If Morocco’s water resources are not managed with extraordinary care, the consequences could be devastating.
Fez – Last year, hundreds of thousands of people in the Middle East and North Africa, including Morocco, faced the worst water shortages in decades. More than 60% of the population in this region is concentrated in places affected by high or very high surface water stress, which means that water resources are heavily exploited at an unsustainable rate.
I have argued previously that “multiple factors have contributed to the current situation, including climate change, desertification, water pollution, and misuse of natural resources. Inadequate information, education, and communication exacerbate many of these challenges, as it reinforces a lack of awareness of – much less commitment to – environmentally friendly practices. Add to that inadequate disaster-risk reduction and management by governments – many of which are dealing with other conflicts and crises – and the situation has become truly dire.”
According to government statistics, Morocco’s water resources are among the weakest in the world, with the lowest amount of water per capita due to climate change. Water resources are estimated at 22 billion cubic meters per year, equivalent to 700 cubic meters per person per year.
The water issue is complex because it touches on geographic challenges, the problem of governance, climate change, and the demographic problem: Tourism is developing, agriculture and industry are growing, and cities are expanding.
Water shortages in Middle East and North African countries could also help cause destabilization, according to a recent report by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Bank.
Because of repetitive droughts in the last three decades, each summer, a number of Moroccan areas suffer from lack of drinking water. Last August, many people suffered from the lack of drinking water when taps ran dry on Eid al-Adha.
Better governance is part of the solution
Solutions exist, especially in the area of good governance. Water resources and distribution are everyone’s responsibility because everybody uses it on a daily basis.
Water concerns must also be part of our education system. We also need proactive thinking, sensitizing the population, and involving all sectors, especially agriculture.
Morocco has developed experience in water management, but the pace of work must be accelerated. While some policies for better management of water are being implemented, there have been delays in disinfection and desalination projects.
The UN and World Bank report, titled “Water management in fragile systems: building resilience to shocks and protracted crises in the Middle East and North Africa,” notes that effective water resources management can be key to growth and stability.
“Instability combined with poor water management can become a vicious cycle that further exacerbates social tensions,” the UN and World Bank experts stressed.
The report urges countries in the region to move from policies focused on increasing supplies to long-term management of water resources. It also recommends relying on new technologies to support sustainable growth rather than ineffective policies that make people vulnerable to the effects of water shortage, exacerbated by the increasing demand and climate change.
In a press release associated with the report, the UN warns that “climate-related water scarcity is expected to cause economic losses estimated at 6 to 14% of Gross Domestic Product by 2050, the highest in the world.”
Economic losses in the region mean high unemployment. The impact of water problems on traditional livelihoods, such as agriculture, is likewise exacerbated by climate change and bad governance, according to UN experts.
The report also points to the danger of food insecurity, which may lead to forced climate migration, as well as to growing frustrations with governments unable to guarantee basic services.
International cooperation is necessary
Morocco has begun a number of initiatives that attempt to prevent droughts and handle water challenges, including plans to install more than 100,000 solar pumps for irrigation by 2020. But unless water resources are managed with extraordinary care, the consequences could be devastating.
The international community should encourage countries like Morocco to embrace strong cooperation by creating financial instruments that make concessional and preferential funds available.
The global cooperation that has emerged since the Paris climate change agreement is certainly welcome. But while teamwork is critical to success, so is recognition of the distinct responsibilities of governments in the industrialized and developing worlds.
As the Marrakech declaration emphasizes, success in mitigating climate change will require political commitment at the highest level. Moreover, climate action must take into account the special needs and context of developing countries, especially the least-developed economies and those most vulnerable to the effects of climate change.
With this in mind, the declaration demands greater efforts to eradicate poverty, ensure food security, and meet the agriculture challenges posed by climate change. It also calls for greater support for climate projects, including through capacity building and technology transfer from developed to developing countries.
The responsibility goes beyond government
Of course, the responsibility for mitigating climate change does not fall only on government. NGOs, for example, are already having a major impact, implementing educational programs and even staging protests to raise awareness of the environmental challenges we face.
However, in many ways, government is critical to enabling such contributions. While tackling climate change effectively will be virtually impossible without civil society organizations’ participation, their impact has often been undermined by politics. Governments may, for example, favor incumbent energy suppliers over green alternatives in order to preserve existing jobs.
Some governments have already implemented important measures to support the shift toward more environmentally-friendly practices, including financial and market incentives.
Only with more such initiatives, as well as a commitment to follow through on the Marrakech declaration and to support the goals of the Africa Action Summit, can governments put their countries, and the world, on the path toward true sustainable development.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Morocco World News’ editorial views.
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