A Difficult Global Water Crisis

  • 24 March 2009

Deliberations at the 5th World Water Forum, held in Turkey recently, brought to light alarming facts and projections on the depleting reserves of inland water around the world. These discussions explored the growing demands of water for the world’s skyrocketing population (estimated to reach nine billion by 2050 compared to present of 6.5 billion populations), soaring temperatures, depletion of underground water reserves, and water mismanagement and waste (notably in the agricultural sector) as some of the difficult challenges confronting the availability of water supplies in coming years. The outbreak of wars and conflicts over the control of water resources is also a likely future scenario, which was clearly enunciated in the message of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon to the world on the occasion of the “World Water Day”. The UN Secretary-General called for strong cooperation among nations having shared water resources in order to promote common interests. Water issues are not merely limited to scarcity, but also cover the pollution problems caused by agricultural pesticides and industrial waste.

The danger is that despite several warnings about the hazards facing global sources freshwater resources, a significant disagreement exists over the right strategy for addressing this critical situation. The communiqué issued at the end of the 5th World Water Forum clearly reflected this crisis in that it did not properly address the complexity and seriousness of the issue, and referred to water as a “need” and not as a vital human “right” in complete disregard of the demands by various concerned parties, notably many global civil societies. Some political conflicts between states having shared water resources often prevent the establishment of joint action plans for optimum use of water supplies, which eventually result in a huge waste of this precious resource.

If the water situation in the world is facing serious challenges, then the water situation in the Gulf is even more dismal and alarming due to growing water scarcity, rising temperatures, shortfall in rains, and almost complete dependence on water desalination projects that are catering to a rapidly growing population with high rates of water consumption. In this context, the UAE leadership has recognized the importance of preparing and planning for the future to counter any water-related crisis by providing appropriate energy resources for the desalination process, by warning people against the depletion of the underground water and by raising awareness over rationalizing water consumption.

Water shortage and pollution is a major global challenge which requires strong cooperation at all levels in order to overcome this issue, and relevant United Nations and international organizations provide the essential framework for coordinated efforts for harmonizing regional and international visions over this critical issue.