Posted by: EcoPeace Middle East | October 26, 2014

Challenges and Opportunities Associated with the Sustainable Development of the Lower Jordan River Valley: A FoEME Perspective

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In partnership with Humboldt University and University of Jordan, Water Energy and Environmental Center in University of Jordan, as well as GIZ and ESCWA, the German Jordanian university organized a conference inaugurated by HRH Prince Hassan Bin Talal tilted “Social Water Studies in the MENA Region” State of the Art and Perspectives on the 28th and 29th of September. The conference aimed at initiating a stock – taking of social science research on water issues in the MENA region and illustrated how a social science perspective could be further developed as explained by Dr. Serena Sandri.

In her opening speech, Dr Sandri stated that the conference’s underlying proposition is that water scarcity emerges when there is conflict between the needs and the aspirations of a community of a specific society for a specific quality and quantity of water on the one hand, and the existing and available water resources on the other hand.

She added that what determines how much water quantity is needed and at what quality are human practices and social strata which shape but at the same time are influenced by issues like climate change and technological progress. Thus the way in which societies relate to water resources and organize their use requires an in-depth understanding of human and social dimensions of water use. However, she explained, that this does not deny the importance of technology and the knowledge natural process going on around water.

The conference posited accordingly the integration between technical approaches towards the studies of water and approaches of social sciences. An integrated approach; scientific, philosophical, and technical issues will contribute to improve the way societies and individuals deal with water resources, encompassing in this way aspects of ecological sustainability, aspects of promoting economic development, equity in addition to political and social stability.

Even though this approach is unique and promotes for a better governance of the precious resource of water, nonetheless, it is not easy as explained by Dr Sandi.  It requires from a methodological point of view interdisciplinarity, cultural and social understanding of peculiarities and specificities of different communities. Accordingly, the first bloc analyzed in the conference was looking at interdisciplinarity, transdisciplinarity and its challenges. The second challenge was to look at the content main research proposition which is the integration between social and technical aspects of water studies into an essential dimension in question.

On his turn, His Excellency Ralf Tarraf, German Ambassador affirmed that the conference aimed at highlighting the regional dimensions of water issues and pinpointing the many challenges facing the water sectors in the MENA region in addition to its impacts on the current situation.  10014578_703002863101705_6519213340117252604_n

HRH Prince Hassan, who chairs a High Level Forum for the Blue Peace Middle East plan, stressed the need for a comprehensive study that takes into consideration the political turmoil leading to increased waves of forced migration. He stated that our failure in Gods Earth is the failure of good governance and added that we live in a state of chronic anxiety due to lack of priorities. An example is Jordan’s investment in nuclear program at the expense of other priorities.

He also stressed the need for an inclusionist approach that can only be built on early beginnings of a credible knowledge base as opposed to the politics of division.

An inclusionist approach, he stated, that enables farmers to secure control over local water which is currently done by foreign NGOs that move farmers to do something cooperative. A case in point, the Grey water reuse for agricultural purposes in the Jordan Valley. He commended the Deir Allah communities that are not only willing to accept but also to reuse treated grey water for irrigation,  and noted that water scarcity in this rural area of Jordan is the main determinant of their willingness to reuse grey water rather than socio economic variables.  People of Deir Allah are part of indeterminism of Jordanians to do what they can in the most difficult of circumstance, he affirmed.

His Royal Highness also pointed out that it’s about time to start talking about production value added and emphasized the need to hold meeting on carrying capacity.

With regards to the critical water situation, HRH elaborated on the regions grim water realities by saying that West Asia North Africa is home to ten percent of the world’s land but less than one percent of the Worlds water. Hundreds of millions of people are deprived of basic rights to clean water. By 2030, 45 million Egyptians will be flooding of the delta by the Mediterranean risking nature displacement; another 45 million Iranians will be on the march.  As for Gaza, it will run out of renewable water by 2020.

HRH stated that water and energy are inseparable in the WANA region which has the fastest growing demand for energy in the entire world.

He suggested that in order for the region to solve its many problems we need to work on hinterland intraindependence relationships between oil producing countries and human resource populations neighboring them, to place the human being in the center of sustainability and investment,  to develop policy together and rely on intraregional cooperation, to develop a professional discourse into which everyone is committed. Finally, to legally empower people to speak out at all levels; civil, society, private sector and government to make them all stakeholders

He concluded his speech by stating that “Cooperation, partnership, interregional cooperation, intra-regional cooperation {are} not a nice to have option but … a must have option.” Click here for the full speech.

044The conference included discussion about the role of water studies in the region, in education and societies. Ms. Nancy Haddaden, Project Manager at EcoPeace/ Friends of the Earth Middle East presented a paper about “Challenges and Opportunities Associated with the Sustainable Development of the Lower Jordan River Valley”. In this regards, FoEME envisions a rehabilitated LJR accessible to the public. A restored historical flow of the river that will enable it to become a center of a healthy eco-system, a regional symbol of peace, and a source of prosperity for Palestinian, Jordanian and Israelis alike. In order to achieve this vision, FoEME collaborated with its international partners; SIWI and GNF, in order to create a regional NGO master plan for the LJR by developing and harmonizing national master plans into a single cohesive trans-boundary master plan that could be advanced in full or in part by the decision makers – both unilaterally at the national and regional levels. The master plan will be presented at an International Conference on Sustainable Development in the Jordan Valley in Jordan.  For more information about LJR Master Plan, click here. For the paper presented at the Social Water Studies conference, click here.

This post is contributed by Samar M. Salma, FoEMEs Media Officer at the Amman Office.

For a picture album, click here.

For the Arabic Press Release, click here.

For GJU Press Release, click here 

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