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Water a must, sunshine or rain

Written by  Author |   Fri, 11 July 2014 12:12


The 2nd Arab Water Conference in Doha addresses the challenges currently faced by the region

Organized by Kahramaa (Qatar General Electricity & Water Corporation) and the Arab Ministerial Water Council, the Second Arab Water Conference was held from 27-29 May, 2014 in Doha.  Held under the patronage of H.E. Sheikh Abdullah Bin Nasser Bin Khalifa Al Thani, Prime Minister and Minister of Interior of the State of Qatar, the conference was themed "Toward the Rational Management of Water resources in Arab Countries - Sustainable and Creative Solutions to Meet Current Challenges."

The opening ceremony was held at the Ritz-Carlton Doha in attendance by ministers, dignitaries and delegates from all over the Arab world.

During the opening ceremony, H.E. Sheikh Thani welcomed all the delegations participating in this important regional summit. He said the Arab world faces many challenges related to water and lack of water resources coupled with high demand to meet the requirements of the developing nations.

His Excellency the Prime Minister said that the Government of Qatar, under the wise leadership of His Highness Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, is working to support the needs of the state regarding water sustainability and has mandated the creation of a clear and comprehensive strategy for the management of all natural resources, in accordance with the highest international standards.

His Excellency the Prime Minister said that this conference was a great opportunity to support sustainable development programs in the region and he expressed his confidence in the outcomes of the conference papers and discussions, saying that they would contribute to finding solutions to the many challenges facing the Arab countries in this sector.

H.E. Dr. Mohammed Saleh Al-Sada, Minister of Energy & Industry Affairs said: "Water is a crucial topic in the in the Arab world and we need to unify our approach to meeting these challenges that threaten the sustainability of our economies. They also impact national development and long-term stability within the Arab world. The biggest challenges we face are reliance on imported water, drought and the depletion of natural resources.



The Arab Water Conference concluded that over 18 Arab states fall under the water poverty line, which is estimated at one thousand cubic meters per year per capita. Among those states, eight countries suffer from extreme water poverty with a per capita water consumption rate between 100 to 200 cubic meters per year. Qatar is no exception. Qatar depends almost totally on water desalination for its drinking water needs. Moreover, the country has one of the highest per capita water consumption levels in the world. This situation needs quick action, according to Qatar General Electricity & Water Corporation president Essa Bin Hilal Al Kuwari. "The groundwater reserve is limited, but we have a project to re-inject the groundwater with rain water, which is rare, or even with excess desalinated water to develop a strategic reserve for emergency needs. There is also a plan now to take advantage of recycled water in the irrigation of parks and stadiums, as well as for use in construction and to irrigate some crops that are not consumed by humans," he said. Al Kuwari said his country has no plans to stop subsidizing water consumption cost. Rather Qatar opts for various awareness campaigns to urge its citizens and residents to consume water in a reasonable manner. "There is a national program under the auspices of His Highness the Emir, which is "Tarsheed". The program aims to raise awareness and increase efficiency in water use. "It will be implemented over a period of five years, and we hope to reduce water per capita consumption rates by thirty five percent. Over the past year we have achieved a reduction of six percent and we will continue on that road, so as to educate citizens and residents of the importance of water without neither compromising their luxury nor exaggerating their water usage," he added.

President of the Arab Water Council and Former Minister of Water Resources and Irrigation in Egypt, Dr. Mahmoud Abu Zaid, stressed on the importance of water consumption in relation to growing population. "Water scarcity is a very important feature. Another factor is the increase in population. The consumption and resources equation needs to be balanced. If water sources are stable and we have drought, sources are limited, so consumption level is important. If there is immoderation in consumption and constant increase in water demand due to increase in population, this puts the region in danger," he said. Abu Zaid also spoke about the effect of climate change which he says poses a growing threat to water programs in the Arab region. "Climate change is a new factor. It indicates that Arab countries will face a shortage of twenty to fifty percent in water resources and an increase in temperature. When temperature increases, water needs for agriculture and drinking will increase and evaporation will increase, so demand will increase. All these are influential factors and will make the Arab region face difficult circumstances," he said. Qatar's environment is hostile to agriculture, characterized by extreme heat, water scarcity and high soil salinity.



The second Arab Water Conference, witnessed a number of scientific sessions that reviewed studies conducted by leading experts from the region. The concluded sessions covered water as well as food security and the adoption of modern techniques and methodologies that can ensure future sustainability and promote the rational management of natural resources.

Speaking at the occasion, Arab League representative, Dr. Jamaleddine Jaballah said that the scientific platform offered by the conference is the ideal way to meet the myriad geographically distinct challenges faced by the region and that the Arab Ministerial Water Council will continue to promote the preservation and optimal use of this invaluable source of life. 

He added that the combination of the scientific findings presented at the congress and the diligent management of national strategies based on the recommendations of the conference will be conducive for the region's future.



Eng. Ali Saif Al-Malki, Chairman of the Conference's Scientific Committee and Director of Water Network Affairs at KAHRAMAA presented the conference recommendations on behalf of the Scientific Committee. He first thanked H.E. Sheikh Abdullah Bin Nasser Al Thani, Prime Minister and Minister of Interior of the State of Qatar, for his patronage of the conference and H.E. Dr. Mohammed bin Saleh Al- Sada, Minister of Energy and Industry for his active participation in the open panel discussions.

He also praised the efforts of Eng. Essa bin Hilal Al Kuwari, Chairman of the 2nd Arab Water Conference for his able leadership and for being an active advocate for the conference across many platforms and for reiterating the State of Qatar's commitment to this cause.

Among the major recommendations proposed by the Scientific Committee were the need for stronger legislation for the water sector and the use of modern techniques for the effective development, management and utilization of groundwater systems.
 

The committee also recommended the use of treated sewage water for agricultural and industrial purposes, as well as new methods for harvesting rainwater, including the use of dedicated reservoirs wherever possible.

The adoption of advanced agriculture and irrigation standards based on the climate and topography of each country and the stricter policing of pollution and contamination factors were suggested to avoid negative impacts on agricultural output. The Scientific Committee stressed the importance of continuing the dialogue on this important subject.

The conference also called on the member states of the Arab league to promote awareness within their member countries and to activate public service programs that encourage the rational use of water. Countries were also encouraged to develop policies that augment awareness through actions. These include reducing leakage in national potable water systems, improving the operational efficiency of networks and plants, as well as elevating the quality standards of drinking water.

The Committee also highlighted the importance of encouraging the private sectors to enter into partnerships in programs to achieve greater water and food security in the region.

On the concluding day of the conference, HE Eng. Essa bin Hilal Al Kuwari thanked the delegates and the representatives of the Arab states for their contributions and screened presentations. 

Speaking on the occasion, he said: "All our stakeholders were committed to addressing the critical issue of water security in the region along with their suggested ways and means to tackle the challenge. The issue will be further pursued by the leaders of the Arab world. The presence of His Excellency the Prime Minister and Minister of Industry, along with the Deputy Prime Minister and the Minister of Energy & Industry of the State of Qatar, as well as many leading ministers and high-ranking diplomats from across the region shows the collective importance of water-related issues."

At the end of the conference, HE Eng. Essa bin Hilal Al Kuwari, presented certificates of achievements and appreciation to the presenters of the selected conference papers and Arab League representatives. Members of the Scientific Committee and the Organizing Committee and volunteers were also recognized for their contributions.

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