4 million of internally displaced people.

Naber said the drought season in Syria in 2007-2008 forced 40,000-60,000 families to migrate to other areas.

The most affected are small farmers, small households and less informed, Naber said.

“There are various interlinked factors to stimulate displacement in the region, water shocks are one of them, but they cannot be considered the main one. Displacements are linked with social, economic and stability factors,” Naber said.  

 

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