Study: Water shortages worst in Middle East
May 18, 2011 10:12 AM (Last updated: May 18, 2011 10:17 AM)
By Michael Casey
Associated Press
Key emerging economies and oil rich nations export water issues to ensure food security through African ‘land grab’ (Maplecroft)
Key emerging economies and oil rich nations export water issues to ensure food security through African ‘land grab’ (Maplecroft)
DUBAI: Water shortages are worst in Africa and the Middle East, and the hardest hit are nations in the Gulf, including Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, according to a study released Wednesday by risk analysis firm Maplecroft.

The U.K.-based company, which compared the amounts of water available in a country compared to the demands for it, also found that the booming economies of China and India were facing increasing shortages, and parts of Africa with adequate water like Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo and Kenya could face increasing problems as they lease out huge chunks of farmland to foreign nations.

Maplecroft said China has a contract to grow 2.8 million hectares of palm oil, while in the last year in Sudan, companies from South Korea purchased 700,000 hectares and the UAE 750,000 hectares.

“One of the primary water users is agriculture, providing a direct link between water stress and food security,” said Principal Environmental Analyst at Maplecroft, Kimberlee Myers.

“When a country goes outside its borders to ensure food security, it creates a situation in which water is reallocated away from host countries,” she said. “If local water supplies are being used for agriculture for food destined for foreign countries at the expense of the needs of local communities, then the governments could be open to accusations of negatively impacting on the right to water of their people. As water resources deplete in countries that currently experience low water stress, this will become increasingly problematic.”

Maplecroft’s Water Stress Index pinpoints areas of water stress down to 10 square kilometers worldwide by calculating the ratio of domestic, industrial and agricultural water consumption against renewable supplies of water from precipitation, rivers and groundwater. The index can be used by companies to identify risk of water interruptions to supply chains, operations and investments.

According to the index of 188 countries and regions, the 15 worst effected – categorized as extreme risk – are all in the Middle East and Africa.

For countries such as Yemen and region of Western Sahara, the shortages are due mostly to their being located in semiarid regions where poverty is rampant and the populations are growing.

For others, like the oil-rich Gulf states including the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, their rapid economic growth that has included a massive building boom exacerbated underling shortages and increased the demand for water among growing populations, the study found.

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