31 January 2017
This is the third issue of The Middle East in London in as many years that aims to highlight MENA’s environmental problems. As readers will know, the region has experienced heightened conflict and instability in recent years, which has arguably overshadowed other pressing challenges such as the state of its environment.
Reflecting the desire to address this imbalance, this was the theme of LMEI’s October 2016 conference marking SOAS’s Centenary this year. The MENA Environment Conference was a unique opportunity to bring together climate and natural scientists, environmental engineers, social scientists and policymakers from multidisciplinary backgrounds to focus on how to address and mitigate the region’s environmental challenges.
In this issue, we cover some of the subjects that were presented and discussed in this conference. In Insight, Iyad Abumoghli discusses the 6th edition of the Global Environment Outlook, GEO-6, for West Asia. He provides an overview of the current state of the environment in the region and describes ways to reverse the perceived damaging trends.
Nathali Hilmi exemplifi es the role of climate change on ocean acidification and its effects on MENA and highlights the importance of including both macroeconomic and microeconomic analysis when environmental issues are discussed. Maria Jesus Beltrán reflects on the complexities and political ecology of virtual water in Palestine, reminding us of the socioeconomic aspects of virtual water trade and how power relations affect it. Helen Lackner reminds us that in addition to the devastating, ongoing war in Yemen, the country also suffers from depleted water resources that will jeopardize its future regardless of the outcome of the current conflict.
Maral Mahlooji writes about finding renewable energy alternatives for the fossil fuel-dominated energy sector in MENA countries. Currently only 6 per cent of the total electricity in this region is generated by renewables. She suggests that finding the most viable clean energy option is a site-specific task. Juman Al-Saqlawi sheds light on the potential possibility of relying on solar energy in Oman. She examines the challenges that this fossil fuel-dependent country faces to make significant reductions in its carbon emissions and provide alternative clean energies as a viable option for households.
Ahmed Tayia’s article is about one of the most important river basins in the world: the Nile Basin. He examines how transboundary cooperation has formed over centuries, and the role that historical beliefs and social institutions play in facilitating (or sometimes even hindering) the development of a functional system among different stakeholders in the Basin. Anna Sowa tells us about khettara as a traditional system of irrigation that has been used in some MENA countries for centuries. She demonstrates this in the context of her short documentary film, Aghbalou – The Source of Water, that explores khettara in a small river oasis in the Todgha Valley in Morocco. We end with this piece which highlights and documents the local communities’concerns about the future of their water security.
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