Water in the Middle East 2010

In 2010 the Exploring Water Patterns in the Middle East project organized two panel discussions during the 14th annual Forum 2000 Conference entitled "The World We Want to Live In" which was held in Prague on October 10–12, 2010.

Climate Change and Water Resources in the Middle East: Socioeconomic Impact

Moderator: Eva van de Rakt
Panelists: Václav Cílek, Peter Thum, Hamed Asaf 
11th October, 2010, Žofín Palace
Eva van de Rakt as moderator introduced the panelists: Václav Cílek, Czech writer and geologist, American Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder of Fonderie47 Peter Thum and Lebanese representative of Water Resources and Environmental Engineering Hamed Asaf.
Hamed Asaf began his presentation by stressing that water scarcity in the Middle East is an everlasting problem which dates back to the dawn of civilization and warned that the problem will escalate if action is not taken now. The Middle East, according to Mr. Asaf, is continually losing moisture and there is currently a major reduction in rainfall levels. He warned that the rising birth rate is making adaptation even harder. Mr. Asaf spoke cautiously about close relations between countries such as China and Sudan. Such relationships could be problematic in regards to possible conflicts between Sudan and Ethiopia, because it would also involve Middle Eastern countries such as Israel or Saudi Arabia. In his concluding remarks, he suggested we examine how countries approach water problems, saying that we should learn from history and look at how the people of Petra had “behaved” towards water.
Mr. Cílek warned of increased evaporation and the growing number of people living in oases thereby putting more pressure on existing water sources. Peter Thum added that at present no one is especially worried about what is going to happen in the next few years. All speakers were agreed on the basic principle of shared responsibility that all players in the Middle East must take. Mr. Cílek proposed that the water infrastructure needs improvement, together with a reduction in fertilizer usage. He nevertheless concluded that the major obstacle to resolving the water situation in the Middle East was a political one. He was concerned that the current governments in the region are neither willing nor able to deal with the problem effectively. Mr. Cílek also mentioned that nuclear power was a possible option for improving the difficult situation in the region.
Peter Thum proposed a reduction in Jordanian agriculture, which is becoming too expensive. But Mr. Asaf added that this would of course bring problems to farmers and their families.
All speakers were agreed on the application of unpopular steps such as raising taxes in order to allocate more money for water management. But all were aware of governments’ unwillingness to implement such steps. As an example, Mr. Asaf talked about the water deficit in Beirut and the plans to deal with the problem where the solution is not supported by Lebanon’s political representatives

The Potential for Environmental Peace-building: Water as a Bridge or Obstacle to Peace in the Middle East

Moderator: Irena Kalhousová
Panelists: Hasan Abu Nimah, Natasha Carmi-Hanna, Oded Fixler 
12th October, 2010, Žofín Palace
Moderator Irena Kalhousová welcomed three distinguished experts, Jordanian Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the United Nations Hasan Abu Nimah, Palestinian Policy Advisor on Water and Environment Natasha Carmi-Hanna and Israeli representative from Israeli Water and Sewage Authority Oded Fixler.
Ambassador Abu Nimah believed that water is both a bridge and an obstacle towards peace in the Middle East, comparing the water problem to that of religion, “both water and religion depend on general political atmosphere”. The Jordanian representative expressed his fears that any future war between countries in the Middle East will be a war over water. He mentioned that Jordan and Israel had started to cooperate on water scarcity issues even before both countries formally signed the peace treaty in 1994 and expressed his faith in the possibility of resolving such a core issue in the Middle East. Nevertheless, the ambassador acknowledged that 19 years had passed since the commencement of the Madrid peace process and that little had been resolved in this problematic area. This is a major concern, especially for Jordan, which is experiencing a disturbing water scarcity crisis.
Palestinian representative Natasha Carmi-Hanna viewed the water scarcity problem not only in technical terms, but in political ones. She suggested that the micro-solution to the problem lies in the political solution between the Palestinians and the Israelis. Carmi-Hanna saw water sharing as a major problem and criticized the fact that Israel uses a disproportionate amount of water compared with the Palestinians. She recommended that both Israel and Palestine should share water equably, and work as true partners, which would encourage consensus building. She was concerned about the water quality situation in Gaza, where immediate steps are required. She concluded her opening speech by saying that a solution to the water conflict was possible and that water should be used as a vehicle for peace.
Israeli representative Oded Fixler stressed the importance of water in the region and added that climate change will put even more pressure on water resources. He pointed out that lowering replenishment and seven years of ongoing drought has heightened the pressure. Mr. Fixler considered that only cooperation between all sides would allow solutions and added that Israel is already doing its part when supplying water to neighboring regions. As an example, Oded Fixler mentioned the quantity of water which Israel supplies to Jordan. As a technical expert, Fixler saw the future of managing water resources in a sustainable way, mentioning desalination plants, more efficient agriculture and improving the water infrastructure to limit leakage. He concluded that cooperation is absolutely crucial and mentioned the Red-Dead project as one of the examples of such cooperation.

Previous years

Water in the Middle East 2009
September 21, 2009 - September 22, 2009
Water in the Middle East 2008
September 10, 2008 - September 11, 2008
Water in the Middle East 2007
October 8, 2007 - October 9, 2007
Water in the Middle East 2006
October 9, 2006 - October 10, 2006
Water in the Middle East 2005
September 10, 2005 - September 11, 2005