By Maryam Al Sada, Head of PR, THIMUN Qatar
We are always taught to appreciate what we have, or we may risk losing it. This has never been truer than our need to be appreciative of having easy access to clean water, which most of us take for granted. If you are lucky enough to not be one of the 2.2 billion who do not have access to safe drinking water, be aware this may not continue to be true in the future. We never realize the severity of the depletion of resources until it directly affects us. Within the Middle East, people are becoming more aware of an impending crisis we may face if we continue to ignore climate change and specifically water scarcity. Although it is common to feel as though these issues don’t affect us now, the sooner action is taken to raise awareness and resolve them the less disastrous the future consequences will be.
THE IMPENDING WATER CRISIS
Water composes over 70% of the Earth’s surface, yet its availability is rapidly depleting. According to the Water Project, The shortage of fresh groundwater sources in Jordan has prompted a 30% increase in water costs, thus lowering its accessibility. As the people of Yemen continue to face high rates of malnutrition, more people fall victim to the nation’s water scarcity. As shown by data collected by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN, 13 countries within the Middle East have been recognized by the UN as falling under the benchmark for “absolute water scarcity” as of 2014. Considering the limited precipitation rates of the dry desert climate, Arab countries facing absolute water scarcity are consuming more water than they can sustain, and the World Bank estimates that by 2040 over half of the MENA region will be under extremely high water stress. So how did we get to this point?
UNSUSTAINABLE WATER CONSUMPTION AND DESALINATION
Groundwater sources, such as rivers and underground layers of rock saturated with water, require replenishment at a rate higher or at least equal to the rate of our use of them. In our dry climates this has been insufficient, therefore requiring us to develop new sources for clean water. Desalination, the process of removing salt from seawater for daily use, has grown to be the most practiced technique of water consumption in response to water shortages across the world and has been practiced in the Middle East for over 50 years, this however has its drawbacks. It increases the carbon footprint of the region due to the thermal method of extraction, in addition to polluting the groundwater sources and soil. Although desalination appears to be a temporary solution to sourcing water, its consequences will be detrimental to the region in the long term.
As stated by WeForumWater Scarcity has been a result and a contributor to climate change, especially in the Middle East. Therefore it is our responsibility to protect the environment and think of how we can reduce the impact of unsustainable water consumption? Better yet, how can we completely stop it?
YOUTH IN ACTION
As the future leaders and policymakers of our nations, we have a responsibility to ensure that we take as much action as possible to make a change. Although the processes that lead to unsustainable water consumption are industry and government-based, raising awareness on their severity can prompt those with more authority in a higher position of power to introduce the changes that will yield more sustainable consumption options. Multiple awareness initiatives can be taken in schools; for example, challenge teachers, students, and faculty to engage in trying to survive one day on a set amount of liters of water. Placing others around you in positions where they need to be aware of their water use, even if just for 24 hours, will encourage them to see the daily reality for people residing in nations facing absolute water scarcity and come to the realization that it is a prominent issue that needs resolving. With the rising prominence of youth engaging in marches worldwide, another initiative is to organize a sponsored march– however, there’s a twist: those participating must carry a jug of water on their heads as they walk, which is the length many women and children must take daily in order to have access to water, regardless of its sanitation.
While advocacy efforts such as these are important in ensuring the spread of awareness on this prominent yet sparsely discussed issue, you can take part in making an active impact within your school. Schools across Qatar have the opportunity to receive ‘Green Flag Status’ in an initiative known as the Eco-Schools initiative if they exhibit and maintain a certain standard of sustainability. Among the requirements that must be met is one about water wastage and usage, which YOU can help your school achieve. If the majority of schools in Doha work to achieve this it can create a substantial change in which their efforts will ripple across the nation and soon convey to industrial organizations and those in power the importance of reducing our unsustainable water usage.
There was a time when one could only dream about the youth having a voice in governmental, political, and economic matters in regards to crucial issues such as the climate situation. However over the past month the world has watched as the odds have been defied, and the voices of the youth have come together in solidarity for the betterment of our world. So no matter how seemingly insignificant you believe taking action in advocacy or change-making is, realize that not only do we, the youth, have a voice, but it is one that will no longer be silenced.