Minister Mohammad Al-Jabri

ROME: Kuwait on Tuesday gave a presentation about its successful efforts in dealing with water security, affirming strong backing to UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) initiative to crystallize a joint regional strategy towards challenges of water scarcity.

Speaking at the 40th Session FAO Conference on tackling the water scarcity and improving food security amid climate change, Mohammad Al-Jabri, Minister of Awqaf and Islamic Affairs and Minister of State for Municipal Affairs, said Kuwait has been suffering from a sharp shortage of water resources.

The State of Kuwait has only one resource of water, groundwater, while most of the country's water needs are met by desalination, he added. He stated that population growth and a rise in standards of living led to an unprecedented rise in water consumption, despite the country's efforts made over long decades in tackling water scarcity.

As a result, the country had to depend on wastewater treatment as an additional source for agricultural purposes, and to reduce pressures on indispensable groundwater, he told the conference. This way has contributed to achieving sustainable water security in the country, he pointed out.

Responding to instructions of His Highness the Amir, Kuwait is keen on securing many water resources to meet growing needs for agriculture, he said. He referred to some plants of wastewater treatment, mainly Sulaibiya Wastewater Treatment and Reclamation Plant which operates 600,000 cubic meters per day for agricultural purposes.

Kuwait is taking part in the conference to share expertise and views, and supporting the initiative launched by FAO in 2013 in collaboration with the Arab League in the Near East and North Africa region, he stressed.

Major gap

Meanwhile, Arab League Secretary General Ahmad Abul Gheit said the future of the Arab region in tightly linked to the problem of water scarcity, referring to a major gap between supply and demand in water and food in the Arab region. He said this gap leads to dire political, economic and security consequences. Abul Gheit told reporters that climate changes, water and agriculture dossiers are main reasons for instability of the region, and will lead to negative impacts on the future of the regional countries. He reiterated the importance of mobilizing international efforts to tackle challenges to water and food security in the Arab region.

In the meantime, FAO Director-General Jose Graziano da Silva said the Arab countries should continue to seek innovations to overcome the water scarcity crisis in the face of climate change. He lauded accomplishments made by the region's countries, mainly the Gulf ones, in desalination, water harvesting, drip irrigation and treating wastewater. "It is fundamental to promote ways for agriculture, and food production in general, to use less water, and use it more efficiently," he said.

"Population growth and the impacts of climate change will put more pressure on water availability in the near future. Climate change, in particular, poses very serious risks." He pointed out that farmers and rural households should be at the center of strategies to tackle water scarcity.

He said not only to encourage them to adopt more efficient farming technologies, but also to secure access to drinking water for poor rural households. This is vital for food security and improved nutrition, he made clear. In the Near East and North Africa region, the per capita renewable water availability is around 600 cubic meters per person per year - only 10 percent of the world average - and drops to just 100 cubic meters in some countries. The FAO conference, which includes over 600 high-level government officials and representatives from 194 countries, will run until July 8. It mainly focuses on issues and policies related to global food security. - KUNA