Water major concern in Arab world

Water is the most pressing environment concern in the Arab world, says the ongoing poll sponsored by US-giant General Electric in partnership with LinkedIn.

As of today more than 300 people voted in the poll, answering the question “What is the most pressing environmental concern for the region?”. About 40 per cent of the respondents chose water as their biggest concern, 21 per cent said climate change, 20 per cent said energy while 18 per cent pointed out that waste was their major concern.

Most of the people voted belonged to age group of 37-44, and the second largest group was from 30 to 36 years of age.

Water for drinking, domestic use and irrigation purposes is key to human life. The world’s population is growing by about 80 million people a year, implying increased freshwater demand of about 64 billion cubic meters a year. Competition for water exists at all levels and is forecast to increase with demands for water in almost all countries. Water is and should be the focus of policy making process, more so in the Arab world where the land is arid but consumption is highest, especially in the oil-producing nations.

President of the Arab Water Council, Dr. Mahmoud Abu Zeid, says 83 million Arabs have no access to clean drinking water and 96 million are deprived of sewage networks. “The time of easy water is over, and we are in dire need of a new policy to determine the relationship between humanity and water. It is unavoidable that we must reduce consumption and improve management, and it has became our duty to increase the productivity of every drop of water, because water security means economic and social security, which are among our most pressing strategic challenges.”

Interestingly, water scarcity and related challenges are closely related with women and children. Policy Advisor on Economic Empowerment at United Nations Women, Tacko Ndiaye, said in an interview recently that water scarcity has detrimental impacts on women and girls.

“Water is central to the full range of domestic ‘unpaid’ activities, which many cultures still view traditionally as ‘women domain’: food preparation, care of animals, crop irrigation, personal hygiene of the entire household, care of the sick, cleaning, washing and waste disposal. This gendered division of labor in water collection tasks deprives women and girls from opportunities to escape the vicious circle of poverty and disempowerment.

“For instance, too many girls still spend too many hours fetching water instead of attending school or enjoying their childhood,” says Ndiaye, adding: “Women also miss the change of accessing wage employment. This perpetuates the intergenerational transfer of poverty, hunger and disempowerment among women and girls and puts them at increased risk of violence when collecting water in the dark, or far away from home.

“Another important issue is related to health. Women and girls, as primary collectors of water are often the first to be exposed to waterborne diseases, with increasing contamination of surface water and ground source. The heavy workload involved in fetching water is also a serious maternal health issue.

“We also need to view women and men as equal partners in all areas of water governance and water resource management at all levels. We need to leverage women’s influence in policymaking, programming, management and financing of water resources so that they can reflect their experience and expectations in these processes.

“We also need to identify and address the constraints that prevent different groups of women from accessing water resources, such as social and gender constructs, power relations in the community, and economic constraints,” says policy adviser on Economic Empowerment at UN Women.

Women Water
Women in western Indian state of Rajasthan travel long distances to fetch water for their daily use.

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