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Last Updated:  Tuesday, 18 March, 2003, 10:14 GMT
Water shortages 'foster terrorism'
By Ben Sutherland
BBC News Online in Kyoto

A carbomb in Israel
A car bomb in Israel
A lack of water is a key factor in encouraging terrorism, the Third World Water Forum in Kyoto has heard.

Mona El Kody, the chair of the National Water Research Unit in Egypt, told delegates that living without an adequate level of access to water created a "non-human environment" which led to frustration, and from there terrorism.

"A non-human environment is the worst experience people can live with, with no clean water, no sanitation," Ms El Kody said.

And she added that it was in Arab countries that this problem was at its most acute.

The Middle East has only 1% of the world's fresh water shared between 5% of the world's population.

This puts a tremendous strain on water resources in the region.

Liquid assets

In the West Bank, for example, water has to be brought in to many villages on trucks, making it so precious it is used for little but drinking and some limited irrigation.

And there were warnings in Kyoto that the situation would only get worse.

Although per capita water consumption rates are the lowest in the world, many countries have already developed all their possible water resources.

"We have used water the hard way," said Dr Atef Mandy, of the Arab Water Vision. "There is no possibility of extracting more water."

Thirsty region

By 2025, it is predicted that the countries of the Arabian peninsula will be using more than double the amount of water naturally available to them.

The forum was told that it was essential that changes began immediately.

Acts of terrorism may stem from water shortages
Acts of terrorism may stem from water shortages
"Conservation has not been part of the past patterns," Dr Smilin Sragudin, of Alexandria Library, told the forum.

"It must be part of the patterns for the 21st Century."

Ms El Kody added that inadequate water resources had had the knock-on effect of lowering still further the amount of food that could be produced through farming, thereby increasing poverty - another key factor behind the feelings of frustration that can lead to terrorism.

But she said that if changes were made, improvements would be seen very rapidly.

"Better water provision has a very high effect on improving the non-human environment," she said. "The Arab world must do more with little water."


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