The Arab Water Week 2013 has officially commenced with the issues of cross-border water sharing, wastewater reuse and renewable powered desalination all put at the top of the agenda for discussion.
Under the Royal Patronage of H.R.H Prince El Hassan Bin Tala, the event is the second week to be organised by the Arab Countries Water Utility Association (ACWUA) and is in partnership with the Jordanian Ministry of Water and Irrigation, under the umbrella of the Arab Ministerial Council/League of Arab States.
H.E. Eng. Khaldon Khashman, secretary general of ACWUA, opened the event by saying that mechanisms are being put firmly in place so that there can be a better understanding of the water sector in the region.
He said that there are now 101 members of ACWUA from 18 Arab countries – surpassing the goal set to have 100 members by 2014.
This year’s conference has been organised under the heading of “New Prospects and Challenges for the Water Sector in the Arab Region” and aims to highlight challenges in the Arab water sector and discuss potential solutions under three topics. These include: utilities effectiveness and efficiency; innovative technologies and the private sector and also water science for policy and governance.
Water is increasingly becoming a binding constraint on MENA development. According to the Arab Development Challenges Report 2011 by UNDP; available renewable fresh water resources per capita in the Arab world are among the lowest worldwide.
Threatening levels of water stress exist in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and Yemen, while significant stress exists in Saudi Arabia and Jordan. The latter is an apt host country to discuss such challenges, with many quoting Jordan as the third most water scarce country worldwide.
During the keynote address, H.E. Dr Abdelqawi Khalifa, Minister of water and wastewater utilities in Egypt, emphasised the importance of the three elements of water provision: regulators, providers and recipients of water services.
“There is no doubt that the rights of citizens is to have a healthy life by drinking clean water,” he said, before adding: “If we are doing this in a proper way it will be reflected in all aspects of our daily life…water and wastewater remain priorities for our government.”
H.E. Dr Khalifa said that in terms of sanitation coverage in Egypt, 50% of the population is covered, while the remaining 50% without access are mostly based in rural areas. The government is addressing this by creating “hot spots” as priority areas in the country. A reduction in unaccounted for water was also cited by the Egyptian Minister as a target in Egypt.
The topic of cross-border water sharing across the MENA region was raised during the conference opening.
Addressing delegates, Her Royal Highness Princess Sumaya bint El Hassan, President of El Hassan Science City and the Royal Scientific Society, said: “Managing the scarce resource of water is one of the most important issues…these issues should be considered every week of the year and not just during this week.
HRH Princess Sumaya added: “Water is transboundary and there should be a fundamental movement of water across borders.”
Later in the conference, Hussein Al Atfy, secretary general of the Arab Water Council, said: “Cohesion and integration by countries to share water is not a choice, it’s a must.”
The three-day conference taking place on 27-31 January in Amman will include 70 presentations across 14 sessions, with the Arab Trade Fair taking place at the same time.
- ACWUA is an event partner at WaterWorld Middle East conference and exhibition, taking place on February 4-6 2013 in Doha, Qatar. For more information, please visit: www.waterworldmiddleeast.com