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News First Arab Water Forum sets the stage for concerted actions against water scarcity in the region

Water scarcity was the main focus of the first Arab Water Forum and exhibition, held in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, from 15-19 November 2008. The forum was held concurrently with the third International Conference on Water Resources and Arid Environments (2008). Both were inaugurated by His Royal Highness Prince Khaled Bin Sultan Al-Saud, Assistant Minister for Defence and Aviation and High Commissioner for Military Affairs.

In his opening statement, HH Prince Khaled underlined the importance of the three-day event in strengthening knowledge and exchanging environmental information across the region. This would help develop appropriate approaches to dealing with the current challenges, most important of which being water scarcity under global warming conditions. Over 400 delegates were present. These included ministers or deputy ministers for water, irrigation or environment of NENA countries; experts and representatives of governmental institutions from Germany, Italy, Japan, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Switzerland, Viet Nam, the United Kingdom and the United States; and international organizations such as IFAD. The Fund also organized a stand at the forum’s exhibition to illustrate its experience in addressing water issues in the rural areas of the NENA region.  The stand was visited by HH Prince Khaled, participating ministers and delegates.

HE Dr Abdullah Al-Hussein, Minister for Water and Electricity of Saudi Arabia, said his country was devoting enormous efforts to rationalizing and making best use of its unrenewable underground water resources. At the same time, it was developing alternative solutions that would maximize benefits from seawater, other saline water and grey water.

The forum was also addressed by HE Dr Mahmoud Abu Zeid, Minister for Water and Irrigation of Egypt and President of the Arab Water Council. Dr Abu Zeid emphasized the need for a comprehensive Arab water policy and better policy frameworks that would enable more investment in the water sector and greater technical cooperation and exchange of knowledge across the region. Participants could attend three sessions, the first of which featured several presentations by high-level experts on water policies. It also included presentations on the “nuclear option” for seawater desalination in Arab countries, the effects of political borders on sustainable management of aquifers resources shared by Arab countries, and the need for a bold water strategy for Arab countries and for an Arab water sustainability index. Issues related to governance of water resources in the Palestinian territories, a prerequisite for peace and stability, were also discussed.

At the second session, dedicated to water resources management, presentations were made, among others, on the sustainable use of non-conventional water resources; a group decision support system for ranking water resources projects; the evaluation of the economic aspects of “virtual water” in the Middle East and North Africa; public-private partnerships in basic irrigation services; and the role of research for the sustainable development of wadi systems.

The third session focused on the regional process of the Fifth World Water Forum to be held in Istanbul in March 2009, with introductions by the World Water Forum Secretariat, the World Water Council and the Arab Water Council. Presentations addressed the many issues to be discussed in Istanbul on each of the five thematic chapters of the regional report to the World Forum.

Contact information n/a
News type Inbrief
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Source of information IFAD
Keyword(s) Water scarcity
Geographical coverage Saudi Arabia, Egypt
News date 05/01/2009
Working language(s) ARABIC , ENGLISH