Our planet is experiencing a dramatic shift in resource availability and demand. Regardless of what competing teams of experts argue and debate, changes in global weather patterns and growing populations continue to place disproportionate stress on ecosystems around the world. As freshwater usage rises to meet growing demands and rainfall patterns shift in concert with the many climate anomalies, land degradation is growing in severity as well.
The historical and cultural richness of the Middle East cannot be overstated. And to say that today, there is too much going on politically and socially in the Middle East may be too much of an understatement.
Yet, nowhere on the planet are water-related, environmental issues more apparent than in the Middle East. If there is one place where you might categorically state that water resources are “old” or even “ancient” is throughout this region of the world. What I mean by calling water “ancient” is that because of climate and population density, most water used for daily consumption is drawn from deep, ancient aquifers that have taken millions of years to form but are taking only several thousands of years to become depleted.
Freshwater lakes and river systems around the world are experiencing similar stresses but at least have rainfall patterns that are able to maintain parity with water demands/usage. This parity is changing to a deficit in many regions.
It seems that solutions are being attempted to change some of the water-related stress so prevalent in the Middle East. I previously wrote about a major water project to restore the Dead Sea: When the Dead Sea Disappeared and another called: the Blue Peace Concept in previous posts.
The Jordon River is another immensely important transboundary water system. Its importance rises because, unlike the Dead Sea with its high salinity, it is a major freshwater system being shared by several countries.
“This Master Plan to Help Clean Up the Jordan River Basin has been contracted to Royal Haskoning DHV, a Dutch project management, consultancy and engineering services provider to produce a master plan for the Lower Jordan, the historical river between the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea.”
Transboundary water issues and resolution continue to be testy engagements especially if one country is the source of river headwaters. Often, the vision is lofty while equitable resolution evasive.
In other instances, efforts to resolve water usage plans are an opportunity for political engagement that can find no other channel for parties in dispute to talk constructively.
“The purpose of the cross-border master plan is to integrate separate Israeli, Palestinian and Jordanian plans and thus produce a healthy ecosystem, distribute water fairly and provide open public access to the river.”
This three phase program has the potential to
“…encourage the Israelis, Palestinians and Jordanians jointly to rehabilitate the river and to restore the river’s ecology and its hydrological functions. Important matters are the creation of free access, good security conditions and a healthy economic basis.”
“The “Good Water Neighbors” (GWN) project was established by EcoPeace / Friends of the Earth Middle East (FoEME) in 2001 to raise awareness of the shared water problems of Palestinians, Jordanians, and Israelis. The GWN methodology is an original idea that is based on identifying cross border communities and utilizing their mutual dependence on shared water resources as a basis for developing dialogue and cooperation on sustainable water management.”
With the award of the Master Plan, this next important phase can begin to shape water pollution prevention policies, usage and perhaps even some political good will that has been long absent from this region.