Wednesday 01 January 2014

Mohammad Abdel Raouf wrote recently in Gulf News that “there is no doubt that water is essential for all forms of life. Besides its importance for maintaining healthy ecosystems, it is a fundamental resource for human survival and socio-economic development.” Unlike most of the strategic issues in this country, which are most often posed by external factors outside the UAE, food and water security (which are fundamentally interrelated) are domestic issues of vital concern. Luckily, the UAE has already demonstrated admirable leadership in addressing these areas; even so, much more must be done to ameliorate the very real threat food and water scarcity poses to all nationals.

Exploding demographic increases and rising prosperity around the world will only increase the global demand for food and water in the coming decades. Water also fuels the global economy; the production of electricity and many other forms of energy requires water, and with global energy demands increasing, the demand for more water will certainly expand significantly. Although there is increasing cooperation among nations, NGOs and businesses on these issues, the sad news is that climatic conditions and insufficient technology mean future efforts still may will not keep pace with the demand. We will likely never achieve enduring food and water security in the Arab world. But more importantly, those challenges demand new methods and innovative approaches just to achieve the minimum level of human security people deserve.

The national government is well aware of this problem. The MOFA Director of Energy and Climate Affairs, Dr. Thani Al Zeyoudi, recently reinforced that energy, water and food security are matters of utmost priority by saying: “The UAE attaches great importance to the issue of energy-water-food nexus… A coherent and strategic policy framework is important in addressing different elements of the nexus and we already have a range of existing strategies and initiatives at both federal and local levels. However, national level coordination on the nexus as a whole could be strengthened through vertical and horizontal governmental cooperation…. The nexus concept needs to be integrated into energy conversations, especially at the level of policy makers.” The UAE also made water security a major focus of the 2011 meeting of the G20.

Recent improvements here in the UAE have already resulted in: increases in organic greenhouse farming (which saves water by reducing evaporation); development of a new national water conservation campaign including the construction of recharge dams that replenish ground-water reserves; and the water saving accomplishments of the Sharjah Electricity and Water Authority through its distribution of water conservation kits. Still, more must be done if we are to keep pace with expanding demands for such fundamental resources.

Additional partial solutions for food and water scarcity problems include actions such as: utilizing more renewable energy sources in the region; improving water legislation and strengthening the mechanisms for its implementation; reforming institutions and legal processes to better align responsibilities in the water, agriculture and energy sectors; and, further increasing public water and energy awareness to encourage food, water and energy conservation. Ultimately improving the long term viability of food and water resources in this country will require the active participation of every UAE national – such a commitment to a better future is an easy decision to make