With all of the political strife and unrest in the Middle East, it is easy for people to overlook other problems in the area. That can come at a great cost to the people of this region, who rely on natural resources for all aspects of life.
Some of the most prominent environmental concerns are the massive water shortages experienced in multiple parts of the Middle East. There are also more localized concerns, such as desertification and deforestation in Jordan, marshland drainage in Iraq, and a variety of environmental concerns and conflicts in Palestine.
The Middle East is known for its dry climate, which has always provided many challenges for the region. As The Water Project explains, 85% of the region’s water supply goes toward agriculture, where overuse of water and heavy irrigation is a troubling norm. Shortage of water leads to malnutrition and a general low standard of living for the population.
Even in regions where the standard of living is high, water shortage issues lurk beneath the surface. The United Arab Emirates is known for extravagant cities, where people from all over the world go to enjoy luxury hotels, restaurants, and entertainment. However, water scarcity is prevalent, and according to The Water Project, at their current rate of usage, “the UAE will deplete its natural freshwater resources in about fifty years.”
Deforestation has also been an increasing concern in recent years, specifically in Jordan. A development plan for the region of the Ajloun Forest, which is home to many species of plant and animal life, sparked protests in 2011. Aside from destroying the habitats of wildlife, the deforestation in Jordan is furthering desertification and contributing to the regional water crisis, as trees aid in keeping water in the soil.
It is imperative for the global community to pay more attention to the environmental issues of the Middle East, along with the political issues. In fact, many of the political troubles of the region have roots in land and resource disputes, and as resources and water become more scarce and the population suffers, more fighting is likely to ensue.