Doha: The Prime Minister and Interior Minister H E Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser bin Khalifa Al Thani yesterday urged participants in the Second Arab Water Conference to come up with recommendations which are practical and implementable in the long term.
“This conference is a good opportunity to support sustainable development in Arab countries. We are confident that results and recommendations will bring about solutions to challenges facing Arab countries in the water sector,” he told the opening ceremony at Ritz-Carlton Doha.
He said Qatar under the wise leadership of H H the Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani is working to support the state’s needs with regard to water sustainability and has mandated the creation of a clear and comprehensive strategy for the management of natural resources, in accordance with the highest international standards.
With the majority of Arab countries under the water poverty line, the Minister of Energy and Industry Affairs H E Dr Mohamed bin Saleh Al Sada urged a unified approach to ensure water sustainability in the region.
“There are between 18 and 20 Arab states under the ‘water poverty’ line, where there is a deficit of thousands of cubic metres per year per capita. Among them, eight suffer extreme water deficiency, with per capita water access of just 100 to 200 cubic metres per year,” he said.
“Water is a crucial topic in the Arab world and we need to unify our approach to meet challenges that threaten the sustainability of our economies and impact national development and long-term stability within the Arab world,” he said.
Among the biggest challenges the Arab region faces when it comes to water are the reliance on imported water, drought and the depletion of natural resources.
“While agriculture comprises about 85 percent of total water consumption in the Arab region, increasing pressures are exerted by climate change, high evaporation and declining rainfall. This affects not just the water available for agriculture but also the overall quality of arable land,” he said.
Despite water scarcity in GCC countries due to harsh weather conditions, the GCC region has one of the highest average individual consumption of water in the world, Dr Al Sada stressed, urging the significance of the GCC water link project and setting up a long-term plan for water supply in the bloc.
With regard to Qatar, Dr Al Sada highlighted the national water rationalisation program aimed at reducing individual consumption of water by 35 percent by 2017, and projects to boost Qatar’s water reserves, recently increasing the storing capacity by 126 percent.
Arab Water Council President Dr Mahmoud Abu-Zeid said the Arab world, which makes up less than 5 percent of the world population, has only one percent of the total available water resources in the world, adding the gap between available water and demand is on the rise.