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«Managing Blue Gold New Perspectives on Water Security in the Levantine Middle East Mari Luomi (editor) Managing Blue Gold New Perspectives on Water ...»

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Differences between countries in water withdrawal rates are large and, in the case of Israel, Jordan and Syria, withdrawals outstrip annual renewable water availability. The share of total actual freshwaters withdrawn ranges from 18% in Turkey to a highly unsustainable 90% in Jordan. Pressure on the renewable freshwater resources is particularly high in Israel, Jordan and Syria, which use 80% to 90% of their total available resources. 4 Young and growing populations, rising living standards and wasteful consumption habits are pushing the demand for water increasingly higher, particularly in Jordan, the Occupied Palestinian Territories and Syria, where growth rates in 2008 were 2.5-3.2%.5 Rising living standards also contribute to increasing demand. The safety of water is still a concern in some states: in 2008, 11% of Syrians and 4% of Jordanians lacked access to improved sources of drinking water. 6 Also, as is typical of developing countries, agriculture is a major consumer of water in the Levant. Unsustainable and unattainable food self-sufficiency policies are wasting the precious resource on waterintensive crops and profligate irrigation practices. The share of irrigation of total water withdrawals is 45–65% in the Palestinian Territories, Jordan, Israel, Lebanon and Turkey, and almost 90% in Syria.7 An important uncertainty factor from a regional stability perspective is that 80% of the Middle East’s water resources are shared.8 What is more, the region’s history of conflicts often prevents 4 See table 5 in Annex 1.

5 Ibid.

6 WHO, Progress on Sanitation and Drinking-Water, 2010 Update (2010). Data for the OPT was not available.

7 See table 5 in Annex 1.

8 Presentation by Tarek Sadek, ‘Climate Change and Sustainable Development in the ESCWA Region’, UN-ESCWA (21 May 2010). Presentation for the course participants in Beirut.

FIIA REPORT 25/2010 13 the equal distribution of water resources among countries and religious or ethnic groups. Most Levantine countries rely on water from rivers that originate outside their borders and have increasingly scarcer water flows: Syria and Iraq are the lower riparians of the Euphrates and Tigris rivers that flow from Turkey, while Jordan and the Palestinian Territories depend on the Jordan River, originating in Israel, Lebanon and Syria. The most dependent countries in these terms are Syria (72%), Israel (58%) and Jordan (27%).9 Lebanon, too, shares rivers, such as the Orontes (Asi) with its neighbours. Most worryingly, none of the multilateral water management agreements of the major regional rivers is all-inclusive. Shared groundwater aquifers also lack riparian agreements on their management. 10 In the face of increased scarcity, the situation is a recipe for increased interstate tensions.

Climate change adds another level of uncertainty as it is expected to alter global and regional water cycles. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, in most parts of the Middle East, the climate is predicted to become hotter and drier than at present. Higher temperatures and reduced precipitation will increase the occurrence of droughts and escalate extreme rainfall events. As a result, an additional 80-100 million people are expected to become exposed to water stress in the coming 15 years, which in turn will further increase pressure on the region’s already overexploited groundwater resources.11 A more detailed examination of the five countries’ water resources with related statistical data is available in Annex 1 on pp. 134–137.

Background to the report: training course on water This report is the product of a training course for professionals on water issues in Syria and Lebanon titled Water, Climate Change and Security in the Levant, which was jointly organized by the Finnish 9 See table 5 in Annex 1.

10 Munther Haddadin, ‘Water Issues in the Middle East: Challenges and Opportunities’. Water Policy 4 (2002), p. 217.

11 The World Bank, ‘Adaptation to Climate Change in the Middle East and North Africa Region’.

http://go.worldbank.org/B0G53VPB00. Accessed on 17 September 2010.

14 FIIA REPORT 25/2010 Institute in Damascus and the Finnish Institute of International Affairs during spring 2010. The course consisted of an introductory part, involving preliminary reading, a working group meeting in Helsinki, and a one-week trip to Syria and Lebanon in May 2010.

Fifteen Finns representing diverse backgrounds and career stages participated in the entire course. Of these, nine researchers and other experts took up the invitation to write a chapter for this report.

The training course grew out of a perceived need to enhance Finnish expertise on important contemporary questions in the Middle East. Water, security and the emerging issue of climate change, all with important interlinkages, were chosen as the main themes. The idea was to complement the perspectives of social sciences with a managerial-technical approach to understanding the complex nature of water scarcity in the Levantine part of the region. Participants were invited and selected on this basis, which largely enriched the issues discussed and questions posed during meetings with local stakeholders in Syria and Lebanon. This methodology, which turned out to be a fruitful one during the course, is also strongly reflected in the composition of this report. A short summary of the course is presented in Annex 2 (pp. 138–140).

Scope of the report

This report presents case studies on the Levantine countries of Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan, as well as Turkish-Syrian relations. The report also discusses technological aspects of water in the case of Israel.

In addition, it touches on common issues for the entire Middle East and North Africa region. However, it does not cover frequentlydiscussed and well-studied issues, such as the Israeli-Palestinian water disputes or those regarding the River Jordan. Instead, the focus

is on often neglected dimensions of the region’s water problems:

internal power politics, the secondary role of water in conflicts and cooperation, additional water projects, the ‘human dimension’ of water governance, private sector participation, Islam, and climate change.

The main methodology of the report is a case study approach, complemented with studies on emerging cross-cutting issues. The FIIA REPORT 25/2010 15 different types of water resources (surface and groundwater) and uses (drinking water and irrigation) are discussed and examined in the chapters. The diversity of the authors and their backgrounds explains the diversity of approaches in the report. The authors are all experts and professionals in the fields of water management, water technology, environmental studies, development studies, political history, Middle Eastern studies, political science, and international law. A distinct strength of this type of approach is the richness of perspectives achieved by examining one issue with the help of the toolkits of different fields of science.

The report naturally has its limitations, however, in terms of data and time resources. The field trip to Lebanon and Syria was a concrete reminder of the importance of increasing and improving scientific research into water and climate change in the Middle East. A major hindrance to improving water management and governance is the lack of scientific data and reliable, consistent statistics to guide the decision-making process. It is also a liability for comparative and future-oriented analyses, such as this report. Another limitation was time, as the participants only spent a week talking to local stakeholders on the ground. Nevertheless, this report will hopefully encourage not only the participants, but also its readers to carry out deeper analyses of this fascinating and challenging research topic.

Summaries of the chapters

The report is divided into two parts. In the first part, five case studies are presented. Chapter 1 by Dr Hannu Juusola concentrates on the internal dimensions of Syria’s current drought crisis. By examining the possible consequences of drought for the country’s internal stability and the legitimacy of the regime, the chapter demonstrates how internal conflicts over water and the consequent insecurities can pose a greater challenge for the Middle East than inter-state water conflicts. After discussing the social consequences of drought in the country’s northeastern regions, including internal population movements and food insecurity, Dr Juusola considers their political causes. He suggests that the Syrian government’s agricultural policies and economic liberalization, with important links to the domestic 16 FIIA REPORT 25/2010 legitimacy of the regime, play a significant role in escalating water scarcity and mass migration. Furthermore, he argues that economic liberalization and diversification as well as democratization are prerequisites for achieving sustainable water and development in Syria.

Chapter 2 by Dr Zeki Kütük examines the external dimension of water security. He presents the transformation of Turkish-Syrian relations in the 2000s as an example of how transboundary water resources can be contingent on the general state of relations between neighbouring states. The chapter traces the changing role of water in this relationship through an examination of the three bilateral problems of Hatay, Syria’s support to the PKK and water, and their resolution mainly through Turkey’s new regionalism. Dr Kütük shows that the positive developments in the area of security and territorial issues have brought Turkey and Syria closer to reaching an understanding in the area of water as well. He suggests that the emerging regionalism in the Middle East is an important factor in lowering the risk of interstate conflict, including disputes over watersharing issues.

In Chapter 3, Marja Kaitaniemi assesses the causes of Lebanon’s water problems through a case study on Beirut. Despite a less acute water situation than in the neighbouring countries, considerable problems, including sect-based inequalities in access to clean water as well as wastewater management, plague the country. Ms Kaitaniemi shows how difficulties in governance act as a root cause these problems, while the challenging hydrological conditions, the history of internal and external conflict, and urbanization add to the challenges. Through her case study on Beirut, she concludes that any process designed to improve the situation needs to take into account the big picture of both the supply and demand sides, starting from collecting up-to-date data for planning and projections and tackling the delicate historical issues related to the governance of water.

‘Is more enough?’ is the question posed in Chapter 4 by Taru Savolainen. The chapter presents an overview of Jordan’s water security problems and their causes, plus analyses of two of the government’s current supply-side solutions at the Disi aquifer and the Red-Dead Sea. Ms Savolainen makes a critical assessment of the sufficiency and sustainability of the current measures on both the supply and demand sides and argues that both strategies FIIA REPORT 25/2010 17 are necessary in order to alleviate Jordan’s acute water insecurity.

However, she argues that the country should not rush into supplyside mega-projects before studying their environmental and social effects extremely carefully. According to Ms Savolainen, enhancing water-saving schemes, minimizing the share of non-revenue water and reducing irrigation water consumption should be given priority over costly and risky supply-side ventures. She also makes the case for enhanced cooperation between Jordan and its neighbours in pursuing the current transboundary water projects.

Chapter 5 by Kirsti Krogerus presents a comparative examination of the current state of planning and governing of water resources in Syria and Lebanon. She points out that the chronic mismanagement of the resource poses escalating problems for water supply in these countries. The monitoring and evaluation practices, characterized by unsystematic data gathering, lack of modern techniques and low quality standards are, according to Ms Krogerus, inadequate for planning purposes. Planning and water protection measures are also insufficient and lack implementation, particularly in the area of wastewater treatment. A final problem concerns the complex and centralized water administration systems as well as weak enforcement mechanisms. As a solution, Ms Krogerus recommends the use of integrated water resources management (IWRM) and awareness-raising, among other measures.

Part two of the report sheds light on three cross-cutting themes that are receiving increasing attention in relation to water supply and sustainability in the Middle East. Chapter 6 by Professor Olli Varis evaluates the capacity of Arab states to succeed in reforming their water sectors and governance under the existing pressure factors. The chapter provides an overview of the present-day demographic and socio-economic characteristics and pressures within the context of water resources management. As the focus in water management is shifting from an excessive emphasis on supply to considering demand management and conservation, according to Professor Varis, more attention should be paid to the ‘human component’. In his chapter, the Professor examines two facets of this dimension, namely power distance and individualism versus collectivism, and concludes that the water governance structures in the Middle East and North Africa exhibit much inertia in both aspects.

18 FIIA REPORT 25/2010 In Chapter 7, Laura Wickström analyses the potential role that Islam could play in alleviating environmental and water-related problems in Muslim countries. The chapter starts out with a presentation of general Islamic environmental aspects and waterrelated guiding principles, such as water priorities and water ownership. Ms Wickström then proceeds to illustrate the importance and relevance of Islamic values in contemporary Muslim societies through examples from the areas of international law and education.

She suggests that solutions derived from Islamic principles could play a role in settling international disputes, emphasizing education and public awareness programmes as possible methods for changing environmental attitudes and raising environmental awareness in these countries. As her unique contribution to this report demonstrates, the importance of taking into account Islamic values in future changes affecting Muslim societies, including water-related ones, should not be underestimated.

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