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UAE pledges $150m for Mena water security

Water scarcity in Iraq is impacting on Mustafa Ahmed, 13, forcing his family to sell their buffalo Reuters/Alaa Al-Marjani
Water scarcity in Iraq is impacting on Mustafa Ahmed, 13, forcing his family to sell their buffalo
  • Funding is ‘step in right direction’
  • Demand to rise by 25% by 2050
  • Iraq’s president highlights impact

A $150 million commitment from the UAE at Cop28 to fund water security solutions in vulnerable countries is a step in the right direction but more must be done to address the issue, say experts.

Speaking at a panel discussion at the climate change conference in Dubai, Ramadan Assi, executive adviser for strategic partnerships at Intellectual Ventures, Global Good Fund, who is based in Turkey, said the problems were “very alarming”.

“The whole Middle East has an issue with water scarcity,” he said. “We are 6 percent of the world’s population and we have access to 2 percent of clean water supply.”

By 2050, water demand around the world is projected to increase by as much as a quarter, according to the World Resource Institute. The five countries facing the highest water stress are Bahrain, Cyprus, Kuwait, Lebanon and Oman.

Earlier this year, Iraq warned it was facing its most acute water shortage in a century with seven million people experiencing reduced access to the resource.

About 90 percent of the country’s rivers are polluted and Iraq will meet only 15 percent of its water demands by 2035, according to the United Nations.

Giving his opening remarks to the Cop28 summit, Abdul Latif Jamal Rashid, president of Iraq, called on negotiating countries to include a “just distribution of water” in their discussions when it comes to loss and damages.

“Iraq is a low emitter of global greenhouse gases. However, it is one of the most vulnerable countries in the world towards climate change, particularly water and agriculture,” he said.

“Iraq faces a serious water crisis because of the reduction in water resources at source and the impact that climate change is having on traditional agriculture techniques and the threat this has on our future.”

The Middle East is already the most water-scarce region in the world – and the increasing temperatures are predicted to lead to more persistent and acute drought, according to the UN Climate Change.

More than 60 percent of the population in the region has very little, if any, access to potable water – water that is fit for human consumption – and 70 percent of their GDP is vulnerable to water stress. 

People, Person, CrowdReuters/Thaier Al-Sudani
President Abdul Latif Jamal Rashid said that water scarcity is posing a huge threat to the future of Iraq

As 70 percent of Mena’s agricultural production is rain-fed, the region is extremely vulnerable to changes in temperature and rainfall resulting from climate change.

With the Menap (Middle East, North Africa, Afghanistan and Pakistan) region currently importing between 80-90 percent of the food it consumes, addressing water scarcity is a critical issue for its agriculture sector.

Agritech solutions

One possible solution is that provided by UK-headquartered Engage Crop Solutions (ECS), which specialises in crop enhancement through its “Aqualatus” technology which was exhibited at this year’s AgraME exhibition hosted in Dubai in October.

The technology uses a blend of liquid polymers containing billions of microscopic structures which stick to soil particles to create a clump that reduces surface run-off and evaporation.

Now present in 26 countries worldwide, ECS has previously worked with Dubai Municipality in a year-long trial at the Al Warqa Park that showed that its technology could reduce water usage by 50 percent, cutting daily water usage from 87,000 litres a day to 43,500 litres.

“We’re currently working on projects with both Sharjah and Abu Dhabi and we’re also in talks with Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, as well as Morocco, Egypt, Iraq and Iran,” Mark Horner, founder and director of Engage Crop Solutions, told AGBI.

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