Every day the media focuses on the deteriorating political and economic situation in the Arab world. In the Gulf states, the challenge is how to overcome terrorism.
However, there is a far greater threat of which the authorities, planners and society seem to be totally oblivious, and that is the impending water shortage crisis. In a recent Project Syndicate report, Brahma Chellaney, Professor of Strategic Studies at the New Delhi-based Center for Policy Research and the author of nine books, focuses on the hidden danger that faces the Arab world and clearly states that it is not terrorism or fundamentalism but the shortage of water.
However, all of these reports either are not read or are shrugged off. For years, I have tried to highlight the fact that the Gulf states are almost waterless.
The problem is “exacerbated by exploding population and the depletion and degradation of natural ecosystems.” And more so by a total lack of concern by the public in the light of a media more intent on hailing and praising rather than pointing out the stark reality of this horrible situation that we are already in.
There has to be a clearly defined water policy and regional experts should be brought in to help draft such a plan. We must admit that there is a problem, cut down water subsidies and push forward a water conservation plan. At the same time, we must stop all of these grandiose agricultural projects that consume enormous amounts of water and we must make people aware that every drop of water is more precious than oil. The government should also seek out local water experts and there are many, but to do that, we must eliminate nepotism. The National Water Company here previously had board members who had nothing to do with water!
The recycling of waste water and its use can help a lot, but all of these projects have been put off due to the selfish interests of a few. Building new water desalination plants is okay, but conserving water and saving aquifers is far more important. Also, society as a whole should take part in this national campaign. Schools, mosques and communities should all be involved. Those advocating the conservation of this precious liquid resource should be rewarded. Paying lip service to water conservation programs won’t do. Water consumption per capita among Gulf citizens is the highest in the world, and it is shameful and a sin that nothing is being done about it!
We all are stakeholders. I wish that our media instead of gloating over metro systems, roads and high-rise buildings would focus on this hidden and dangerous threat to our very own existence.