Managing Water Scarcity in River Basins: Innovation and Sustainable Development A GlobAqua

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Dr. Turki Al Rasheed has recently returned from a conference in Morocco which brought together practitioners and scientists in the water sector to exchange ideas and information and raise awareness about issues relating to water scarcity and management. Topics covered included European countries’ strategies on water, the use of brackish water, seawater desalination, the potential for water reuse from municipal wastewater treatment, water efficiency and reuse in agriculture, crop drought and salinity tolerance, innovative and smart farming technologies, water-dependent ecosystems services, water resources pollution, and the impacts of and adaptation to climate breakdown. These topics are extremely important, not least because water and water-related services are major components of human well-being, and as such are major factors in socioeconomic development; yet freshwater systems in Southern Europe and Near-East and Northern Africa are under threat from a variety of stressors including oxygen depletion in higher temperatures, organic and inorganic pollution, seawater intrusion in coastal aquifers, geomorphological alterations, land cover change, invasive species and pathogens. For these and other reasons, water scarcity is already threatening ecosystem health, and this also has an impact on people and the economy – especially in relation to health, agriculture, energy, transport, tourism and other sectors. The growing world population coupled with global growth in economic development only add to this pressure. Hence the focus of this conference on the sustainable development of river basins by ‘water-smart’ communities “which drastically reduce the impact on natural water resources by pushing innovation in water efficiency and foster the complementary use of unconventional water resources to enable a circular economy in the water sector”.

The conference was split into three sections, Science Day, Technology Day and Field Trip, and a variety of stimulating and productive sessions were held during the first two days, with an extremely interesting trip to the Souss Massa basin to observe where objectives, science, technology and policy meet in practice.

The conference commenced with an opening ceremony by the Secretary General of the Ministry for Agriculture, Maritime Fisheries, Rural Development, Water and Forests Morocco representative, Pr. Sadiki Mohammed.

Following the official opening of the conference, the first plenary session was delivered by keynote speaker Mohamed Atif Kadi, President of the General Council of Agricultural Development, Morocco, on the dynamics of Water Security and Sustainability, and keynote speaker Safwat Abdel-Dayem, Arab Water Council, Egypt, on Coping with Water Scarcity in the Region.

Dr Al Rasheed emphasized the need to improve the capabilities of the public sector, noting that the challenges of the region were not politics but lack of sustainable development. Additionally, the quotation from the Koran that Prophet Yusuf strategy for food security on the vision of King of Egypt.

The panelists who added their valuable awareness and understanding of the challenges of water security were Dr Ismahane Elouafi, Director General of the International Center for Biosaline Agriculture (ICBA), UAE; Dr Turki Faisal Al Rasheed, Chairman Golden Grass, Inc., Saudi Arabia; Dr Abdulaziz Al Tubrak, King Saud University, Saudi Arabia;  Dr Ali Hammani, Director General of Hassan II Institute of Agronomy and Veterinary Medicine, Morocco; Dr Abdelouahab Zaid, Agricultural Advisor, Ministry of Presidential Affairs, UAE; and Moderator Debagh Abdelhafid, Former Secretary General of Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research, Morocco.

Dr Al Rasheed emphasized the need to improve the capabilities of the public sector, noting that the challenges of the region were not politics but lack of sustainable development. Additionally, the quotation from the Koran that Prophet Yusuf strategy for food security on the vision of King of Egypt.

More importantly, Dr Al Rasheed chaired and moderated the technical session on Regional Policies for Water Security with co-chair Dr Hirich Abdelaziz, International Center for Bio-saline Agriculture, UAE.  Panel speakers were Dr Walid Al-Zubari, Arabian Gulf University, Bahrain, who delivered a talk entitled Towards a Water-Energy-Food Nexus Perspective in the Arab Region; Dr Nick Voulvoulis, Imperial College London, UK, who delivered a talk on Policy Lessons for Sustainable Water Management from the Implementation of the Water Framework Directive in Europe; Dr Sergie Sabater, Catalan Institute for Water Research (ICRA), Spain, who spoke about Water Scarcity Effects on River Ecosystems; Dr M. Ahmad, University of Management Science, Pakistan, who talked about Water Policy Issues and Options Revisited in the Near East; and Ms. Manal Mhada, Mohammed VI Polytechnic University, Morocco, who talked about the Chenoposium quinoa, 10 years after its introduction in the Rehamman region, which concluded the first day of the conference.

 On the second day of the plenary sessions, Dr Rasheed chaired and moderated the side event FAO WASAG: The Global Framework on Water Scarcity in Agriculture (WASAG), which highlighted the importance of sustainable development, most especially the rural areas’ development in agricultural innovation by adopting the crop per drop systems to mitigate the excessive use of water resources.

Keynote speaker Dr Jean Boroto from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), Italy, discussed the collaboration of WASAG with other government and private institutions for the development of policies, strategies and programs and to enhance field capacity for the adaptation of agriculture to water scarcity, using context-specific approaches and processes tailored to specific circumstances and needs, including support for the formulation of transformational projects. Dr Faycel Chenini from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Egypt, presented the FAO Regional Water Scarcity Initiative for the Near East and North Africa: The Urgent Need for Planning Strategic Water Resources Allocation, Reviewing Water, Food Security, and Energy Strategies.

Panelists Dr Ismahane Elouafi, Director General ICBA, Dr Mohamed BeghitI, DIAEA Ministry of Agriculture Morocco, and Dr Walid Al-Zubair, Arabian Gulf University, Morocco, added different insights on the current and potential water scarcity solutions.  

Click the link below to see the full video

The conference highlighted an encouraging way forward: with the help of human intelligence, artificial intelligence and technology we can meet the challenges of sustainable development in the MENA region.




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