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Islam in environmental education
Surveys on environmental education in Muslim societies indicate that ordinary Muslims prefer being educated about environmentalism by their religious leaders. In a Jordanian survey from the early 1990s, the majority of the respondents (64%) believed that Imams should take an active role in environmental education and public awareness, while a third (34%) felt that Imams were already doing so.
According to Atallah, Khan and Malkawi, it is common in the Eastern Mediterranean region to promote human well-being in all aspects of life, including education, through the use of Islamic concepts. By this approach, education systems based on Islamic principles offer forums for delivering Islamic teachings, and the mosque, as is well known, is one of the most efficient places to reach the public in all topics concerning daily life.261 It should, however, always be kept in mind that a purpose-oriented application of Islamic principles does 259 Ibid., pp. 21-22.
260 Ibid., p. 22.
261 Sadok Atallah, M. Z. Ali Khan & Mazen Malkawi, ‘Water Conservation through Public Awareness Based on Islamic Teachings in the Eastern Mediterranean Region’, in Faruqui et al.
(eds.) Water Management in Islam, (Tokyo: United Nations University Press, 2001), pp. 49-60.
FIIA REPORT 25/2010 105 not come without its problems. As is well known, by focusing on selected parts of Islamic teachings, local mosques have been used, for example, as forums for spreading radical Islamism.
Local policymakers are becoming increasingly cognizant of the value of including religious and cultural aspects in public awareness and education strategies. Islamic teachings on water conservation are also beginning to be included in water demand management strategies in Muslim countries. As early as the 1990s, in a joint programme between the Ministries of Water Sources, Awqaf and Islamic Affairs, imams in Amman were educated on water scarcity in Jordan and on the need for public cooperation. 262 Atallah, Khan and Malkawi also argue that promoting the conservation of the environment within the Islamic faith is productive: using the Islamic educational system to raise public awareness has a beneficial effect on the level of environmental knowledge. Therefore, they accentuate the fact that for public awareness programmes to be as efficient as possible they need to be holistic and multidisciplinary, and include both religious and social aspects.263 According to Imfadi abu-Hola, Associate Professor in environmental ethics at Yarmouk University in Jordan, environmental education and multi-cultural education share several similarities through emphasizing values such as the importance of education, empowerment and active citizenship. Further common features are valuing diversity, respect and compassion. Also, both have a global perspective.264 Water protection principles that heed the local religious context are, according to Hussein Amery, likely to be more effective than imported, foreign environmental principles. Amery, an expert in Levantine water issues, goes on to say that Islamic teachings embrace possibilities to develop water and environmental protection, which is in accordance with Islam through the capacity of humans as khalīfa.
It is part of the obligation of humans to protect and care for the environment.265 Since Islam has an influence on people’s perceptions, 262 Faruqui, ‘Islam and Water’, p. 6.
263 Atallah, Khan & Malkawi, ‘Water Conservation through Public Awareness’, pp. 49-50, 57.
Imfadi abu-Hola, ‘An Islamic Perspective on Environmental Literacy’, Education, 130:2
(2009), pp. 195-211.
265 Amery, ‘Islam and the Environment’, pp. 39-41.
106 FIIA REPORT 25/2010 religious values and rules are among the most effective factors affecting and shaping individuals’ behaviour and attitudes towards various issues of life.266 There is a growing environmental awareness in the Levant that can be observed, for example, in the teachings in mosques and religious schools. Some scholars argue that these forums constitute an effective domain for reaching people. However, environmental awareness programmes should not be confined to this domain, but should also extend to the education system as a whole.267 Literacy, including water management and environmental literacy, is a never-ending process, which should be continuously promoted and encouraged at all levels and in all sectors. If environmental literacy were understood in a broader sense, through the inclusion of the social, cultural and ecological dimensions, this would also work for the goals of effective education.268 Unfortunately, this method has not been efficiently used. Water conservation must involve everyone and requires a change in behaviour, which involves social and financial costs. Isolated projects or activities will not achieve the required results.269
As a recognized political and social power in the Levant, Islam as a holistic approach is best attained when considered in its local context. For example, according to the Iraqi scholar Mawil Izzi Dien, the main environmental problems in the Middle East are caused by a
disruption of the prevalent value system due to a decline in morals:
when spiritual or ethical values are not recognized as commercially important, this leads to a severe cultural rupture that takes people further away from their natural associations with the environment.
In order to reverse the alienation from this natural relationship, Dien suggests reverting to the traditional Islamic relationship between 266 Abu-Hola, ‘An Islamic Perspective’, p. 198.
267 Faruqui, ‘Islam and Water’, p. 7.
268 Abu-Hola, ‘An Islamic Perspective’, pp. 198 and 210.
269 Atallah, Khan & Malkawi, ‘Water Conservation through Public Awareness’, p. 53.
Islam as a religion has many difficulties when it comes to practice, not to mention those that have developed over the last fourteen centuries due to misunderstandings, misinterpretations, and misappropriation. Islam can only make sense if it is taken as a system and utilized in such a way that makes it applicable within the notion of ‘submission’ to the paradigm of tawhīd that governs the whole.271 Even though not all states in the Levant are outspokenly Islamic in their constitutions, it does not mean that Islam as a religion or social and political force would be diminished. On the contrary, it is argued here that Islam is one of the key elements shaping a common identity between the states in the Levant. This shared identity could then become beneficial in resolving not only the region’s environmental problems, but also issues related to water distribution. Most of the countries in the Levant consider water distribution pivotal in solving many of the economic problems, such as those related to industry and irrigation.272 This chapter has presented general Islamic principles regarding environmental and water management and governance, based on the Quran and hadiths. It has emphasized Islam as a social and political power, as well as its possible role in helping to resolve transboundary water issues and increase awareness of water conservation. While the chapter has sought to demonstrate the versatility and universality of these religious principles and has given examples of their potential practical applications, the extent to which Islam actually influences practices in Muslim societies is a largely uncharted area. In general, there has to date been very limited research on the impact of Islam on environmental practices. In order to conceptualize the contemporary environmental situation in this regard, further research and fieldwork is of immediate interest.
270 Dien, ‘Islam and the Environment’, p. 56.
272 Ibid., p. 54.
108 FIIA REPORT 25/2010 Piia Moilanen and Ulla-Maija Mroueh 8 Mobilizing funding in the water sector: the potential for private sector participation and desalination in the Levant region The four neighbouring countries of the Levant, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and Israel, are suffering serious consequences as a result of their water scarcity. At the same time, their water infrastructure is, excluding Israel, in a defective condition. As a consequence, the countries are planning massive investments in their water infrastructure over the next decade. The limited availability of public funding resources, however, is one of the most significant obstacles to developing the necessary water and sanitation services. To this end, this chapter argues that there is an urgent need to introduce increased private sector participation into the water and wastewater utilities sectors in these countries. The role of financing mechanisms becomes even more critical for communities in which expensive desalination remains the only drought-proof water supply alternative. This chapter discusses the role of desalination as one component of water infrastructure and the potential for private sector participation in water investments in this area.
Technical water management measures
Unlocking water scarcity calls for a focus on integrated water resources management, which entails taking into account both social, environmental and technical aspects. Since most of the renewable water resources in the Levant region are transboundary and originate outside of the region, integrated water management and adequate legal measures are of even greater importance. Most countries, however, suffer from weak water and environmental policies and a lack of management capacity. Also characteristic of FIIA REPORT 25/2010 109 the Levant region is the fact that political aspects are inextricably intertwined with technical water management measures.
Technical water management measures can be divided into demand-side and supply-side measures. On the demand side, the measures include diminishing losses, technical measures to improve water efficiency, and the control or reallocation of water consumption. 273 The two basic demand-side levers for balancing water use at a sustainable level are increasing the price of water and restricting the quantity available for use. Pricing mechanisms can be effective at reducing urban demand but are politically and technologically challenging in agriculture. 274 Supply-side measures include, for example, more efficient use of existing resources, water harvesting, wastewater recycling, water imports, and desalination: a method for purifying salty water by removing dissolved salts via distillation or membrane separation. The emphasis in the Middle Eastern countries has long been on mobilizing new water supplies, while water use efficiency has received less attention. For example, Lebanon’s domestic water consumption, over 200 litres per capita per day, is about 25% higher than in Finland. 275 According to a report by the 2030 Water Resources Group276, closing the water gap through traditional supply measures, such as
aquifer recharge and water transfer, would in many cases be costly:
up to more than 0.10 USD/m3, which in many cases is more than the current cost of water production. The most expensive supply measures, like desalination, reach a cost of 0.50 USD/m3 or more.
Alternatively, the cheapest measures for bridging the water gap would typically be efficiency measures in agriculture, such as totally 273 M. Mohsen, ‘Water strategies and desalination in Jordan’, Desalination, Vol. 203, pp. 27Venot, J-P, et al., Irrigated Agriculture, Water Pricing and Water Savings in the Lower Jordan River Basin (in Jordan), Agriculture. Research Report 18. (International Water Management Institute Sri Lanka, 2005).
275 The Daily Star, ‘Lebanon goes thirsty as municipalities fail to deliver water supply promises’ (08 September 2010); Aquastat, ‘Country Profiles, Lebanon’.
276 The 2030 Water Resources Group, Charting Our Water Future. Economic frameworks to inform decision-making (2009). The Members of the 2030 Water Resources Group include McKinsey & Company, the World Bank Group, and a consortium of business partners.
110 FIIA REPORT 25/2010 free irrigation scheduling or drip irrigation, costing typically 0.01USD/m3.
Ultimately, implementing almost any water management measure requires political will as well as transparent, accountable, communicative, integrated and participative governance. 277
The role of desalination in enhancing water security
Ocean water desalination is already a vast and important water source in water-scarce countries that are affluent. However, in the coming decades the Middle East will be up against such a dire water shortage that investing in desalination technologies may be inevitable. Thus, despite the high price of desalination, demand is growing steeply as it remains the only drought-proof alternative for many communities.
The international water market journal, Global Water Intelligence278, anticipates that global desalination capacity will almost double by 2016, from 68 million m3/d in 2009 to 130 million m3/d. The Middle East currently accounts for about 75% of global desalination capacity, Saudi Arabia being the largest desalinating country in the world.
The relatively high energy consumption, 2-8 kWh/m3, and cost of desalination have not posed as big a challenge to the oil-rich countries of the region as they do to the lower-income Middle Eastern states, like those in the Levant.279 In general, electricity consumption and cost are the most critical factors when considering the viability of desalination. In addition, transport costs may be significant if the distance between water source and users is long or if the altitude difference is substantial.
277 Ahmad Wagdy and Khaled AbuZeid, ‘Challenges of Implementing IWRM in the Arab Region’ (CEDARE, 2006), http://water.cedare.int/cedare.int/files15%5CFile2289.pdf. Accessed on 15 September 2010.
278 GWI, DeSal Markets 2010, http://www.desalmarkets.com/. Accessed on 15 September 2010.