The latest issue of Middle East Report is out -- it explores the topic of water scarcity.
This issue uses photographs from a variety of great photographers but I'd like to single out Andy Spyra (we used his evocative photo of a Palestinian farmer inspecting water tanks in a village near Bethlehem). I just found out that he was chosen by Photo District News as one of their 30 "new and emerging photographers to watch" this year. Eman Mohammed in Gaza also makes PDN's 30 list. Congratulations Andy and Eman!
Subscribe to Middle East Report or order individual copies at MERIP’s website. Here's the press release:
Middle East Report 254
Spring 2010RUNNING DRY
The Middle East is running out of water. It is a statement that seems both banal and unduly apocalyptic. Desert covers most of the region, and many countries exhausted their renewable freshwater supply decades ago. Yet water runs freely from the tap in most thickly populated areas, and the “water wars” widely predicted by spy shops and think tanks have never been fought. Such conflicts are not on the horizon. But as the spring 2010 issue of Middle East Report, “Running Dry,” demonstrates, the region has indeed entered a new water era whose consequences for ordinary people could be no less tragic.
In general, the arid countries of the Middle East have sought to ameliorate water shortages by enhancing supply rather than managing demand. Mega-projects like the Great Manmade River in Libya or Toshka in Egypt are aimed at expanding arable land. At the same time, as per the famous argument of Tony Allan, states have imported “virtual water” -- food and other water-intensive products -- effectively to hide the natural limits of indigenous supply and technocratic wizardry from the public. Historian George R. Trumbull IV shows how oil wealth has also been used to mask water poverty.
One well-known mega-project is Turkey’s Southeast Anatolia Project, which, as water expert Hilal Elver chronicles, has bumped up against rising costs and the vocal complaints of countries downstream on the heavily dammed Euphrates and Tigris Rivers. But grandiose dreams live on elsewhere, as sociologist Lizabeth Zack reports from the shores of the Dead Sea in Jordan. Perhaps the strangest story, as historian Toby Jones documents, is Saudi Arabia, where the regime essentially drained the water-rich Eastern Province to retrieve the oil underneath -- and then irrigated vast circles of desert near the Empty Quarter. Of the countries that already face water stress, the worst off are those like Yemen that rely on groundwater for both agricultural and household use. From the northern highlands, Gerhard Lichtenthaeler surveys some local water management efforts that have staved off conflict in the absence of coherent national water policy.
Also featured: Kevan Harris examines the debate over subsidy reform in Iran; Ewan Stein interviews the spokesman of Egypt’s Gama‘a Islamiyya about the group’s future after armed insurrection; Robert Vitalis ruminates on Western books about Saudi Arabia; and more.