The importance of water in the ecosystem and marine crisis in the gulf region
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As developing countries expand both agricultural and industrial activities over the coming decade, sensitive management of the limited available freshwater resources will become increasingly important. If their supplies consist solely of ground water, then some water deficit countries could end up by mining a non-renewable resource as it takes many thousands of years to replenish deep fossil groundwater stocks. Conservation and careful husbandry of existing stocks must therefore be carried out if the growing human populations of arid lands are to be protected from famine and poverty.
The arid zones may provide more than sufficient food in a sustainable system despite the harsh natural conditions. In arid areas rainfall is low, biological cycling is limited by low soil moisture and evapotranspiration is high. The absence of leaching by infiltration results in a large active pool of nutrients and the addition of water by irrigation allows this potential fertility to be realised. Given the high insolation of desert lands and a man-made continuous water supply it is possible to obtain 2–4 crop harvest a year. However, the success of any future development is ultimately in the hands of the governments who control the management of water resources.
Until recently pollution of the sea was relatively localised. It has now become a problem globally around coasts and even affects the open ocean. Enclosed and semi-enclosed seas are most vulnerable to degradation of their ecosystems and the Golf region has proved to be no exception to this, sensitivity exacerbated by weak currents and political instability leading to increasing oil pollution.
The pollution in the Gulf is at its most harmful in the biologically diverse and productive areas around coastlines where pollution tends to concentrate and where human welfare is also most at risk. The outbreak of cholera and other waterborne disease in Iraq immediately following the Gulf war highlights the exceptional reliance people throughout the Gulf States must place of fresh water supplies. Continuing political instability in the region and its associated environmental damage will not, therefore, only threaten wildlife or fisheries but may threaten human welfare as water supplies are limited or decline in quality and industry, agriculture and health all suffer the consequences.
KeywordsCholera Iraq Human Welfare Political Instability Arid Land
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