Water shortages threaten growth in Gulf states

Gulf states top global list of countries at risk of water stress, land grabs export danger to other nations
With hotels consuming water for everything from washing bed linen to guests having showers, a little.
By Elizabeth Broomhall
Wed 18 May 2011 05:13 PM

Four of the six Gulf states have been named the countries
most vulnerable to a shortage in water supply, risking disruptions to
operations and investments, risk consultants Maplecroft said.

The oil and gas-rich states Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait and Saudi
Arabia are at “extreme risk” of interruption to their water supply, topping a
list of 186 nations, the firm said in a report.

With the least available water per capita, Gulf states have
opted to buy up large tracts of farmland in developing countries in a bid to
safeguard their food supplies – a strategy that risks exporting their water shortages
to other nations, analysts said.

“Exporting water stress via ‘land grab’ has significant
implications for companies involved in administering agricultural projects in
foreign lands,” says principal environmental analyst Kimberlee Myers.

“If a business is seen to be overusing water supplies to the
detriment of the local population it is likely to incur significant
reputational damage. Secondly, if water rights are poorly administered this can
lead to absolute water shortages.”

Also squeezing resources will be climate change and
population growth, which is likely to have a snowball effect on the food
security of governments across the world.

One of the most controversial ‘land grabs’ by a GCC country
has been seen in Kenya, following a 2008 deal between Qatar and the African country.

As part of the agreement, Qatar will provide the funds for
construction of a Kenyan deep-water port in exchange for 40,000 hectares of
prime agricultural land on which to grow food for the Qatari market.

Other countries named among the top 10 most at-risk nations
included Libya, Yemen and Jordan. In emerging economies such as India, South
Korea and China, water shortages have the potential to curb economic
development and spur social unrest, the report said.

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