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Desertification, drought, wars, disputes, waste and climate change in the Middle East

Photo credit: al-Araby

The Arab world contains one third of the world’s deserts [Getty]

Threats greater than terror: Desertification and drought

by Mohammad Ali Musawi

Blog: The Middle East is facing a potentially catastrophic threat – st.

The United Nations inaugurated the World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought on 17 June 1995 to highlight ways to prevent desertification and recover from drought.

According to UN estimates, 52 percent of the world’s agricultural land is moderately or severely affected by soil degradation, and affects 1.5 billion people globally.

Further, drought and desertification are causing the annual loss of 120,000 square kilometres of land around the world, an area larger than the size of the UAE, Kuwait, Qatar and Bahrain combined.

This has a severe impact on food security, biodiversity, socio-economic stability and development.

The UN estimates some 50 million people will be displaced over the next decade due to the effects of drought and desertification.

The Arab world


The Arab world contains around one third of the world’s deserts. Most Arab countries have insufficient water resources, and this makes the region especially vulnerable to desertification and drought.

According to a 2011 report published in the Middle East Journal of Scientific Research, an estimated 68.4 percent of the total area of the Arab world is arid.

However, even with these risk factors, mismanagement of water resources and unsustainable land practices are rife across the region. For example, in Saudi Arabia, a predominantly arid country with no rivers, the daily per capita water use is double the European average.

Furthermore, Iraq, which was considered as a regional breadbasket in the 1970s, has lost a significant amount of its farmland to various wars and neglect.

The effects of drought and desertification across the region are not only environmental, but also come at an extreme human cost.

Read the full article: al-Araby

Published by

Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.