Major Middle Eastern cities starting to run dry of water
Shortages highlight glaring problems of waste and mismanagement.
At least two Middle Eastern capital cities are at serious risk of running dry within the next 5 to 10 years. Cairo, Egypt, and Sana'a, Yemen are suffering from chronic water shortages. They are not the only cities in the region to have these problems, but they are the most prominent.
Clean drinking water is a precious commodity in Sana'a, Yemen where is it sold on the streets for relatively high prices.
The water situation is so bad in some parts of Cairo that when the water comes on, children stop their play and run to drink what they can.
More affluent parts of Cairo have reliable water supplies, and they use water quite liberally. Their overuse means that people in poorer districts must go without.
Perhaps the biggest factor causing the water shortage has to do with international relations. The Nile river runs through several countries before reaching Egypt, including Kenya, Uganda, and Southern Sudan. Governments under both Nasser and Mubarak neglected relations with Egypt's southern neighbors and as a consequence water rights, a sensitive, politically charged subject.
Omar Ashour, professor of political science at the University of Exeter in England says, "What we're harvesting now is decades of bad foreign policy when it comes to the central African and southern neighbors. During Mubarak's time there was the complete ignoring of development projects, of cooperation, and there was this superiority-inferiority complex reflected in foreign policy towards neighbors in the south, especially Ethiopia, Rwanda, southern Sudan and Sudan. There was this assumption that they were allies and friends during Nasser's time and that [would] remain the situation regardless of how Egypt treated them."
Today, Egypt's people are learning that this assumption is quite wrong.
In addition to political problems, scientists say that global warming and changing weather patterns are substantially contributing to drought throughout the region.
If these problems are not soon resolved, many of Cairo's residents could find themselves without water for long periods of time, and the situation could become dangerous.
In Yemen, officials are concerned that the vast majority of water consumed in that country is being pulled from underground aquifers. They claim that the aquifers are losing about 7 m of water per year. Many Sana'a residents must make a daily trek to purchase portable water for cooking and drinking. They have no reliable clean water supplies whatsoever. Such hardships might be commonplace in more rural parts of the world, but witnessing them in developed urban areas is disturbing.
Locals blame the overuse of water by farmers for much of the problem. Still, government mismanagement, drought, and waste are very much to blame.
Water is becoming an increasingly sensitive issue throughout the Middle East. Countries such as Syria and Lebanon are notorious for their wasteful policies regarding water use. Rains that fall in Syria often flow towards the sea without ever being captured and stored in reservoirs for later use. And in Lebanon, conservationists complain that there is no system in place to meter water usage. Without meters, people are far more inclined to waste the precious resource.
The ready availability of safe drinking water is no longer going to be a trivial local concern that most people can dismiss. As the drier regions of the world become even more so, and the problems exacerbating water shortages continue, the world will soon begin to hear more and more about cities running dry and people becoming desperate. The Middle East is already a dangerous and volatile region, chronic water shortages can only serve to make it more so.
© 2011, Catholic Online. Distributed by NEWS CONSORTIUM.
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Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
Keywords: Egypt, Cairo, Sana'a, Yemen, water, global warming
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