Tuesday, October 14, 2003

Water shortage close to crisis levels in Middle East: World Bank

The water shortage problem is close to crisis levels in most countries of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region a senior World Bank official warned Sunday.

"Fresh water availability is falling to crisis levels in MENA countries," said Jean-Louis Sarbib, senior vice president of the World Bank, speaking at a conference on the sidelines of the annual World Bank and International Monetary Fund meetings in Dubai.

Annual per capita fresh water availability in MENA countries is about 1,200 cubic meters (1,600 cubic yards) compared with a world average of about 7,000 to 7,500 cubic meters (9,000 to 9,700 cubic yards), according to Sarbib.

He said the figure for Yemen is about 500 cubic meters (650 cubic yards), almost half the water poverty line of 1,000 cubic meters (1,300 cubic yards).

Sarbib said nearly 70 percent of municipal water in cities like Amman goes unaccounted for, while Egypt recovers only two percent of its irrigation costs.

Jordan's Minister of Water and Irrigation Hazim el-Naser said the problem lies in the fact that many countries in the region have "no long-term vision" regarding the water issue.

The World Bank has made the politically-charged issue of scarce water resources one of its so-called millennium development goals.

Although the MENA region accounts for five percent of the world population, it has only one percent of accessible fresh water worldwide, according to the World Bank.


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