International Waters of the Middle East: From Euphrates-Tigris to Nile

Water is a very important resource for socio-economic development in arid and semi­arid countries. With rapidly increasing demands, water has become a critical resource in such regions. For the very arid countries of the Middle East, use and management of the scarce water resources have become issues of war and peace, or life and death.

Because of the critical importance of water to ensure lasting peace and prosperity in the region, the International Water Resources Association and the United Nations University convened a Middle East Water Forum in Cairo, Egypt, in February 1993, with the support of the Sasakawa Peace Foundation and the United Nations Environment Programme. Twenty-seven leading world experts were invited to participate. This book is based on the papers specially commissioned for the Forum.

The seven chapters of this book study the three major river basins and address the many difficulties faced by countries in this region. After a brief introduction by M1ostafa Kamal Tolba, which underlines the need for action rather than prolonged talks and deliberations, Aaron Wolf provides a historical background to the politics of water in the Middle East. Chapters by John Kolars and Özden Bilen study the problem of international river management and possibilities of technical collaboration in the Euphrates-Tigris Basin. Masahiro Murakami and Katsumi Musiake analyse the Jordan River, where water issues are tied up with strategic and political problems. Yahia Abdel Mageed traces developments in the Nile Basin and suggests what could be done to ensure more equitable distribution of water. The final chapter by Asit K. Biswas provides a comprehensive analysis of recent developments in international water management.

While political differences often stand in the way of cooperation between countries, the contributors to this volume believe that discussions on water sharing, by bringing people together, can make a significant contribution to peace in the Middle East. The water crisis which is looming on the horizon will be much more devastating than any oil crisis ever was. Unilateral action will have sub-optimal outcomes, and co-riparian countries must work together on basin-wide management programmes if lasting peace and prosperity in the region are to be achieved.

The convenor of the forum, Professor Asit K. Biswas, Past President of the International Water Resources Association, is also the Editor of this volume. Professor Biswas is a leading world expert on water management. Author of 51 books and over 500 papers, his work has now been translated into 31 languages. He is currently the Chairman of the Middle East Water Commission.

Edited by Asit K. Biswas, 1994, Oxford University Press, Bombay, 221 pages.

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