Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Arab Spring and the Environment

The Arab Spring movement has radically changed the political landscape of the Middle East and North Africa. At this critical juncture many are asking questions about the impact these change will have on environmental issues in the region.

There have been regime changes in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya in addition to uprising in Syria, Yemen, Bahrain, Algeria, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Oman and Saudi Arabia. The misuse of natural resources and corruption was one of the factors fueling the uprisings in Arab states.

The Arab world is at a pivotal juncture not only politically but due to the numerous environmental problems that threaten the region. Among the major challenges being faced are water scarcity, land degradation and desertification, inadequate waste management, coastal and marine environment degradation and air pollution. Many Arab states will need to develop ways of decentralizing power to help them use natural resources in a more sustainable manner.

A 2008 report published by authors M.K. Tolba and N.W. Saab, is the first study of the environment to be compiled and authored by independent experts from across the Arab region. It offers an overview of the state of the environment in the Arab world, highlighting environmental challenges, social, political and demographic trends, progress in regional and sub-regional cooperation and recommendations for future action.

The report attempts to address five key questions: 1) how are the environmental conditions in the Arab world changing? 2) what are the causes of environmental deterioration, and how is it linked to human activities and other stresses? 3) why is the environment a significant issue in the Arab world? 4) what is being done about it? How is society responding to the issues through public and private institutions? and 5) are the measures taken to limit environmental degradation and deterioration of ecosystems enough?

The report recommends long-term planning which includes an emphasis on renewable energy. It stresses the importance of simple measures at the local level to ensure more efficient and sound use of resources.

The report reviews issues like integrating the environment into development planning. It deals with specific issues like urbanization, air quality, water resources, marine environment, waste management, aridity drought and desertification.

Two of the most pressing concerns for the region are addressed in chapters on and the impact of climate change on Arab countries and the environmental impact of conflict and wars. Environmental legislation, media, education and financing are also addressed.

© 2011, Richard Matthews. All rights reserved.

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