Report warns of future environmental challenges for Arab countries
A new report about the state of the environment in the Arab world warns of fresh water scarcity, desertification, air quality and marine pollution among the top challenges facing the countries in the region, dpa reported.
The Arab Environment: Future Challenges report, released at the opening of the first Arab Forum for Environmental Development (AFED) in the Bahraini capital Manama on Sunday said that urgent action was needed to prevent such problems from intensifying.
The report, compiled by independent experts, estimated the cost of environmental degradation in the Arab region as a whole at 5 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP).
Climate change, high population growth rates, as well as rapid economic growth and urbanization - in some countries - amplified the region's vulnerability to environmental challenges constraining their ability to manage them, the report said.
"This means that these countries are in a state of bankruptcy, as loss exceeds growth rates," AFED general secretary Najib Saab said.
"Five out of the 22 Arab countries are below the water poverty line at a time when many Arabs managed to achieve economic and social development mainly due to oil revenues. The question of whether that development can be sustained remains."
According to the report, water shortages top the environmental challenges, with the majority of countries in the region expected to experience severe shortages by 2025. Egypt, Sudan, Iraq, Lebanon and Syria that have rivers running through them, are the exception.
Projected global warming has the potential to intensify the problem, the report warned. The region contributes an estimated 5 per cent towards global warming.
The report also indicated that the frequency of drought has already increased in Algeria, Morocco, Syria, and Tunisia, with recent droughts in Jordan and Syria being among worst to hit those two countries in decades.
The report also criticized Arab governments for failing to adopt clear and effective policies to address the mounting economic costs pointing out that what the governments allocate for the environment does not even amount to 1 per cent of GDP.
The report, the first comprehensive independent expert report to be compiled about the region's environment, puts forward proposals for alternative polices and remedial action.