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  • Arab environment 'under threat'


[CAIRO] The fragility of the environment of the Arab region — which suffers from widespread desertification and water scarcity — will be exacerbated by climate change unless governments plan for sustainable development and invest in environmental scientific research, says a report.

The report, 'Arab Environment: Future Challenges', published by the regional nongovernmental organisation the Arab Forum for Environment and Development (AFED), was launched last week (3 March) in Beirut, Lebanon. It assesses the current and future state of a range of environmental issues in the region, from water scarcity to urbanisation.

The region faces a temperature increase of 2–5.5 degrees Celsius by the end of the century, coupled with decreased precipitation of up to 20 per cent and sea level rise that could wipe out areas of agricultural land and displace millions.

The report calls for mitigation and adaptation strategies to be integrated into national and regional development strategies and for more funding and facilities for climate change research.

Most Arab countries will face severe water scarcity by 2025. In 2001, average available water supplies per person in the Arab region were 977 cubic metres —below the UN definition of water scarcity, according to the report. Projections put this figure lower still, at 460 cubic metres by 2023.

Improved management is essential to ensure better water use and improved allocation of resources between agriculture, industry and domestic use, the report says.

Land degradation has also destroyed 34 per cent of irrigated agricultural land in the region and the report says that the Arab region loses US$5 billion of agricultural revenue per year because of desertification.

Long-term environmental management strategies; powerful and effective environmental agencies; clear political and legislative mandates; and environmental research, education and media input are required, the report concludes.

"Exchange of experiences, success stories and dissemination of the best management practices are among the effective tools to handle this problem,"Radwan Al-Weshah, regional advisor for water science in Arab states at UNESCO Regional Office in Cairo, Egypt, told SciDev.Net.

Wael Hmaidan, executive director of Lebanon-based environmental group IndyAct added that unless environmental issues are prioritised on all political levels, economic costs of environmental degradation will increase exponentially with climate change.

Link to full report[7.08MB]

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