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Recent Developments and Activities Related to Groundwater at National Level and Shared Aquifers Between Countries in Middle East and North Africa

Ralf Klingbeil1, Roula Majdalani1
1 Sustainable Development Policies Division (SDPD), United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (UN ESCWA)

O 13.4 in Czech-German exchange on environmental-, soil- and hydro(geo)logical issues

30.05.2014, 12:00-12:20, H18, NW II

In the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) water scarcity is one of the prevailing regional characteristics; challenging water and environmental management as well as the overall sustainable socio-economic development at national and regional levels. Today, in many places traditional renewable water resources from surface and groundwater are not anymore sufficient to sustain livelihoods and lifestyles of the people. Government’s attention has often been focused primarily on making “new water” available to fulfill ever increasing water demands through desalination, inter-basin transfers, abstraction of renewable groundwater resources beyond sustainable limits and use of non-renewable groundwater reserves for less valuable socio-economic purposes such as irrigated agriculture as part of past irrational food self-sufficiency ideologies. More efforts can still be made to manage water demand, increase water efficiency in all sectors, manage and protect existing surface and especially groundwater resources more sustainable, improve institutional environments and increase water governance at large.

 

Among the activities of UN ESCWA to promote sustainable development and an integrated management of natural resources the UN Regional Economic and Social Commission also addresses aspects related to the management and protection of groundwater resources at national and international, bi- or multilateral regional level. The presentation will focus on some groundwater-related areas ESCWA has been addressing lately.

 

At regional level UN ESCWA together with other partners has been substantively supporting and servicing the regional efforts by the League of Arab States and their Arab Ministerial Water Council in the process to draft a Legal Framework for Shared Water in the Arab Region, an “Arab Water Convention” that may in its final version provide a framework and guidance for further bi- and multi-lateral cooperation on surface and groundwater resources among Arab States. To improve the knowledge base and facilitate access to information about transboundary surface and groundwater resources ESCWA jointly with the German Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources (Bundesanstalt für Geowissenschaften und Rohstoffe, BGR) prepared the Inventory of Shared Water Resources in Western Asia; the first UN-led effort to take stock of the region’s shared surface and groundwater resources in a comprehensive, systematic and standardized manner. The Inventory identified a total of 22 shared aquifer systems and 6 shared river basins and provided in over 600 pages detailed information with 60 new maps and over 200 figures, tables and boxes. The project was supported as part of the German Cooperation (Deutsche Zusammenarbeit) funded by the Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).

 

Furthermore, at national level UN ESCWA supports its 17 Member States with technical and policy advice. In this context ESCWA has been able to offer assistance and share experiences between the Member States in many areas of sustainable development, environmental, energy and water management. As part of the support ESCWA is addressing also groundwater-related issues such as Managed Aquifer Recharge / Aquifer Storage and Recovery, groundwater governance and groundwater management e.g. in the context of current periods of water scarcity and drought in the Mashreq sub-region, focusing on technical, scientific and governmental / regulatory challenges.

 

ESCWA supports its Member States to develop capacities supporting sustainable socio-economic development among others in the fields of water resources, energy, food security, environmental policies. ESCWA, based on inter-governmental ministerial session resolutions, coordinates and cooperates with its Member States in the implementation of biannual work plans through inter-governmental committees, works in close cooperation with relevant regional institutions and other UN agencies and responds through technical cooperation and regional advisory services to specific requests from its Member States.

 



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Letzte Änderung 22.05.2014