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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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130 FIIA REPORT 25/2010 experiences of the Gulf Cooperation Council have proved that even in a conflict-prone region like the Middle East, peaceful coexistence and cooperation are possible. Also, the trilateral efforts of Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian Authority on the Red Sea-Dead Sea canal, if realized, can function as a top-down confidence-building measure among the parties. More interestingly, although frequently delayed, this project is a prime example of seeking to reconcile environmental sustainability and additional water supplies that could serve as a positive example for other countries as well.

Jordan’s past water sector reforms, its current water strategy and the new tariff system are also steps in the right direction.

Water consumption will only be curbed if it is felt in the pockets of consumers, naturally taking into account the user’s ability to pay.

Israel’s water technology exports, in turn, are an example of how a liability, water scarcity, can be turned into an asset. Islam, a social and political force not to be ignored, is another example of seeking solutions from within the region: the potential for turning the waterrelated guiding principles of Islamic law into a positive force to raise awareness on environmental sustainability is already a talking point for environmentalists region-wide.

Finally, in Lebanon, Jordan, and Syria, not to mention Israel, awareness of the potential negative consequences of climate change is rising rapidly. Lebanon’s vibrant civil society, Jordan’s acute water shortages and Syria’s recent droughts have helped to raise the issue in the media and to get it on government agendas. The sooner governments start preparing for the already unavoidable consequences of climate change, the better equipped they will be to provide adequate and reliable water supplies for their citizens.

What Finland can do

Despite the geographical distance, Finland and Finnish actors can play an important role in enhancing water security in the Levantine Middle East. Finland is globally known for its water-related expertise and there are countless ways in which it could be employed to meet the needs of the water-scarce Levantine region.

FIIA REPORT 25/2010 131 The issue has been taken up recently by Finnish authorities, as in 2009 three ministries published a strategy that provides the guidelines for the international activities of Finland’s water sector. Titled the International Strategy for Finland’s Water Sector (Suomen vesialan kansainvälinen strategia), the document defines the promotion of water security as the main area in which Finland should seek to make its water sector known internationally.

Because of the country’s small size, Finland cannot seek to become an expert in all areas of water security, nor in all regions of the world.

The strategy therefore recommends building long-term partnerships and concentrating on a few focal areas, namely: Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM), water institutions, the negative impacts of climate change on water systems and adaptation needs, water protection, and water-related security issues, both internal and transboundary. To implement the strategy, the Finnish Water Forum was established in 2009.

It is argued here, however, that there are still two important challenges facing the Finnish water sector, which are also common to internationalization efforts in the Middle East in general: Finland needs to make itself known in the region, and for this, a sustained presence and knowledge on the local societal contexts is required.

This was also noted by a regional investment seminar organized by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs in August 2010. An understanding of the local dynamics and future trends can only be achieved through a consistent and continuing building of region-specific expertise, based on sufficient periods of work and presence on the ground. Of course, to facilitate this, both public and private funds are needed. In this sense, this pilot project comprising a short training course and this FIIA report, seeks to be a small-scale example of what could be achieved through this kind of approach.

Of relevance for this report, the Finnish water strategy also stresses the importance of understanding the local context, including the social and political processes related to water, particularly in regions like the Middle East. The strategy sets education and capacitybuilding among all local stakeholders as a prime objective. In Finland, in turn, the strategy calls for more emphasis on water-related social research for a better understanding of the partner countries’ dynamics, problems and needs. The ability to ‘read situations and react accordingly’ is perceived as increasingly important, as are 132 FIIA REPORT 25/2010 comprehensive approaches and case-based tailored applications instead of sector-specific and individual technical solutions.

Hopefully, this report has helped to arouse the interest of both its contributors and its readers towards further examining the possibilities for Finland to participate, both bilaterally and as part of the international community, in promoting sustainable water security in the Levantine Middle East.

–  –  –

Annex 1. A Situational assessment of water in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Turkey and Israel322 Jordan Jordan, one of the world’s water-scarcest countries, consists almost entirely (92%) of desert.

323 The annual per capita water share, 153 m3, is far below the generally accepted per capita water poverty line of 1000 m3 per annum. Jordan only receives 111 mm of precipitation per year, which is the lowest amount in the region. In regional terms, Jordan is an average-size country, with a slightly larger population (5.9 million) than Finland. Population growth is, however, the highest in the Levant region, standing at 3.22% in 2008. The country’s groundwater resources, some of which are non-renewable, are overexploited: in 2007, 90% of actual freshwater resources were withdrawn, which makes water use highly unsustainable. Water utilized originates from various sources, including renewable and non-renewable groundwater, surface water in the form of baseflows and reservoirs, treated wastewater not flowing into reservoirs, and a part of the additional water guaranteed by the 1994 peace treaty between Jordan and Israel.324 A third of Jordan’s renewable freshwater resources originates outside its borders. Due to the scarce water supply, withdrawal rates are the lowest in the region, approximately 160 m3 per capita. While agriculture constitutes two thirds of all withdrawals, it only produces around 3% value added to Jordan’s GDP.

322 The Palestinian territories are not discussed in this report. Figures, if not referenced, are from Table 5.

323 Brown and Crawford, Rising Temperatures, p. 17.

324 Zeyad S.Tarawneh, Nidal A.Hadadin, & Ahmad N. Bdour, ‘Policies to Enhance Water Sector in Jordan’. American Journal of Applied Sciences 5:6 (2008), pp. 698-704.

134 FIIA REPORT 25/2010 Lebanon Lebanon is known to be richer in water resources than most of its neighbours, but these resources are unevenly distributed. On average, the Lebanese have a per capita supply of around 1000 m3 per year, which places the country on the verge of water scarcity. Precipitation varies from 1500 to 2000 mm per year in the mountains to about 250 mm in the Beqa’a area.325 Most of the rainfall occurs during the winter season. The main water supply of Lebanon (as well as that of Syria’s Damascus region) consists of the melting snow from the mountains on the border of the countries, which feeds the aquifers, rivers and seasonal streams. Lebanon’s population is relatively small (4.2 million in 2008), and growth rates are the region’s lowest, at 0.75%. There is practically no dependency on external water resources and the withdrawal rate is around 30%. While agriculture absorbs 60% of all water withdrawals, its value added to the GDP is only around 5%.

Syria Syria is not among the water-poorest countries in the Middle East, but its per capita availability of renewable water resources (791 m3 in 2008) is below the water scarcity limit. A water crisis has been building for years and most of the country has been suffering from droughts for the past five years. The only exceptions are the coastal region and the Euphrates basin, which carry surplus water.

The average annual rainfall varies from 1000 mm in the northern coastal area to less than 200 mm in arid regions. Total renewable freshwater resources are around 16 Mm3 per year. At the moment Syria consumes much more water than is replenished naturally, with the deficit coming from groundwater and reservoirs. 326 Syria’s water-use patterns are highly unsustainable, as over 80% of actual freshwater resources are withdrawn annually. The country’s population is relatively large in regional terms (20.6 million in 2008), and fast growing, with a growth rate of 2.45% in 2008. The large populations of the main cities, Damascus and Aleppo, are located away from direct water sources. Syria therefore has an alarming water 325 Karim Makdisi, ‘Towards a Human Rights Approach’, pp. 369-390.

326 M. Salman & W. Mualla, ‘Water Demand Management in Syria: Centralized and Decentralized Views’, conference paper (2008), ftp://ftp.fao.org/agl/iptrid/conf_egypt_03.pdf.

Accessed on 5 September 2010.

FIIA REPORT 25/2010 135 deficit looming on the horizon.327 Some regions, however, have large reserves in underground brackish water. 328 Characteristic of Syria is the continuing importance of agriculture for the economy: value added in 2008 was 20%. However, wasteful irrigation techniques and water-intensive crops take their toll, and almost 90% of all water withdrawn is used by agriculture. At the same time, Syria is highly dependent on external renewable water resources, mainly flowing from Turkey, with a dependence ration of 72.

Turkey Turkey, the largest country in the Levant both in terms of territory and population (73.9 million in 2008), currently has abundant water resources by regional standards. Per capita water availability (2890 m3 in 2008) was clearly above withdrawals (549 m3 in 2007), and the water withdrawal rate of all freshwater resources is only around 20%. Turkey also receives more rainfall than most of its neighbours.

Annual average precipitation is 593 mm. Furthermore, the country is in the fortunate position of not depending on the renewable resources of its neighbours. It is the upstream riparian of the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers, where it has built a number of dams, including the famous Atatürk Dam, as part of the Southeastern Anatolia Project (GAP). About 89% of the Euphrates’ waters and 52% of those of the Tigris originate in Turkey.329 Similarly to the other Levantine states, agriculture is a major consumer of water, at 74% of all withdrawals in 2007, and its value added contribution is roughly a tenth of the GDP.

Israel Similarly to Jordan, Israel is a highly water-scarce country, with a renewable water availability of only 252 m3 per capita in 2008. The country receives an average of 435 mm of precipitation annually.

Temporal and spatial variations are remarkable. Rainfall decreases from north to south and from west to east. About 80% of the water potential is in the north and only 20% in the south of the country. The main freshwater resources in Israel are: the Sea of Galilee, the Coastal 327 Ibid.

328 S.Wardeh et al., Desalination for Syria.

329 Mehmet Tomanbay, ‘Turkey’s Approach to Utilization of the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers’.

Arab Studies Quarterly, 22:2 (2000), p. 79.

136 FIIA REPORT 25/2010 Aquifer along the coastal plain of the Mediterranean Sea, and the Mountain Aquifer under the central north-south (Carmel) mountain range.330 The country’s population growth is relatively rapid, 1.78% in

2008. Israel’s external water resources constitute close to two-thirds of its total renewable resources, and agriculture absorbs 58% of all water withdrawals.

Table 5. Water resources and related statistics for the Levantine Middle East 331 Average annual precipitation (mm)

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330 Jewish Virtual Library, ‘Israel’s Chronic Water Problem’, http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.

org/jsource/History/scarcity.html. Accessed on 5 September 2010.

331 FAO, Aquastat, ‘Country Fact Sheets: Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and Turkey’ (27 August 2010), http://www.fao.org/nr/water/aquastat/main/index.stm. Accessed on 24 September 2010; FAO, Aquastat online database, http://www.fao.org/nr/water/aquastat/dbase/index.

stm. Accessed on 25 September 2010; World Bank, World Development Indicators (April 2010);

population data for Palestine: United Nations Statistic Division, World Statistics pocketbook.

Occupied Palestinian Territory (2010), http://unstats.un.org/unsd/pocketbook/. Accessed on 25 September 2010.

FIIA REPORT 25/2010 137Mari Luomi

Annex 2. Training course on Water, Security and Climate Change in the Levant, spring 2010 What follows is a short summary of the training course for professionals that was jointly organized in the spring of 2010 by the Finnish Institute of International Affairs (FIIA) and the Finnish Institute in Damascus, and supported financially by the Foundation of the Finnish Institute in the Middle East and FIIA.

The course, under the title Water, Security and Climate Change in the Levant, was the first wider cooperative effort between the two institutes. It consisted of two parts: an introductory part, and a week-long trip to Syria and Lebanon. This FIIA Report is the main outcome of the course, as it is written by the course participants and builds on not only written material acquired before, during and after the trip, but also the many conversations that were held with local stakeholders during the trip to the Levant.

The course had three objectives: (1) to familiarize the participants with the current water-related challenges of the Levantine part of the Middle East, including the projected negative consequences of climate change for water security; (2) to establish contacts with Lebanese and Syrian peer groups, with an eye on paving the way for future cooperation; and (3), through both networking and dissemination of this report, to play its part in improving the region’s capacity to manage the present and future challenges of water and climate change.

The fourteen course participants were selected from experts and professionals with diverse backgrounds and at various stages of their careers. Professions represented included researchers and PhD candidates, civil servants, parliamentary advisors and journalists from the following institutions: Aalto University, the Universities of Helsinki, Turku and Tampere (TAPRI), Åbo Akademi University, The Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation (TEKES), The Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE), the Technical Research Centre 138 FIIA REPORT 25/2010 of Finland (TKK), the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, the Finnish and European Parliaments, Ajatuspaja e2 think tank, the Finnish National Broadcasting Company YLE and the newspaper Vihreä Lanka.

In March-April 2010, the participants received introductory material that consisted of scientific and policy articles covering regional and local issues such as the socioeconomic and environmental aspects of water management; the interdynamics of climate change and water and climate change and conflict; the internal politics of water scarcity; the debate on water wars and water cooperation;

water as a human right; and regional-level water and climate politics.

The main part of the course took place on 15-23 May 2010 in Syria and Lebanon. Stakeholder meetings in Syria took place on 16-18 May and were organized by the Finnish Institute in Damascus. The schedule on the Lebanese part of the trip, on 19-21 May, was arranged by the dynamic and incredibly well-networked local NGO, IndyACT – the League of Independent Activists.

During the trip, the participants met with a number of representatives from Lebanese and Syrian peer institutions, with whom the local water security problems, in particular management, governance and politics-related issues, as well as the projected impacts of climate change on the future water supply, were discussed in round-table-type sessions. The trip also included a number of field trips. Some of the scheduled meetings and one field trip were cancelled during the Syrian segment of the trip at the last minute due to what could be termed as the side effects of choosing a politically sensitive topic for the course in an extremely challenging political system.

In Syria, the participants visited the Ain al-Fijeh spring, which provides water for the capital, Damascus, and a privately-owned small-scale wastewater treatment plant in the nearby town of Qara.

Round-table meetings were organized in the beautiful premises of the Finnish Institute in Damascus in Old Damascus. Speakers included representatives and experts from the UNDP, the Damascus Water Supply and Sewerage Authority, the EU-funded INECO water management project, a local environmental NGO and the Faculty of Political Sciences of the University of Damascus.

In Lebanon, the course participants were introduced to a broad selection of local water stakeholders: round-table meetings were held FIIA REPORT 25/2010 139 with water and climate experts at the American University of Beirut, the Lebanese UNDP and the UN Economic and Social Commission for West Asia (ESCWA), with representatives of IndyACT, a local NGO working on regional climate change policy among a number of other societal issues, and with local environmental journalists. The most prominent meetings included sessions with the Environment and Energy and Water Committees of the Parliament and H.E.

Mr Mohammed Rahal, the Minister of Environment. In addition, participants visited the Shabrouh dam in the Qana Plateau of Mount Lebanon near Beirut, completed in 2007.

While the conversations and notes from the meetings will remain only in the memories and notebooks of the participants, this FIIA Report raises and discusses most, if not all, of the main issues that surfaced in our interactions.

Course participants at Shabrouh Dam, Lebanon, May 2010 Photo: Noora Jussila

–  –  –

144 FIIA REPORT 25/2010 FIIA REPORT 2010 25 Managing Blue Gold New Perspectives on Water Security in the Levantine Middle East Mari Luomi (editor) Water security, namely the ability of governments to secure a sustainable water supply for their populations, is becoming increasingly questionable in the Levantine countries of the Middle East. Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Turkey, the Occupied Palestinian Territories and Israel not only share a history of conflict but also a challenging, mostly arid climate, and scarce water resources in comparison to the levels of consumption. This report is a multidisciplinary endeavour to understand the present dynamics and shed light on the future challenges of water security in this part of the Middle East. Through five case studies and three thematic chapters, the report illustrates the complexity and multi-dimensionality of the region’s water issue.

A central outcome of the articles contained in the report is that the region is in dire need of sound water management policies and practices that are based on multi-stakeholder engagement and transboundary cooperation. Internal and external pressures such as growing populations, modernization, economic liberalization, Islam, and climate change will also have to be taken into account and managed. Without a proactive approach that breaks with the current wasteful consumption patterns, the countries of the Levant will not achieve water sustainability, with potentially disastrous ramifications in the near future.

ISBN 978-951-769-282-3 ISSN 1458-994X


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