28 November, 2010

The Arab World's Environmental Woes

At times, it becomes very frightening to contemplate of the future here: since 1970 to date, the Arab world's population has tripled from about 120 million up to 380 million now and is estimated to rise to a mind boggling 600 million in 2050. In Mauritania, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and the Sudan - the desert is advancing and expanding fast. And there are these:
  • The region is also suffering from the loss of arable land and increased coastal degradation. Permanent cropland, currently less than six per cent of the total area, is shrinking due to land degradation. The cumulative impact of land degradation is estimated to have reached $1.15 billion per year in lost agricultural production. Lack of integrated coastal zone management is exacerbating competition over land and marine resources. The World Bank estimates that the region is losing about $1.2 billion a year in tourism revenues due to coastal zone degradation and the discharge of wastewater into coastal seas. Al Ahram May, 2006
  • The Arab region faces growing challenges to the security of its population from environmental stresses, the report says. Potential conflicts originating in competition for dwindling natural resources may heavily strain relations among communities, populations and states. These challenges will result from population and demographic pressures, the overexploitation of land, water shortages, desertification, pollution, and climate change......An important factor is growing population pressures, the report says. According to UN estimates, the Arab countries will be home to some 395 million people by 2015 (compared to about 317 million in 2007, and 150 million in 1980). In a region where water and arable land are shrinking, population growth at these rates while falling, will still put intense pressures on the carrying capacity of Arab countries’ lands and further threaten environmental sustainability. Global Arab Network August, 2009
  • Dust storms scour Iraq. Freak floods wreak havoc in Saudi Arabia and Yemen. Rising sea levels erode Egypt’s coast. Hotter, drier weather worsens water scarcity in the Middle East, already the world’s most water-short region. Arab News November, 2010
  • The Arab world, one of the driest regions on the planet, will tip into severe water scarcity as early as 2015, a report issued on Thursday predicts......By then, Arabs will have to survive on less than 500 cubic metres of water a year each, or below a tenth of the world average of more than 6,000 cubic metres per capita, said the report by the Arab Forum for Environment and Development (AFED). Arabian Business November, 2010
What is even more disturbing is that, we here seem least disturbed by this gloomy, bleak outlook. For instance: do a 'Google Search' for green middle east or environment middle east or green Arabia or Arabian wildlife - and you will be most surprised at the very few useful or positive results you get. Worst: almost all the results are by people leaving out of the Arab world; most of who have never ever been here; most of the youth, even those in high schools and, in colleges - whose lives would be most affected by environmental issues, later - are the most unaware and least concerned.

It would be most relieving and more assuring, if governments in the region would join UNEP's Green Economy Initiative or such like projects. It would be even most relieving and give hope, if people here, especially the young would be - not only more interested and aware of environmental and ecological issues, but be proactive too, on these matters.