Government leaders address water crisis challengesand management at the Arab Water Convention 2023

Regional country representatives address water priorities, non-conventional water resources business opportunities and future actions

Held under the patronage of the League of Arab States, the Arab Water Council convened more than 10 Ministers, 400 officials and over 22 Arab Country representatives on the first day of the Arab Water Convention to listen to more than 60 speakers discuss critical regional water-related topics, including in-depth projection of future actions.

Held at the Ritz-Carlton Dubai International Financial Centre in Dubai, the sessions with experts, delegates and industry leaders at the Arab Water Convention addressed the depleting water tables and impending water crisis in the Arab World and how to overcome those challenges.

The opening ceremony saw regional leaders reiterating the importance of desalination projects, as it is essential to the social and economic development in the Gulf to meet the increasing water demand by increasing water productivity and improving water quality by reducing pollution.

VIP delegates attending included H.E. Prof. Hani Sweilam, Minister of Water Resources & Irrigation, Egypt, H.E. Dr. Amani Sulaiman Abdulwahab Buqamaz, Minister of Electricity, Water and Renewable Energy in Kuwait, H.E. Ali Ibrahim Al Malki, Assistant Secretary-General, League of Arab States, H.E. Prof. Dr. Mahmoud Abu-Zeid, President, Arab Water Council, H.E. Eng. Ahmed Alkaabi – Assistant Undersecretary for Electricity, Water and Future Energy sector, Ministry of Energy and Infrastructure – UAE, H.E. Dr. Tamam Raad, Minister of Water Resources, Syria, H.E. Mariam Al-Sadiq Al-Mahdi, Former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sudan, H.E. Eng. Tawfiq Sharjabi, Minister of Water and Environment, Republic of Yemen, H.E. Eng. Awaidha Murshed Al Marar,    Chairman, Department of Energy, UAE Ministry of Energy & Infrastructure and H.E. Eng. Mohamed Al Rumaithi, Undersecretary, Ministry of Energy and Infrastructure, United Arab Emirates.

The two-day event hopes to encourage governments, financial institutions, private sector and the civil society to engage in factual dialogues to address water scarcity and depletion of natural freshwater resources. It will place a special focus on the non-conventional water resources and is intended to timely bring all interested parties together to embark on implementing the COP27 outcomes.

In his opening speech to the Convention, Dr. Mahmoud AbuZeid, President of the Arab Water Council, emphasized that water scarcity constitutes acute and worrisome security threats in our Arab world, in which the population is growing rapidly and facing the mounting dangers resulting from water scarcity and severe financial deficit. What exacerbates the dangers related to water scarcity is that more than half of the renewable water resources in the region originate from outside its borders, a fact that intensifies tensions and threatens stability and peaceful living. Dr. Abu-Zeid explained that, in view of this, participatory dialogue between different actors is required now more than ever to explore pioneering solutions and invest in new projects, especially that providing financial resources represents a major challenge in the implementation of Governmental plans in the Arab regions.”

What exacerbates the dangers related to water scarcity is that more than half of the renewable water resources in the region originate from outside, which exacerbates tensions and threatens stability and peaceful living. Dr. Abu Zeid explained that, in view of this, participatory dialogue between the various actors is required now more than ever to explore pioneering solutions and invest in new projects, especially the promise of providing financial resources, which represents a major challenge in the implementation of Arab government plans.

During his participation in the convention, His Excellency Suhail bin Mohammed Al Mazrouei, UAE Minister of Energy and Infrastructure, said: “The Arab Water Convention is a leading platform for collaboration to meet collective water-related goals and develop solutions for eminent water challenges. The UAE stands ready to join forces with regional and international stakeholders to drive water-related priorities and provide water development aid to countries that face water scarcity. We are committed to providing affordable, accessible, and reliable energy and water services. In this context, we seek to increase the contribution of our private sector partners and form meaningful public-private partnerships to advance our development agenda, particularly in the energy and water sectors.”

Delivering the opening speech on behalf of Minister Al Mazrouei, His Excellency Eng Sharif Al Olama, Undersecretary of the Ministry of Energy and Infrastructure for Energy and Petroleum Affairs, said: “Water is a basic human need and at the core of sustainable growth. In the UAE, water security is a priority issue, given the country’s geographic location in a water-scarce region and the increasing demand on water for socioeconomic purposes. We are reliant on unconventional water sources, which include seawater desalination and wastewater treatment and account for 53% of our water supply.”

He noted that between 2021 and 2023, three reverse osmosis desalination plants started operations and add 420 million gallons of desalinated water per day to the current total daily capacity of 1,590 million gallons of desalinated water.

His Excellency Eng Al Olama added: “The UAE’s efforts to enhance water security are well recognized. According to a UN report, the UAE achieved 100% in providing safe drinking water services and sanitation services and scored an average of 79% in integrated water resources management. We will continue to build on our achievements and align our water, energy, environment, and food strategies to achieve optimal results.”

H.E. Dr. Amani Sulaiman Abdulwahab Buqamaz, Minister of Electricity, Water and Renewable Energy in Kuwait in her opening speech at the Arab Water Convention in Dubai, emphasized that Kuwait relies heavily on desalination of seawater to meet the increasing demand for fresh water, and that the demand for water is rising at a rapid rate year after year due to the increase in population pressure and the rise in the standard of living. From this perspective, in order to meet future needs, it will be necessary to invest heavily in expanding the capacities of desalination plants, and therefore urgent measures must be taken to develop water resources.

The minister said that innovative technologies must be adopted to treat wastewater, reduce pollution of available water and control it, reduce losses from the freshwater network and calculate the water losses periodically, adopt new technologies for water production and treatment, enhance water security and preserve its resources in the country.”

H.E. Ali Ibrahim Al Malki, Assistant Secretary-General, League of Arab States, stated “Arab Water Convention will disclose new business models for non-conventional water resources and will hopefully encourage more regional countries to explore pioneering solutions and mobilize public and private actions to promote better water resource quality and ensure sustainability.” He added that the non-conventional water reuse is a strategic option for alleviating the emerging problems of water scarcity, especially in light of the evolving climate change conditions. Yet, it requires significant investments in infrastructure to enhance water supply and easy access to clean water and improved sanitation services. He elaborated that at this stage, there is dire need to create an enabling investment environment to attract sponsors to this sector in view of the considerable financial, economic and environmental costs associated with the development of Non-Conventional Water Resources.”

“While economists classify water as a valuable and increasingly scarce natural resource, we know it is much more than that, being an indispensable human need. An adequate supply of water is not only fundamental for the economy, jobs and employment, but also for health and political stability. We have financed various Municipal Wastewater Treatment plants in Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Tunisia and Morocco, which in some cases, foresee water re-use for irrigation, if the location of the plant allows it,” added H. E. Gelsomina Vigliotti, Vice President, European Investment Bank.

The world-class Water Expo held on the sidelines of the Convention showcases the latest water-related technologies, innovative solutions, and equipment, hence enabling successful business transactions and interchange of knowledge and know-how.

The Arab Water Convention is addressing four critical themes including:  Effective governance frameworks for the efficient use of non-conventional water resources; smart NCWR business opportunities focusing, among others, on digital transformation and artificial intelligence; financing new bankable NCWR business opportunities; and role of the private sector in promoting new NCWR business opportunities.

Delegates attending the Convention include governmental representatives, international and regional organizations, donors, investors, finance and business stakeholders, decision-makers, industrial engineers, and specialists in different disciplines of water, food, and energy nexus in a changing climate.

The Arab Water Convention is organized and promoted by GM Events, a Dubai-based multi-faceted event management company of international repute, having organized numerous unique forums and exhibitions that highlight the issues faced by various economic sectors across the Arab region.

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