Global Water Crisis & the Middle East Book Report

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Global Water Crisis & the Middle East

The entire premise of the hydrological cycle is apparent when one views the planet as a living organism, the Gaia idea. From condensation through evaporation and precipitation, all aspects of the cycle work together to form the basis for the Earth being an organism called "The Blue Planet." Interruptions of any aspect of the cycle have negative effects that multiply in seriousness as they progress through the cycle. Nature's filtration system, along with the balance between the large mega-forests and weather, kept the relationship between potable water and human life viable (Lovelock 2000).

The Gaia Concept - Too, taking the Gaia concept a bit further, if we look upon the world as a Global Village, with some areas that have plenty of water, and other places that are continually experiencing a shortage. In fact, the problem is so great, that the World Health Organization estimates that 1/6th of the world lacks access to potable water, and at any given time, 50% of humans have one of the six main diseases (diarrhea, schistosomiasis, trachoma, infestation with ascaris, guinea work or hookworm) (Briscoe, Postel and de Villiers) . Changes in global population growth, unwise agricultural policies, and rapid and unchecked overdevelopment have skewed this balance to the point where almost 1 billion people lack access to safe water, resulting in almost 4 million deaths due to water related diseases annually. Ironically, only 1% of the world's fresh water is readily accessible for direct human use. Translated into something we can understand readily: one American taking a 5-minute shower uses more water than the typical person living in a developing country slum uses in an entire day -- and most Americans take far longer than 5-minute showers. This is a crisis that must be addressed, if it is not, over the next two decades the average supply of water per person will drop by over 30%, condemning millions of people and animals to death (Atlas of a Thirsty Planet 2002).

Part 2 -- Issue Overview - Economically, it costs more and more to irrigate fields, adjusting the price of crops upward, where irrigation is still practical. Millions of acres of quality farm and grazing land are lost each year to draught, dust, and lack of moisture -- making many countries even more at risk. And what happens when people cannot get enough water -- it is the basis of life, even more than food or material goods, without water, or with water available in only a few areas, the very fabric of society can break down. And, while the resource remains undervalued by some, it is becoming all the more precious. It's not necessarily that the world is running out of water, it is running out of water in the places where it is needed most (DeVillers 2001).

Often, the countries that have the largest population growth, China, for instance, have water that is often so polluted with heavy metals and other industrial race (in the rush for development) that the water cannot be used for agriculture OR drinking. The problem, of course, is complex. It is a combination of overuse of potable water from rivers and lakes; polluting rivers and lakes to where the water is wasted; deforestation which changes the climate and landscape and is unable to hold water, and climate change from greenhouse gases that warm already arid areas to where the deserts are gaining ground (Barlow 2008).

Part 2.1 -- Critical Factors- Clearly, the most critical factor that has contributed to this water shortage has been the combination of population growth, rapid economic development without a care for soil, the environment, or the ecology of the land, and over-use of land for farming and grazing to where it is no longer fit for cultivation. However, the technology exists to turn this around, the impetus is there, and with the new Global Economy so much in the forefront, it is time that the nations of the world cooperated before this precious resource is gone, and the resulting consequences damming to humanity (Shiva 2002).

Part 3 -- Regional Overview - In the modern world one of the basic resources for human survival is in serious jeopardy, with no prospect of improvement in the near future -- that of potable water. Across the world, almost one-billion people lack a steady supply of water, and the United Nations has noted that the regions of Northern Africa, the Middle East (Western Asia) and Mid-Southeast Asia are in a crisis period for water. For the purposed of this essay, however, we will focus on the serious water shortages in the Middle East/Arab World since the region is already in such a fragile political and economic state (Al-Tamimi 2003).

This region is a political hotbed, continued Arab-Israeli conflicts, stress in the countries of Iraq and Afghanistan, political issues in Iran, stress in the Arab countries on the peninsula, and a general view of a tinderbox needing just a match or two. For many Western analysts, the Middle East is the region of the greatest concern in the global war against terrorism. This focuses the world's media eye on the region, but is perhaps misunderstood a bit -- all Arab countries do not sponsor terrorism, in fact, most Middle Eastern governments continue to fight terrorism at home and abroad, and have the political will to continue to fight the issue at home and regionally. Even though the region is primarily Islamic, there is a growing realization that the world of globalization can only work if each country is committed to working in tandem to alleviate this concern (U.S. State Department 2009).

Of course, the Middle East is known for its production of much of the world's oil production. However, there are numerous other resources within the region, some of which are tied directly to the need for water. Some of the area is rich with agricultural production, some with minerals, and others with services and trade. For centuries, in fact, the countries around the Arabian Gulf have been a central crossroads for world trade. With the idea of globalization, however, this has become even more critical. The new economies create huge potentials for the region, but also will require change from inside and without. Those with the political and economic interests that are intent on maintaining the status quo often "hijack" water rights, partner with multinational corporations, or indeed, hoard water for the elite (e.g. In former Mubarak Egypt) (See: ENCOP 1995, 2005; Mideast Web.org 2002).

Part 4 -- Solutions - Some scholars and policy makers have recommended that the privatization (capitalism for water), be encouraged. In fact, potable water often arrives in trucks, especially in some of the major urban slums of the Third World, where water piping is absent. Vendors charge usurious prices for water, and many people are spending up to 1/4 of their income simply on water. Even so, the World Bank has spent a lot of money on water purification systems, wastewater plans and dams. Many urban water plans are run simply as governmental department, with no interest in serving the population, but only in maintaining employment, etc. In this case, the privatization would be a better solution for the third world (Shiva 2002). In addition, we have two major economic and cultural change agents that can help get around this problem -- the idea of Globalism and the economic impact that allowing some countries to fail would have, and the United Nations, which, despite its inability to exert much political authority, might just be able to take on a project like this globally with some degree of success. After all, there's no other time that the nations of the world are actually able to sit down together and discuss a problem (Picow 2009).

Part 5- Conclusions- Water has almost always been scarce in the Arab world; however, growing population issues combined with political and social turmoil make it even more of an issue in the 21st century. The wealthier Arab countries may be able to meet some of their needs by building desalinization plants, using funds from oil exports. However, a more long-term approach, and one that requires more of a psychological and social change, particularly now that globalism has reached a somewhat critical point in the world, is the concept of virtual water. For example, growing of some crops (wheat, for instance) takes a great deal of irrigation and imported water. By changing the global mindset and importing wheat from countries with more water and concentrating on crops that need less water, the region can acquire "virtual water" and redistribute its own water resources more logically and efficiently (Al-Bab.com 2009; Allan 2003). The stage is set, the Middle East is afire with democratic and political debate and change. Central to this change is the relationship and potential reliance on globalism to improve standards for the region. Water policy is a critical element to any change and redistribution of wealth, and is certainly a…[continue]

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