PSIPW Council Chairman, HRH Prince Khalid bin Sultan bin Abdul Aziz, Deputy Defence Minister and Honorary President of the Arab Water Council gave a comprehensive statement at the opening session of the third meeting of the Assembly of the Council of Arab Water, which was held on February 26, 2013 in Nasr City, Cairo.
The meeting was attended by water and environment ministers of the various Arab countries as well as representatives of governments and a number of international and regional organizations. There were also a number of experts in attendance to advise on water issues.
HRH Prince Khalid bin Sultan said: "There are numerous internal factors and external challenges that adversely affect the management of water resources in the Arab region, including potential conflicts on shared water resources and water transport over national boundaries, due to the lack of binding joint agreements between regional governments." He referred to "what is happening with the Nile River and with the Tigris and Euphrates, as well as the Hasbani and Banias rivers and the Litani River, and flows into the Jordan River, and the apparent water piracy taking place in Palestine."
HRH Prince Khalid questioned the sufficiency of legislation to achieve an equitable distribution of water resources, or if there is a need to support these measures by regional military intervention if necessary. He also questioned whether the Arab Water Council should apply Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations against the aggressors and usurpers of water rights. "Who would agree to this demand? Who would be expected to move to engage in military intervention to achieve justice and stop the aggressor by force?"
In regard to one of the recommendations of the first Arab conference for water, which was held in Baghdad in May of last year, HRH prince Khaled Bin Sultan stressed the need to defend the rights of the Arab states in water resources shared with surrounding countries, and the need to deepen cooperation with United Nations agencies specialized in water management to improve utilization and increase efficiency for all parties concerned in a just and equitable manner. he stressed that the Arab countries need to be unified in their international water policy if they are going to make headway.
He pointed out that "there are environmental disasters pending, from the risk of drought desertification, and scarcity as well as the challenges of pollution, conflict, a lack of rational consumption patterns, poor water management and the absence of a water-conscious culture.”
He added: "The solutions to water problems cannot be considered in isolation from the problems of food, energy and the environment. These four issues are intertwined, and we need to resolve these problems in close cooperation with the experts and officials who are directly involved in those matters if we are to achieve comprehensive sustainable development."
The Egyptian Minister of Water Resources and Irrigation, Mohamed Bahaa El Din, said: "The majority of Arab countries are currently facing many challenges, including water scarcity due to our location and climate, which makes this area one of the world's driest and a population growth rate of 2.5 percent per year, leading to an annual decline in per capita water." He pointed out that 18 countries in the region live below the water poverty line, estimated globally at a thousand cubic meters per year.
In his speech, Dr. Mahmoud Abu Zeid, President of the Arab Water Council, said that 83 million Arabs have no access to clean drinking water and 96 million are deprived of sewage networks. He said: "The time of easy water is over, and we are in dire need of a new policy to determine the relationship between humanity and water. It is unavoidable that we must reduce consumption and improve management, and it has became our duty to increase the productivity of every drop of water, because water security means economic and social security, which are among our most pressing strategic challenges."