Freedom will not chase away the Arab world’s triple crisis

April 4, 2011 • Climate Change & Mitigation, Water, Daily Email Recap

Thanks to Mark O’Connor for this article.  See

Freedom will not chase away the Arab world’s triple crisis
By Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed
Commentary by
Saturday, February 19, 2011

Economic want and inequality as much as political repression incited the Egyptian and Tunisian revolutions. It is, of course, to be hoped that new governments in these countries, and other Arab leaders, will better address ordinary people’s grievances. But a mere change of government will not make these countries’ economic problems go away. The converging effects of population growth, climate change, and energy depletion are setting the stage for a looming triple crisis.

The Arab world accounts for 6.3 percent of the world’s population but only 1.4 percent of its renewable fresh water. Twelve of the world’s 15 most water-scarce countries – Algeria, Libya, Tunisia, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Oman, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Bahrain, Israel and Palestine – are in the region, and in eight, available fresh water amounts annually to less than 250 cubic meters per person. Three-quarters of the region’s available fresh water is in just four countries: Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey.

Water consumption in the region is linked overwhelmingly to industrial agriculture. From 1965 to 1997, population growth drove demand for agricultural development, leading to a doubling of land under irrigation. Demographic expansion in these countries is set to dramatically worsen their predicament.

Although birth rates are falling, one-third of the overall population is below 15 years old, and large numbers of young women are reaching reproductive age, or soon will be. The United Kingdom’s Defense Ministry has projected that by 2030 the population of the Middle East will increase by 132 percent, and that of sub-Saharan Africa by 81 percent, generating an unprecedented “youth bulge.”

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