“The blue peace: Rethinking Middle East Water ‘’ by the Strategic Foresight Group
The water crisis in the Middle East can be transformed into an opportunity -the blue peace where any two countries with access to sustainable water resources don’t feel motivated to engage in military conflict. And this can be only achieved through new short term and long term regional policy instruments for water security in seven countries in the Middle East: Turkey, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan, and the Palestinian Territories. This was the conclusion drawn from the Strategic Foresight Group which is a leading think tank based in India with global reach headed by Mr.Sundeep Waslekar. The Strategic Foresight Group report was discussed in the “The blue peace: Rethinking Middle East water” event which was held on Wednesday the 19th in Carnegie Middle East Center. This report was prepared with input from almost 100 leaders and it provides scenarios for water availability for the seven countries under different circumstances by 2030 and recommends new policy measures. According to the statistics found in the report,the river flows in Turkey , Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and Jordan have depleted by 40% from 1960 to 2010.For instance, the Yarmouk River declined from 600 million centimeter(MCM) to about 250-300 MCM per year while the Jordan river ,which its basin covers parts of 5 states: Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Palestine declined from 1300 MCM to 100 MCM. The flow of Euphrates in Iraq decreased about 18 billion centimeter in 2009 which was considered a drought year. The drought impact is strongly felt in the leanest months in Turkey, Lebanon, Syria and Iraq where the average monthly flow of a river is 3-5 % of the annual flow. The Jordan River does not exist for almost six months and the average flow in the leanest month can be only 1 MCM. With regards to Yarmouk, Euphrates and Tigris, riparian countries continue to disagree about the actual amount of flow of the rivers across boundaries. In fact, in 2010, the world witnessed disagreements, depleting rivers, climate risks, economic limitations and low technological base. But through the 6 components of the Cooperation Council for Water Resources which are: principles of cooperation, standardizing measurements, common goals for sustenance, regional climate change model, new technologies and basin level joint projects we can reach in 2020 the rejuvenation of Rivers, climate cooperation, economic growth and high technology .According to the National climate change reports and international experts, the summer temperatures will rise from 2.5-3.7 degree Celsius and the winter temperatures will rise by 2-3.1 degree Celsius over the next 50-70 years, resulting in faster evaporation of surface water in the Middle East. Regarding desertification, it is expected to affect Syria ,turkey ,Iraq and Jordan-around 60% of the land in Syria faces this threat. In turkey ,about 80% of the depletion has occurred over the last decade and the konya basin faces complete desertification by 2030.Dust storm have worsened due to the drought and decrease in vegetation. Practically, the report calls for a regional developed climate change models for 2010 -2100 to combat climate change and desertification.
The strategic foresight group report indicates that the present water level in the Dead Sea is 420 meters below sea level and will be 450 meters below sea level by 2040.The water surface area has reduced about 313 square km. If the surface water level in the Dead Sea continues to erode it will be reduced to a lake in 50 years, and will eventually disappear altogether. Moreover, there is unequal internal distribution of water due to the countries topography and geography. For example, Damascus and Hama are in the western part of the country while the Euphrates flows are in the eastern part. So the report recommends to address the internal disequilibrium.
Dr .Fadi Comair, the president of Mediterranean network of river basin organization (MENBO) introduced a new concept called “Hydrodiplomacy of international watercourses in the Near East region “.Actually, it is based on the application of regional cooperation that creates dynamics of transboundary basin economic development. Nowadays, any nation development depends on water quality and quantity availability. The conflicts on transboundary watercourse between riparian states will intensify and a number of steps should be taken to guarantee the equitable use of water resources for the population of the south east of the Mediterranean basin:
1-Shared water resources management:
-Regional cooperation framework to provide the countries domestic water needs and food security.
-Economic development policy while preserving the international basin ecosystems.
2-legal aspects which are still texts for conflict resolution:
-UN 1997 convention on the non-navigational of international
-European Union water framework directives
-Union for the Mediterranean water strategy (which is still rejected by Israel)
3- The Transboundary Basin Organization
-Equitable sharing and reasonable utilization
-obtain necessary funds to develop the basin’s water management and infrastructure
-Decision making and efficient solutions
4-Develop information systems to access the results of the hydrological measurement, the analysis of the basin water quality, the hydroelectric production with a preliminary annual program for every country
5-Develop research programs concerning resources, socio-economic aspects of basins.
6- Sharing knowledge by organizing of national and regional forums on water.
Dr. Fadi discussed the hydrodiplomatic negotiation for the rationalization of agricultural practices and domestic water use:
-Improvement of Irrigation and fertilization methods
-Implement water users association
-Reuse treated wastewater for this sector
-Improvement of irrigation and fertilization
-Apply the “pollutor-pays” concept
-Implement technical control system to prevent river degradation
-Establishment of wastewater treatment plan
From 1984 to 1994, the conflict about Nahr el Kebir River between Syria and Lebanon was on its peak, but through Nahr el Kebir agreement there was a cooperation from 1999 to 2002.Nahr el kebir agreement states that:
1-Lebanon allocates 40% of the total flow
2-Syria allocates 60% of the total flow
-Joint stocking dam
-Surface area of irrigation
4-Installation, maintenance, measurement of meteorological data, volume and flow of water
5-The watercourses states must protect and preserve the ecosystem
-The joint committee of water and/or the ministries of both states
Problematic with Lebanon:
1) Issue of the Hasbani-Wazzani:
- Water stress situation in Lebanon: 50l/day
2) Issue of Shebaa farms:
The report of the foresight group recommends that the total of Jordan river basin conventional water and non conventional water which is consisted of canal red-dead sea/Med-dead sea, treated waste water, desalination and sea water springs are a 4 billion m ³/yr which should be equally divided between the shared basins in order to return Golan heights (Syria) and Shebaa farms (Lebanon).To sum up, water can be the force of understanding and promote the application of the “peace culture” in the ME.