By Saeb Rawashdeh – Oct 01,2018

AMMAN — While water scarcity in Jordan has been widely researched, mainly from an engineering perspective, less is known from the water politics angle, a Jordanian scholar said.

During a lecture titled “Water scarcity discourses and hydro-politics in the case of Jordan”, held at the CBRL British Institute in Amman on Saturday, Hussam Hussein, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Kassel, Germany, explained that Jordan is among the most water scarce countries in the world.

It is important to understand how a problem is framed, in order to being able to provide the best appropriate solutions, therefore his research was focused on “Who constructs this narrative in the region? How is this done? And what are the hidden interests behind this discourse?”

After introducing concepts of hydro-politics in the Arab region, he elaborated on the links between water resources and complicated relations between regional and international powers.

“Water politics can mean many different things. It can include movements, NGOs which shape water politics, but it can also involve state actors that sign international treaties and construct dams,” Hussein explained, adding: “Hydro-politics considers sharing of water resources on the surface by different state actors, [such as] rivers that cross more than one country and conflicts or cooperation between states in this regard.”

“It was said by many prominent political figures that water wars will happen especially in the MENA region,” he continued.

“Hydro-politics studies conflict and cooperation between states over shared water resources, meaning , for instance, rivers that cross more than one country, such as the Nile River, the Yarmouk River or the Jordan River,”Hussein noted.

According to Hussein, there are three pillars of hydro-hegemony and how water can be allocated: geographic position -if the country is upstream, it has an advantageous position; exploitation potential which deals with the size of the country, infrastructure and skills; power, which can be hard(military)power, bargaining power(negotiating skills) and discursive power(shaping the way people think about water issues).

“Water scarcity can be physical and economic,” the expert continued, noting that the former means the physical lack of water while the later means insufficient industrial capacities to use available water in an efficient manner.

Regarding the Jordanian situation, Hussein said: “Water can bring people together and build bridges over water resources instead of creating new conflicts.”

The scholar went on to identify the actors involved in constructing the discourse on water in Jordan and their interests, before examining the effects of the discourse on policy-options, analysing the solutions opened and closed by the discourse in the national water strategy.

Finally, he explored the effects of the deployment of the discourse on trans-boundary water governance, as well as other factors that shape Jordanian-Syrian, Jordanian-Israeli and Jordanian-Saudi hydro-political relations.

For him, it is necessary to consider the broader political and geopolitical context to consider hydro-political outcomes, adding the necessity to support interdiciplinary research on water issues in Jordan, including social sciences, and policy studies for sustainable solutions that take into account the environment and the future generations.