RIYADH: Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman announced on Monday that the Kingdom is establishing a global water organization, which is to be based in Riyadh, to enhance efforts to address water challenges.
The organization aims to integrate and aid attempts made by governments and other bodies to secure global water sustainably.
It plans to allow the exchange of expertise while advancing technology, fostering innovation, and sharing research and development experiences.
It will promote the establishment and funding of high-priority projects, ensuring the sustainability of water resources and accessibility for everyone.
Saudi Arabia emphasizes its commitment to addressing global water supply challenges by taking this initiative.
It is aligned with Saudi Arabia’s dedication to environmental sustainability. The Kingdom has showcased notable achievements in water production, transportation, and distribution over the years, leveraging locally developed innovative solutions.
Sattam Al-Mojil, assistant professor of environmental engineering at King Saud University, told Arab News: “Water sustainability is considered one of the key drivers for economic and social growth across all sectors and activities. Challenges facing the water sector and its natural resources have increased in recent decades, resulting in numerous problems for many inhabitants of the globe. These problems include food scarcity, diseases arising from the use of contaminated water, poverty, and hunger, in addition to contributing to various geopolitical issues due to water scarcity.”
Al-Mojil added that despite the presence of numerous international organizations dedicated to the water sector, each operates within specific fields or domains. However, the current situation necessitates the existence of an international organization that addresses all aspects of the sector. These aspects encompass research, innovation, and technology development, facilitating financing, policy and regulation enhancements, and other elements that contribute to water sustainability.
Consequently, and as a continuation of the Kingdom’s efforts to support global economic and social growth and prosperity — and in order to unify global endeavors and efforts to address water-related challenges while providing a platform for countries and populations most affected by water issues — the International Water Organization was being established.
Faisal Al-Fadl, secretary-general and founder of the Saudi Green Building Forum, said that the announcement by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman signified the culmination of the Kingdom’s commitment to Vision 2030, building upon previous efforts.
Saudi Arabia has pledged support of SR92 billion ($24.5 billion) toward water, environment, and agriculture to help in achieving objectives within the framework of interconnected social, environmental, and economic plans.
Local communities face challenges in efficiently accessing infrastructure, facilities, and services that impact water supply and sanitation. Water scarcity in cities, along with floods and inadequate management of wastewater, hinder social and economic development.
Enhancing water usage efficiency and improving water management in urban areas is crucial to strike a balance between increasing demand across sectors and users, and conserving energy.
Al-Fadl said that the newly established international organization can positively influence outcomes by addressing climate change challenges while preventing the exacerbation of water crises.
He said these problems will persist through periods of drought, floods, and other phenomena. Pressures from armed conflicts, internal displacement, and migration will also intensify. Populations in water-scarce regions will face food insecurity and famine, with water source pollution on the rise.
The study of pollution stemming from plastic materials, agricultural products, and extractive industries need to be examined and action forthcoming. He pointed out that we must strive to better understand the links between water loss, biodiversity, and ecosystem destruction.
The UN Water Resources Committee in March last year said that 1 billion individuals lacked access to safe drinking water, while 3.6 billion people (46 percent) were unable to benefit from properly managed sanitation services.
According to the UN report, between 2 to 3 billion people experienced water scarcity for at least one month annually, posing a significant threat to livelihoods, particularly in terms of food security and electricity provision.
It is anticipated that the urban population facing water scarcity worldwide will double in number, from 930 million in 2016 to an estimated 1.7 billion to 2.4 billion people by 2050. Furthermore, the increasing occurrence of prolonged and severe droughts will place ecological systems under pressures that entail severe consequences for both plant and animal species.
During the second edition of the summit of the Green Middle East Initiative held in November 2022 in the Egyptian city of Sharm El-Sheikh, on the sidelines of the COP27 conference, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said that the Kingdom would commit $2.5 billion for the Middle East Green Initiative over the next 10 years.
The MGI aims to reduce carbon emissions from regional hydrocarbon production by more than 60 percent. It also plans to plant 50 billion trees across the Middle East and restore an area equivalent to 200 million hectares of degraded land. The initiative will help reduce global carbon levels by 2.5 percent.
Saudi Arabia plans to rely on renewables for 50 percent of its electricity generation by 2030, the crown prince said, removing 44 million tons of carbon emissions by 2035. Saudi Arabia also aims to contribute 15 percent of the $10.4 billion required for the fund’s clean energy projects.