Writing for Newsweek, James Fergusson, an award-winning journalist and specialist in global water-stress, has warned that “Yemen is tearing itself apart over water shortage.”
James reports that Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) – who in 2010 were deemed by the CIA as “the most potentially dangerous franchise on the planet” – have become champion exploiters of the country’s chronic water shortage. Significant support for AQAP has been achieved not just by providing villagers with water, but also by helping them to dig wells and install other vital water infrastructure. Worryingly, James explains that the “Sana’a government is miles behind AQAP in its appreciation of the problem.”
James Fergusson pictured interviewing the Taliban
James notes that “this activity goes far beyond social work. In an impoverished farming nation, where over half the population still lives off the land, access to water, and the ability to irrigate crops, is often a matter of life or death.” He demonstrates how the problem of water shortage is compounded by:
- Extraordinary population growth, from five million in 1960, to 26 million today, to a projected 40 million by 2030.
- Ineffective government spending on the military, coupled with budget cuts to the water and environmental sector.
- Farmers switching from terrace to groundwater irrigation.
- The drilling of unlicensed boreholes to irrigate qat crops (the profitable, amphetamine-like chewing leaf to which Yemen, as a nation, is addicted.)
The wars of the future, it is often said, will be fought not over oil but over water. James fears that if a new strategy isn’t developed for managing the nation’s dwindling resource, “Yemen [will offer] us a glimpse of the coming apocalypse.”
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Dr Nasser Saidi, Executive Director at the Hawkamah Institute for Corporate Governance and former Chief Economist at the Dubai International Finance Centre, penned a compelling op-ed in The National earlier this week on the water shortage crisis in the MENA region. You can read the full article here. In brief:
- Water shortage is a global problem, but it is particularly acute in the MENA region, which contains 6.3% of the world’s population but only 1.4% of the world’s renewable fresh water.
- What’s worse is that the region is already using 75% of its available renewable water supplies due to rapidly increasing population, urbanisation and economic growth.
- Another issue is that the desalination that does take place is costly, energy intensive and leads to environmental degradation because its mostly powered by fossil fuels.
- The key is to wed renewable energy and desalination – in the MENA region, solar power looks like a promising solution.
For more information on how to book Nasser Saidi as a speaker for your conference or event, please contact Leo von Bülow-Quirk at email@example.com or call 0044 (0) 20 7792 8000.
The Edinburgh International Book Festival is “the largest public celebration of the written word in the world.” Started in 1983, it now occurs annually and is taking place this August from 10th-26th. With 700 events involving over 800 writers and thinkers from across the globe, it is expected that over 220,000 visitors will attend.
This year, the advisor to Scottish First Minister and global expert on water stress and its consequences, Alex Bell will join Conservative MEP Struan Stevenson, to discuss ‘Energy and the Environment: too much hot air?’ As the author of Peakwater, the first book to link the history of civilisation with the control of water, Alex will explain why water shortages remain a key threat to world political stability.
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