Water Blues

by Lizabeth Zack
published in MER276

Two quiet but revealing developments related to Middle East water were announced in the spring and summer of 2015. On February 26, Israeli and Jordanian officials signed an agreement to begin implementation of the long-awaited and controversial Red Sea-Dead Sea Water Conveyance Project. And, on June 9, a civil society-based coalition led by EcoPeace, a regional environmental NGO, released the first ever Regional Master Plan for Sustainable Development in the Jordan Valley. The two schemes represent very different approaches to solving water problems in the region—the first is an old-school engineering fix requiring massive new infrastructure, while the second is a river restoration project rooted in sustainable development principles.

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Wadi Barada: Snapshot of a Civil War

by Mohammad Raba'a | published May 13, 2015

Sa‘id has always loved swimming. When he was little, he spent summer afternoons with his friends on the banks of Syria’s Barada River. When the river level started to drop, in the mid-1990s, he went to a swimming pool newly opened in the nearby village of Basima. The pool belongs to the Abu al-Nour Foundation, an Islamic organization based in the capital of Damascus, where thousands of students come from across the world to train as imams. Within a few months of his first visit to the pool, Sa‘id had started attending the twice-weekly lectures delivered by the grand mufti of Syria and founder of Abu al-Nour, the Sufi sheikh Ahmad Kuftaro.

Postcard from the Algerian Saharan Past

by George R. Trumbull IV
published in MER272

In 1923, a crippling drought pushed the nomads of the Algerian Sahara as far north as Bou-Saada, just 150 miles south of the Mediterranean coast, in search of sustenance. The French colonial authorities worried that fighting would break out between the nomads and locals over scarce water. From their perspective, indeed, nearly every year between the early 1920s and the late 1940s was exceptionally dry.

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MER 271: Fuel and Water: The Coming Crises

by The Editors | published July 18, 2014 - 2:28pm

For immediate release July 18, 2014                           Middle East Report 271   Summer 2014

FUEL AND WATER: THE COMING CRISES

Waterless Wadi Barada

Manufacturing Scarcity in a Syrian River Valley

by Francesca de Châtel , Mohammad Raba'a
published in MER271

When ‘Ali was a little boy, he spent his summers swimming in the Barada River and playing in the orchards rustling in the breeze along the banks. “Summers in Wadi Barada were amazing,” says the 28-year old from the village of Kufayr al-Zayt to the west of the Syrian capital of Damascus. “I can still hear the water rushing down the valley, and the screams and laughter of children playing in the river. We would spend all day on the banks of the Barada playing in the water, picking blackberries and building campfires in the evenings.”

Water, Energy and Human Insecurity in the Middle East

by Jeannie Sowers
published in MER271

Demand for water in the Middle East and North Africa is rapidly increasing. Projected population growth alone through 2025 will lower per capita water availability by 30-70 percent over the next few decades, assuming that renewable water supplies remain constant, which is unlikely. [1] Demand for energy is also rising quickly across the region. As with water, energy demand is driven not only by population increase but also by energy-intensive industrialization, desalination plants and changing lifestyles.

Syria's Drought and the Rise of a War Economy

by Omar S. Dahi | published April 14, 2014 - 10:19am

The grinding war in Syria brings new horrors with every passing week. The death toll and the number of displaced people continue to soar, as more areas of the country are reduced to rubble. This month, two additional issues with dire long-term consequences have been gaining attention: the possible drought affecting the northwest and the entrenchment of a war economy.

Water and Israel's Occupation Strategy

by Joe Stork
published in MER116

The long conflict involving Israel, the Palestinians and neighboring Arab states has revolved around the elementary bonds of people and territory. Water is perhaps the single most important material resource determining the relationship of people to land. From the beginnings of the Zionist project through the wars and occupations of the last two decades to the current negotiations between Israel, Lebanon and Syria, access to and control of water has figured as a primary strategic factor. The centrality of water to Israeli strategy can be summarized in the following points:

New Lands Irrigation

Promise or Panacea?

by Douglas Gritzinger
published in MER145

Once irrigated and lush but now barren, the Mesopotamian plain circling the ruins of Gilgamesh’s Uruk makes present day calls for food security via vast new irrigation projects appear shortsighted. Irrigation today suffers the same problems as in ancient times -- salt buildup in the soil, collapsing dams, irrigation channels narrowed and blocked by silt buildup -- plus some new ones, such as pesticide runoff. But irrigation planners figure they have learned a few things since Gilgamesh’s time. We can expect Egypt, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and others to go on building new, expensive irrigation projects until they finally reach the limits of their water supplies. Reaching these limits should take only two or three more decades.

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Primer: The Food Gap in the Middle East

by Martha Wenger , Joe Stork
published in MER166

As the Middle East enters the 1990s, the food situation cannot be easily captured in catch phrases like “dire emergency." Outside of the Horn of Africa, no country confronts wide-scale starvation, though poor people throughout the region face personal food emergencies daily.

Agricultural production continues to grow at a respectable rate -- often better than the world average -- in most of the region. Many countries have increased average daily calorie supply per person to levels equal to or better than the industrialized West. Where 22 percent of the population (35 million people) were undernourished in 1969-1970, this had dropped to 11 percent (26 million people) in 1983-1985, a ratio that compares favorably with other parts of the Third World.

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