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CarnegieEndowment.org: The Looming Climate and Water Crisis in the Middle East and North Africa

Posted by: Berhane Habtemariam

Date: Monday, 27 May 2024

 
Source: Getty
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Addressing water scarcity and improving water management will be immensely important for ensuring the region’s stability, sustainability, and well-being in the face of a changing climate.

By Mohammed Mahmoud
Published on May 27, 2024

Introduction

The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region is naturally prone to being hot and dry, in stark contrast with the rest of the world. The region’s arid climate is the primary contributor to its perennial state of water scarcity. When coupled with the region’s limited freshwater supplies and growing demand for water, virtually all MENA countries are facing elevated levels of water stress. The amplifying effects of climate change threaten to increase the gap between water supply and water demand in the region by exacerbating drought conditions. The longer-term consequences of water scarcity that increase this imbalance extend beyond insufficient water availability. Concerns over water quality, critical water infrastructure, and transboundary water cooperation may also compound the region’s existing socioeconomic challenges.

The Current State of Water Resources in the Middle East and North Africa

The MENA region has been widely acknowledged as the most water-stressed region in the world. In fact, according to data from 2019, sixteen of the twenty-five most water-stressed countries in the world can be found in this region (with Bahrain ranked as the world’s most water-stressed country). In this context, water stress is defined as the gap between water supply and water demand for each given country, meaning that the most water-stressed nations are utilizing nearly all of their available water supplies, and any fluctuations to water supply with respect to meeting water demand could trigger periods of water shortage.

Although the MENA region is generally recognized as water-stressed, different parts of the region experience water stress differently. The differences in water vulnerability between countries in the region are highly correlated to the level of access each country has to a range of water resources, both from freshwater and nonconventional water supplies. For example, access to renewable supplies from surface water systems (such as rivers) can place nations at an advantage to countries that have limited ability to draw on freshwater sources (which also include groundwater extracted from subsurface aquifers). Conversely, countries that have extremely limited opportunities to leverage the use of freshwater supplies can mitigate this risk by greatly expanding their utilization of nonconventional water resources (such as desalination and water recycling). Being able to do so is contingent on a country’s financial and development capacity to invest and build water infrastructure that can augment its existing water sources with nonconventional water supplies.

The mostly arid climate and predominantly flat, desert landscape of MENA is not a naturally favorable environment for large surface water systems borne from high-elevation headwaters, but there are a few major exceptions. The Nile River provides a critical water supply to all of its basin states, most especially its two most downstream arid riparians, Egypt and Sudan (which together account for nearly 90 percent of annual water withdrawals from the Nile). In many ways, the Nile is the lifeblood of Egypt: 99 percent of Egypt’s population resides along the floodplain and banks of the river, and the Nile Delta (Egypt’s most fertile region) accounts for 63 percent of Egypt’s agricultural lands.

Much of the recent tensions in the Nile River Basin have centered on the Blue Nile segment of the river, which originates from highland headwaters in Ethiopia and provides 83 percent of the Nile’s annual volume. The construction and subsequent fillings of the hydropower-generating Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam has put Ethiopia’s energy security goals at odds with Egypt’s and Sudan’s critical need for the Nile’s water resources. The lack of transboundary cooperation among these three nations on how to manage the Blue Nile conjunctively with respect to the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam and other water infrastructure—especially under prolonged drought conditions brought on by climate change—will likely result in further unilateral actions that could threaten the viability of the Nile as a water resource for all riparians.

The Tigris-Euphrates River System is another river basin that suffers from transboundary water-sharing challenges. Originating from the mountains of eastern Türkiye, both the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers travel through Syria and most of Iraq before merging together to form the Shatt al-Arab, which terminates in the Arabian Gulf. Much like the Blue Nile segment of the larger Nile River, the water issues in the Tigris-Euphrates River System are associated with consequences of upstream water-use operations on downstream riparians. Prolonged drought conditions in this basin (which have been exacerbated by warming from climate change) have led to a zero-sum game of competing water management needs among the riparians. Türkiye, where the headwaters of both rivers originate, has been moving forward with its own water development projects to secure as much as possible of this surface water resource for its own water security. These projects have had the most negative impact on Iraq, the most downstream riparian in this basin. As a cumulative effect, Türkiye’s dam construction projects have reduced Iraq’s water supply from the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers by 80 percent since 1975. Iran, which contributes to the Tigris-Euphrates River System with tributaries that originate from within its borders, has also pursued dam construction projects that have further reduced the tributary flow into the river system. Future projections estimate that by 2025, the flows of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers will decrease by 25 percent and 50 percent, respectively. The consequences of this diminished river flow are already detrimental for Iraq, resulting in a lack of sufficient potable water in the city of Basra near the river system’s outlet to the Arabian Gulf.

At the root of the water management challenges in the Tigris-Euphrates River System is the lack of binding multilateral agreements between all the riparians of this river system: Türkiye, Syria, Iraq, and Iran. The presence of such a set of agreements that includes all riparians could encourage transboundary cooperation, which would disincentivize the current state of unilateral water operations that disproportionately harm downstream riparians. A number of agreements already have been put into place within this basin, but these have been bilateral in nature between only a couple of the riparians and have had broad stipulations on cooperation. Examples include the 1987 Protocol on Economic Cooperation between Türkiye and Syria (an interim agreement on water quantity to be released at the Syrian-Turkish border) and the 1990 Syrian-Iraqi Water Accord (to allocate the water of the Euphrates between Syria and Iraq). To date, water negotiations between Iraq and Iran on shared tributaries have yielded no tangible agreements. Without cooperation between these riparians—especially between the upstream nations of Türkiye and Iran with Iraq—the water quantity and quality of this basin will continue to decline to dangerous and potentially irreversible levels.

Southwest of the Tigris-Euphrates River System is the Jordan River, a surface water basin with headwaters in the Anti-Lebanon Mountains bordering Syria and Lebanon. The river flows southward through Lake Tiberias and pools into the Dead Sea. Although tributaries from Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and Israel and the West Bank feed into the river, water-sharing of the Jordan River is primarily a management issue between Jordan and Israel. Increasing aridification as a consequence of drought has been a key driver in the large reduction in flow of the Jordan River, with estimates of current flow being equal to 10 percent of the river’s historical average. Less streamflow into the river from the headwaters has translated into shrinking water levels for both Lake Tiberias and the Dead Sea.

But a reduced water supply is not the only factor compromising this surface water basin. The water quality in the Jordan River and of the two lakes that are part of the system (Tiberias and the Dead Sea) has progressively declined to a state that could cause water from this basin to become unusable without extensive and costly water treatment or desalination. Rising salinity and pollution in the Jordan River are byproducts of sewage and solid waste being discharged into the river and irrigation water runoff draining into the river from nearby farms. Irrigation water runoff entering the Jordan River is highly saline because of the salt leached from crops during irrigation, and it contains chemical contaminants from pesticides applied to crops. This contamination not only threatens the water quality of the Jordan River but also is a risk to nearby groundwater aquifers, into which these pollutants may seep and infiltrate.

Though surface water systems are limited, groundwater aquifers are much more prevalent across the region. As such and historically, groundwater has been a key source of freshwater supply in the region, especially in areas with no access to surface water, including the Arabian Peninsula and the Gaza Strip in Palestine. The most prominent example of groundwater utilization and extraction in the region is Libya’s Great Man-Made River Project, a large-scale water infrastructure project borne out of Libya’s dependency on groundwater and lack of surface water supplies. This historical overreliance on groundwater resulted in the overpumping of coastal aquifers near major Libyan cities in the northern part of the country, prompting the need to transport water from further aquifers in the south. The Great Man-Made River Project would become the means of this water conveyance. Originally, the project was justified as a more cost-effective alternative to desalination, but the scale of the project has made it costly in terms of construction, maintenance, and energy consumption to pump and distribute the extracted groundwater. Furthermore, project expansion and upkeep have been threatened by unreliable financial support and security risks from vandalism and crime. Ultimately, groundwater is a finite resource, which presents the question of what happens to a huge, costly project like the Great Man-Made River Project when the aquifers on which it relies are no longer sustainable.

With the inclusion of alternative nonconventional water supplies across the region, primarily desalination, groundwater has been mainly used to satisfy drinking water and irrigation needs. But even with a diversity of water supply sources available, this resource is still very much at risk of overdraft, as the regional extraction of groundwater far exceeds the natural and artificial replenishment of exploited aquifers. Much of the challenge of managing groundwater is associated with several primary issues. First, there is not sufficient information or adequate quality of data to accurately determine how much groundwater is stored in the region’s aquifers. Irregular monitoring and tracking of groundwater extraction, as well as the replenishment of these aquifers, all contribute to this lack of data. This is an issue across MENA, as on-the-ground monitoring networks in this region are not as robust as in other parts of the world, necessitating a greater reliance on satellite information or modeling data. Second, as an extension of the lack of information issue, there is little to no regulation of groundwater aquifers in the region, which makes managing and sharing transboundary aquifers even more difficult. Usually, nations that share mutual aquifers do not have conjunctive management operations.

The most important water augmentation innovation that has buffered the countries of the region against limited freshwater supplies and water stress is desalination. Although most MENA coastal nations have active desalination plants, none of the countries in the region are as reliant and dependent on desalination as the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC): Kuwait, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, and Oman. Nearly half of the world’s freshwater desalination (45 percent) occurs in the Arabian Gulf, with several GCC members sourcing nearly 90 percent of their drinking-water needs from desalination.

The use of desalinated water has enabled the GCC and other countries in the region to help bridge the gap in the imbalance between their water supplies and water demands. But the construction, operation, and maintenance of water desalination plants is a costly, lengthy (in terms of design and construction), and energy-intensive enterprise. And while the financial resources of the GCC states, and their dire need for water resources in extremely water-scarce environments, make desalination a palatable water acquisition strategy, other countries in the region may not have the capacity and capital to follow suit. Additionally, concerns have been raised as to the environmental impact of this level of desalination activity in the region—especially in the Arabian Gulf—because of the volume of concentrated brine discharge that is released back into the source water body of the desalinated water. But recent research has indicated that the Arabian Gulf is not under risk of elevated salinity caused by the discharge of brine from the many desalination plants along the Gulf’s coast. Even though the research studies denote that this finding may be true in the Arabian Gulf for the coming decades, there is still some uncertainty if this finding could remain valid further into the future with an increased number of and expanded capacity of desalination plants along its coast.

Effects of Global Warming on Regional Climate

According to the Koppen Classification System, most of the MENA climate can be described as a hot desert environment that is consistent with a dry climate zone. Thus, as a region it is naturally prone to aridity, little rainfall, sparse vegetative land cover, and higher average annual temperatures, especially during the summer period where temperature extremes are more pronounced than other parts of the world. These conditions already have put the MENA region in a natural environmental state that increases the likelihood of extreme water scarcity. However, the accelerated advent of climate change has added a layer of complexity when it comes to the region’s climate and its water resources.

Over the past decade, the growing impacts of climate change in MENA countries have been adverse, with direct implications for the reliability of the region’s water supply and infrastructure to satisfy its various types of water demand. The primary climate impact that drives several implications associated with water insecurity is extreme heat and warming. In recent years, the Middle East, a region already experiencing significantly warmer temperatures than most of the rest of the world, has seen an elevation of daily temperature highs above the historical average for the region. Progressively, during the summer periods in the past several years, a number of countries and cities in the region have broken historical records for daily temperature highs. For example, in July 2023, the Persian Gulf Airport in Iran registered a heat index of 152°F (the heat index being a metric that couples the effect of humidity with air temperature to gauge the perceived heat that humans experience). This extreme level of heat coincided with the hottest month ever recorded, where the global average temperature record was broken and set three times over a span of four days (from July 3 to 6).

Even as climate change has increased air temperatures in the region, a similar effect has been occurring in the surrounding oceans and seas. A corresponding rise in sea surface temperatures has yielded dangerous outcomes with regard to extreme weather. Warmer oceans and seas tend to generate more extreme weather in the form of severe thunderstorms and even cyclones. And while precipitation and rainfall can be considered boons for a mostly dry and arid region like MENA, the intensity of rainfall, winds, and subsequent flooding from these storm events can be catastrophic.

Heavy rainfall events that have produced expansive flooding have been occurring with more frequency in MENA. This is especially the case for the countries of the Arabian Peninsula, an area surrounded by the Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean, two water bodies that experience significant warming during the summertime owing to their proximity to the equator. These heavy thunderstorms and corresponding floods have particularly afflicted the countries in the southern part of the Arabian Peninsula: Oman, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Yemen. And while these types of storms have been most pronounced along the southern coastline of the Arabian Peninsula, severe weather has even made it as far inland as Mecca, Saudi Arabia.

In extreme cases, these types of storms are intense enough to be categorized as tropical cyclones. Such severe storms can cause catastrophic flooding that results in substantial infrastructure damage and fatalities. The frequency of these types of tropical cyclones forming in the Indian Ocean and making landfall at a high level of severity is relatively low, but they do occur to devastating effect. Both Oman and Yemen have been the primary recipients of these tropical cyclones. In 2021, Cyclone Shaheen made landfall in Oman as a severe cyclonic storm. The heavy rainfall, excessive flooding, and high winds of the cyclone caused serious damage to infrastructure and a considerable death toll. With the likelihood of increased global warming in the future, tropical cyclones may form and make landfall at greater frequency and intensity, with the potential of traveling further inland than the southeastern coastal front of the Arabian Peninsula.

Cyclones have a history of developing from the Indian Ocean in the warmer waters surrounding the equator, but there is growing concern that sea surface temperatures across the globe are rising. Significantly warmer ocean waters will likely produce more extreme weather, even for water bodies that generally are known to produce cyclones and hurricanes (like the Indian Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean). However, an increase in global sea surface temperatures could see extreme weather occur from oceans and seas not historically prone to creating them. This has been the case for the Pacific Ocean, where hurricanes rarely form and make landfall. Historically, the Mediterranean Sea has had similar experiences: it would be unusual for cyclones or medicanes (the term used to refer to cyclones from the Mediterranean Sea) to form and make landfall with severe intensity. But with the amplification of climate change enhancing warming in oceans and seas, both the Pacific and the Mediterranean could see such effects in the future.

An indicator of what a future with extreme weather from the Mediterranean Sea would look like came in September 2023, when Storm Daniel made landfall in eastern Libya. Developing as a medicane and following its trajectory from Greece, Storm Daniel descended into the coastal Libyan city of Derna, causing torrential rainfall and severe flooding. But the tragedy of Derna was not limited to these initial hydrological impacts of extreme weather. The combination of an incredibly large amount of rainfall and the country’s aging and neglected infrastructure led to the collapse of two dams upstream of Derna—Derna Dam and Mansour Dam. The outcome of that critical failure of water infrastructure was nothing short of catastrophic. Entire neighborhoods and large parts of the city of Derna literally washed out to sea under the massive release of water from these collapsed dams, further inundating a city already submerged with floodwaters. The death toll from this climate calamity is in excess of 10,000 people, and that figure is expected to rise as an equally large number of missing people are still unaccounted for.

It is clear that the warming of the oceans and seas surrounding MENA has direct implications when it comes to producing extreme weather that can affect the countries of the region. But in conjunction with these short-term, yet intense and potentially more frequent, weather events is another more long-term and incremental impact from the warming of the oceans: sea level rise. The threat of sea level rise will only continue to increase in the future, as the Sixth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change indicated that sea level rise due to ocean warming from greenhouse gas–driven global warming will continue for centuries. What is equally alarming is that even if global warming is curbed by fully mitigating greenhouse gas emissions, the coastal encroachment resulting from sea level rise at that point in time will be irreversible for further centuries.

Implications of the Climate/Water Nexus on the Middle East and North Africa

The regional climate effects of global warming on both land and sea have direct consequences for managing the region’s water supply, water demand, and water infrastructure. Warming is a key driver of drought conditions, especially for surface water systems. Significantly warmer conditions affect surface water systems in several ways. For surface water systems that rely on water being generated from higher-elevation precipitation and snowpack (which is the case for the Nile River, the Tigris and Euphrates River System, and the Jordan River), climate change can reduce the volume of water that is generated from these higher-elevation headwaters. Because warming can lessen the amount and rate of precipitation that occurs in these higher elevations, the smaller snowpack and subsequent snowmelt from the headwaters would reduce the flow of these rivers. A reduction in snowpack can occur primarily when some of that snowpack sublimates (changes into water vapor directly) owing to extreme heat, as opposed to turning into snowmelt. Also, with higher regional temperatures, the rate of evaporation will likely increase, resulting in less water available downstream as the river experiences elevated evaporation along its route towards its terminus. For countries in the region that utilize a surface water supply source, this reduction in available surface water will cause them to shift more of their reliance on other sources of water supply—placing pressure on alternative sources of water to meet this shortfall.

Warming will also have an effect on water demand in the region. The three broad sectors of water demand are urban or residential water use for human consumption (including for drinking water and sanitation), agricultural water use to support food production, and industrial water use (such as for manufacturing, commercial uses, and energy generation). Rising temperatures in the region have the potential to significantly inflate water demand from these different water consumption sectors as a consequence of their unique water needs.

Agriculture is the largest consumer of water globally, on average amounting to 70 percent of water use. This statistic also holds true for MENA, where most countries’ agricultural water use as a percent of total water withdrawals exceeds 50 percent. In Morocco, Sudan, and Yemen, agricultural water use is close to or higher than 90 percent of total water used. With increased warming, the rate of evapotranspiration from irrigated crops also increases. To counteract this evaporative loss of water from crops due to higher temperatures, irrigation requirements per crop type must also increase to ensure sufficient water has been applied during the growing season. The largest sectoral consumer of water thus will require even more water to meet regional food production needs.

Urban water use (which includes domestic and residential water consumption for drinking water needs and sanitation) accounts for a significantly smaller portion of total water demand in the region (on average approximately 8 percent of freshwater use). But as with agricultural water use, urban water use is also influenced by the region’s warming climate. Inflated urban water use can be linked to the urban heat island effect, where daytime heat from sunlight and warm emissions from vehicles and air conditioners are trapped by heat-absorbing infrastructure and materials (like asphalt in roads). Urban areas also tend to have less natural and green areas, which help to diffuse some of the absorbed heat. During periods of extreme heat, the urban heat island effect can push urban water consumption to higher levels, as urban residents use more drinking water to cool down from the heat and apply more water to maintain green natural spaces in cities.

Another factor that is progressively boosting urban water use is the rate of population growth in the MENA region. In 2022, the average annual population growth across the region was 1.9 percent, with Syria and Yemen leading the annual urban population growth of individual countries at 4.8 percent and 3.8 percent, respectively. Compared to regional annual urban population growth rates in excess of 4 percent pre-1990, the current figure seems modest, but future population growth projections paint a different picture. By 2050, half of MENA countries will see their total populations grow by over 50 percent compared to their population size in 2015. Three nations in particular—Iraq, Palestine, and Sudan—will more than double their population size from 2015.

Impacts to industrial water use are also expected to occur with enhanced regional warming, especially for water needed for energy generation. Hydropower generation is directly affected, as surface river systems with hydropower plants will see reductions in river flows (at the headwaters) owing to higher levels of evaporation. Additionally, water is a critical component of power generation in thermoelectric plants, primarily for cooling purposes to produce electricity more efficiently. Water scarcity as a consequence of climate change can therefore severely constrain a power plant’s ability to efficiently and optimally generate electricity.

Water infrastructure is a critical component of any water management system, as it is the means by which water is transmitted, stored, or treated, to connect the water supply from source to utilization. Unfortunately, several MENA countries do not have reliable and efficient water infrastructure. For example, more than 50 percent of Jordan’s drinking water supply is lost because of water leakages and illegal theft of water from the water transmission network. Similarly, Lebanon is experiencing water system losses of 40 percent as a consequence of illegal water connections and inadequate maintenance of its water transmission network.

The region’s water infrastructure will be even more vulnerable due to the effects of climate change. Extreme heat, extreme weather, and sea level rise threaten the reliability and durability of water storage, treatment, and transmission infrastructure. As higher temperatures from warming elevate evaporation rates, reservoirs and dams used for surface water storage (such as the Aswan High Dam in Egypt or Atatürk Dam in Türkiye) will lose more of their stored water to evaporation. Prolonged exposure to extreme heat over time can reduce the lifespan of critical water infrastructure such as dams, water treatment plants, desalination plants, and water transmission pipelines and canals, thereby increasing the risk of infrastructure failure if adequate repair and maintenance is not implemented.

Extreme weather is an even more immediate threat to critical water infrastructure. High winds, intense rainfall, and flash flooding from severe thunderstorms and cyclones can cause sufficient structural damages that will either force water infrastructure operations offline for repair or, in an extreme case, lead to their catastrophic and irreparable failure (such as what happened to the dams in Derna, Libya). Other types of extreme weather, like the frequently occurring dust storms of the Arabian Peninsula, can also damage water infrastructure.

The future viability of existing coastal water infrastructure and resources is also at risk from the longer-term ramifications of sea level rise. As sea level rise continues unabated in the span of decades and even centuries (as suggested in the Sixth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), encroaching seawater will likely inundate and submerge critical water infrastructure such as desalination and water treatment plants along MENA coasts. The corresponding losses of nonconventional water supplies and the ability to produce drinking water from nonpotable sources would be disastrous for the region. It would hurt the GCC countries in particular, as they rely disproportionately on desalinated water to meet their consumption needs. Incremental sea level rise also propagates seawater intrusion into groundwater aquifers near the coast and pushes salty seawater into the coastal outlets of rivers—a problem that is already happening in the Nile River Delta along the Mediterranean in Egypt and the Shatt al-Arab outlet of the Tigris-Euphrates River System to the Arabian Gulf in Iraq.

Besides the water management challenges posed by inadequate water supply, inflated water demand, and precarious water infrastructure integrity, the region could contend with a possible public health crisis from the poor quality of much of its freshwater. As water supplies dwindle and drinking water needs increase because of the effects of warming, disenfranchised segments of the region’s population that live in rural areas or refugee camps, and cannot financially afford to acquire adequate supplies of drinking water, may make difficult and dangerous decisions when it comes to meeting their water needs. This scenario has played out in Syria, where people who are desperate for water have extracted contaminated water from the Euphrates River and utilized it without proper water treatment. Consequently, rural Syria has seen several outbreaks of waterborne illnesses and diseases, the most recent of which is a cholera epidemic that has caused fatalities in the local population.

Conclusion

When it comes to the climate-driven water security challenges of the MENA region, several key messages are clear.

Water scarcity and water stress. The region is naturally prone to arid and dry conditions, leading to a chronic state of water scarcity. Limited freshwater supplies and growing demand for water have resulted in elevated levels of water stress across MENA countries.

Regional differences in water stress. Water stress varies across the region, owing primarily to differences in access to freshwater and nonconventional water sources. Countries with access to renewable water supplies have some advantage, while others rely heavily on nonconventional sources like desalination.

The importance of desalination. Desalination has become a crucial water augmentation strategy for mitigating water scarcity in the region. GCC countries in particular mostly rely on desalination for drinking water needs. However, this method is cost- and energy-intensive and could pose some long-term environmental concerns.

Water quality challenges. Poor water quality in freshwater sources poses public health risks, especially in rural areas. Contaminated water sources have led to outbreaks of waterborne diseases.

Groundwater depletion. Groundwater aquifers are a significant source of freshwater, especially in arid regions like the Arabian Peninsula. But overextraction of groundwater is depleting these aquifers.

Transboundary water conflicts. Transboundary water management challenges, particularly in the Nile and Tigris-Euphrates River Basins, have strained relations among riparian nations. The construction of dams and reduced river flows have created tensions, posing a threat to regional stability.

Climate change amplifies water issues. Climate change is exacerbating water insecurity by increasing the frequency and severity of droughts. This new climate reality threatens to widen the gap between water supply and demand, compounding existing water scarcity issues.

Climate change and extreme weather. Climate change has brought about extreme heat waves, severe storms, and cyclones in the region. These events have serious implications for water infrastructure, including reservoirs, dams, and desalination plants.

Sea level rise. In the long term, rising sea levels are threatening coastal water infrastructure, such as desalination plants and water treatment plants. Seawater intrusion into groundwater aquifers and coastal river outlets is also a growing concern.

Impact on water demand. Rising temperatures increase evapotranspiration rates, leading to higher water demands in agriculture and urban areas. Population growth will inflate future urban water consumption, particularly in rapidly growing cities.

Overall, the MENA region faces a multifaceted water crisis that is exacerbated by climate change. Desalination has provided some reprieve to the region’s water deficit, but it comes with its own set of environmental and economic challenges. Transboundary water disputes, groundwater depletion, and the vulnerability of water infrastructure to extreme weather events are pressing issues that require urgent attention. As the region grapples with these complex challenges, addressing water scarcity and improving water management will be immensely important for ensuring the stability, sustainability, and the well-being of its populations in the face of a changing climate.

 


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