Addressing water and land challenges at COP16

Addressing water and land challenges at COP16

Addressing water and land challenges at COP16
Agriculture consumes around 85 percent of Saudi Arabia’s water. (Shutterstock)
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Standing on a rocky outcrop on the outskirts of Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia, one cannot help but be struck by the vast expanse of arid land that stretches endlessly to the horizon.

The rolling dunes and rugged terrain tell a story of resilience and adaptability. But behind this harsh beauty lies an urgent crisis. According to the World Bank, three-quarters of the region’s arable land is already degraded, and 60 percent of the population faces water scarcity — a figure that is expected to reach 100 percent by 2050.

Water scarcity and land degradation are not just environmental issues. They are existential threats to the Kingdom and beyond. With no natural rivers or lakes, Saudi Arabia relies heavily on groundwater and desalinated seawater.

Climate change is exacerbating this fragile balance, causing unpredictable rainfall, prolonged droughts and heat waves that deplete water resources faster than they can be replenished. At the same time, droughts are becoming more frequent and severe.

This is why Saudi Arabia recently joined the International Drought Resilience Alliance — a global coalition mobilizing resources to prepare for severe droughts — whose secretariat is hosted by the UN Convention to Combat Desertification.

The implications of this looming water crisis are profound. Agriculture, which consumes around 85 percent of Saudi Arabia’s water, could face catastrophic disruption.

As water becomes scarcer, food security is threatened, and the livelihoods of those who depend on agriculture hang in the balance.

Severe desertification, where fertile land is reduced to barren landscape, further exacerbates food insecurity and economic instability.

The economic costs are staggering, with billions of dollars lost each year. In the Middle East alone, land degradation affects more than 50 million hectares, resulting in annual losses estimated at $9 billion.

This December, the importance of tackling land degradation and water scarcity will be in the global spotlight when Saudi Arabia hosts the UNCCD COP16 in Riyadh. The summit is shaping up to be the largest and most ambitious global forum on land and drought to date. 

Water scarcity and land degradation are not just environmental issues. They are existential threats to the Kingdom and beyond.

Ibrahim Thiaw

This pivotal moment, which also coincides with the 30th anniversary of the convention, is an opportunity for all nations to come together to develop sustainable solutions and demonstrate their commitment to land restoration.

Every year we lose 100 million hectares, an area the size of Mauritania. If current trends continue, we will need to restore 1.5 billion hectares by 2030 to achieve land degradation neutrality.

Around the world, countries are taking bold steps to restore land. In Africa, for example, the Great Green Wall initiative aims to restore 100 million hectares of degraded land in 20 countries by 2030, creating jobs and improving food security.

China’s Kubuqi Desert, once a storm-ravaged wasteland, has been transformed through reforestation, ecosystem restoration, organic farming, eco-tourism, green industry and solar energy, benefiting 102,000 local people and lifting many out of poverty.

Furthermore, the Middle East Green Initiative, a regional effort led by Saudi Arabia, is set to plant 50 billion trees across the Middle East, revitalizing 200 million hectares of degraded land.

These initiatives, along with the Saudi Green Initiative, which aims to restore 40 million hectares of degraded land, illustrate the global commitment to tackling land degradation and water scarcity.

Through collaborative efforts and innovative solutions, there is hope that the challenges of water scarcity and desertification can be mitigated, ensuring a more sustainable future for the Kingdom, the broader Middle East, and beyond.

Ibrahim Thiaw is the under-secretary-general and executive secretary of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification.
 

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Arab News' point of view

What We Are Reading Today: ‘Snakes of Australia’

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Photo/Supplied
Updated 11 min 33 sec ago
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What We Are Reading Today: ‘Snakes of Australia’

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Authors: TIE EIPPER AND SCOTT EIPPER

With more than 1,000 photographs, Snakes of Australia illustrates and describes in detail all 240 of the continent’s species and subspecies—from file snakes, pythons, colubrids, and natricids to elapids, marine elapids, homalopsids, and blind snakes.

It features introductions to each family, species descriptions, type locations, distribution maps, and quick-identification keys to each family and genera.

 


Hamas and Palestinian rivals Fatah to meet in Beijing

Hamas and Palestinian rivals Fatah to meet in Beijing
Updated 1 min 36 sec ago
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Hamas and Palestinian rivals Fatah to meet in Beijing

Hamas and Palestinian rivals Fatah to meet in Beijing
  • Hamas delegation is to be headed by its Qatar-based political chief Ismail Haniyeh, while the Fatah representation will be led by deputy head Mahmud Alul
  • Two groups have been bitter rivals since Hamas fighters ejected Fatah from Gaza after deadly clashes that followed Hamas’s resounding victory in a 2006 election

RAMALLAH, Palestinian Territories: Senior officials from the rival Palestinian groups Hamas, which is at war with Israel, and Fatah have agreed to meet in Beijing this month in a renewed bid for reconciliation, officials said Monday.
The Hamas delegation is to be headed by its Qatar-based political chief Ismail Haniyeh, while the Fatah representation will be led by deputy head Mahmud Alul, Fatah sources said.
The two groups have been bitter rivals since Hamas fighters ejected Fatah from the Gaza Strip after deadly clashes that followed Hamas’s resounding victory in a 2006 election.
After seizing control of Gaza in 2007, Hamas has ruled the territory ever since.
The secularist Fatah movement controls the Palestinian Authority which has partial administrative control in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
Several reconciliation bids have failed, but calls have grown since the Hamas October 7 attacks on Israel set off the Gaza war, with violence also soaring in the West Bank where Fatah is based.
China hosted Fatah and Hamas in April but a meeting scheduled for June was postponed.
The representatives are to meet with Chinese officials in Beijing on July 20 and July 21, according to Fatah’s central committee deputy secretary general Sabri Saidam.
Before that, a meeting of the two groups could take place, he added.
The goal, said Saidam, “is to end the state of division with a commitment to past agreements and agreeing on a relationship between the Palestinian groups in the next stage.”
Another Fatah executive member also said a joint Fatah-Hamas meeting could be held in Beijing before the official agenda starts.
China has positioned itself as a more neutral actor on the Israel-Palestinian conflict than its rival the United States, advocating for a two-state solution while also maintaining good ties with Israel.


Two-member Canadian team begins aviation security assessment at Karachi airport

Two-member Canadian team begins aviation security assessment at Karachi airport
Updated 24 min 33 sec ago
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Two-member Canadian team begins aviation security assessment at Karachi airport

Two-member Canadian team begins aviation security assessment at Karachi airport
  • This is the fifth international evaluation of Pakistan’s aviation security system in recent months
  • Pakistan’s aviation protocols have faced significant scrutiny since a 2020 fake pilot license scandal

KARACHI: A two-member Canadian team on Monday began its aviation security assessment at Jinnah International Airport in the southern Pakistani city of Karachi, the Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority (PCAA) said.
The team comprises inspectors, Barbara Durette and Abdel Tahir, from Transport Canada — a Canadian government entity responsible for policies and services of road, rail, marine and air transportation.
It held a meeting with Pakistani officials at the PCAA headquarters. The four-day assessment will focus on aviation security documentation, airport arrangements, catering and cargo complexes.
“The team will be inspecting implementation of various aviation security protocols at the airport and implementation of special security measures being undertaken by PIA (Pakistan International Airlines) for direct flights to Canada,” the PCAA said in a statement.
It said the assessment is a continuation of collaborative efforts between Transport Canada and the PCAA to enhance aviation security standards in the South Asian country.
This is the 5th international evaluation of Pakistan’s aviation security system in recent months. The PCAA earlier said it had successfully passed all previous inspections, including an inaugural assessment by the United Arab Emirates General Civil Aviation Authority (UAE-GCAA) of Islamabad and Karachi airports that concluded on July 5.
Pakistan’s aviation protocols have faced significant scrutiny since 2020 following a scandal wherein approximately 262 out of 860 active pilots were said to have obtained fake licenses, leading to the grounding of around 150 pilots from the PIA and other carriers.
This revelation came in the wake of the tragic crash of PIA flight 8303 in Karachi, resulting in the suspension of PIA’s operations in the European Union (EU) and other regions and prompting calls for regulatory reforms to improve safety standards and transparency.


Israel allows UN to bring in more equipment amid Gaza lawlessness

Israel allows UN to bring in more equipment amid Gaza lawlessness
Updated 41 min 2 sec ago
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Israel allows UN to bring in more equipment amid Gaza lawlessness

Israel allows UN to bring in more equipment amid Gaza lawlessness
  • The UN has long complained of obstacles to getting aid into Gaza

NEW YORK: The United Nations said on Monday that it will start bringing in more armored vehicles and personal protection equipment for its humanitarian aid operations in the Gaza Strip after receiving approval from Israeli authorities.
The approval was in response to a UN letter sent to Israel last month on safety and security in Gaza, said Scott Anderson, deputy humanitarian coordinator for the Occupied Palestinian Territory, as the war between Israel and Palestinian militants Hamas enters its tenth month and law and order has broken down.
The UN has long complained of obstacles to getting aid into Gaza — Israel inspects and approves all trucks — and says it is also struggling to distribute aid amid “total lawlessness” within the enclave of 2.3 million people, where a global hunger monitor last month said there is a high risk of famine.
Anderson said the UN was due to start bringing more armored vehicles and protection equipment into Gaza on Tuesday.
“Some communications equipment has also been approved,” he told reporters, like hand-held radios, but added that discussions are still continuing on a UN request for stable Internet access.
The UN has said it wants communications that did not rely on cell phone towers because they were not reliable. However, Israeli authorities have security concerns about what Hamas could do if it accessed satellite Internet service.
‘CRIME FAMILIES’
Anderson said the UN needed to bring in aid in the right quantity and quality, but several factors “continue to stand in our way.” He listed problems including restrictions on movement, aid worker safety, unpredictable working hours, communications challenges and a lack of fuel.
“And we’ve seen a complete breakdown of law and order and we’ve seen essentially what are crime families preventing the free movement of aid into Gaza to assist people,” he said.
“The truck drivers that we use have been regularly threatened or assaulted ... they’ve become less and less willing, understandably, to move assistance from the border crossings to our warehouses and then onto people that are in need,” Anderson said.
He said the UN was getting between 25 and 70 aid trucks a day into northern Gaza, but there was no commercial access.
Anderson said in southern Gaza “we’ve been barely able to hit 100 trucks on a good day over the last week because of law and order problems,” but that commercial deliveries were doing a little better “but they pay essentially protection money to the families in the south and they also have armed guards.”
Aid officials say about 600 trucks of humanitarian and commercial supplies are
needed in Gaza daily
to meet the needs of the population.
He said the UN was “in talks with everybody about trying to get some sort of police force established” and in the meantime was working with the families that are hindering aid deliveries to try and address the problem.
“It’s a few families that are trying to take advantage of this opportunity and that’s why I’m confident if we get police back at work that they can address the issue,” Anderson said.


Indonesia boosts funding to UNRWA to $1.2m amid funding crisis

Indonesia boosts funding to UNRWA to $1.2m amid funding crisis
Updated 56 min 34 sec ago
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Indonesia boosts funding to UNRWA to $1.2m amid funding crisis

Indonesia boosts funding to UNRWA to $1.2m amid funding crisis
  • Indonesian government has announced a grant of $2 million in response to the UNRWA flash appeal

LONDON: Indonesia announced on Monday that it will increase its funding to the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees to $1.2 million.

The announcement was made by Indonesian Ambassador to the UN Arrmanatha Nasir during a UN pledging conference in New York on Friday.

Starting this year, Indonesia will raise its annual contribution to UNRWA to $1.2 million. In addition, the government has announced a grant of $2 million in response to the UNRWA flash appeal for the occupied Palestinian territories, covering the period from April to December 2024.

Its 2022 donation amounted to $200,000 and excluding flash appeals in 2023, its contribution totaled $600,000.

Nasir highlighted Indonesia’s commitment to seeking innovative funding solutions for UNRWA, including engaging Indonesian society through partnerships with zakat management institutions.

UNRWA, which coordinates nearly all aid to Gaza, has been in crisis since January, when Israel accused about a dozen of its 13,000 Gaza employees of being involved in the Oct. 7 attack.

The agency, which provides aid and services to Palestinian refugees in Gaza and throughout the region, was thrown into crisis when the Israeli allegations emerged. In response, the US, the biggest single funder of UNRWA, and several other major donors put their funding for the organization on hold. In all, 16 UN member states suspended or paused donations, while others imposed conditions, placing the future of the agency in doubt.

Israeli authorities have yet to provide any evidence to back up their allegations, an independent review headed by the former French Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs Catherine Colonna concluded in April.