Monday, July 14, 2008

Unnecessary tensions

Excerpt from Olmert's speech at the Mediterranean summit in Paris 2 days ago. Read in context with my previous post "Leaking faucets". I hadn't seen this when I wrote my post. But look at how much "water" is featured in this speech. And what a poor excuse for normalization: technologies that are widely available on the market, technologies that Arab countries should be ashamed of not possessing. Oil-rich Arab countries should be ashamed of not having developed new materials for semi-permeable membranes used for reverse osmosis desalination, when their survival depends on these membranes. They should be ashamed for not having adapted and domesticated water desalination technologies, more essential to their survival than oil (although the rates of reuse of waste water and the cost of desalination in the UAE-using imported technologies- are equivalent if not better to those Olmert quotes for Israel). Countries such as Egypt, Sudan and Syria should be ashamed for having tens of thousands of researchers who do not advance local knowledge and who cannot develop water saving agriculture or transfer them to the farmers. They should be ashamed because the technologies practiced by their small farmers are way behind what is widely available on the market. But all of them should be even more ashamed because the state that has expropriated and oppressed millions of Palestinians and destroyed Lebanon many times over and hijacked Jordanian, Lebanese, Syrian and Palestinian water is throwing at them a bone like this one. But then again, Arab leaders know no shame.

"The global crises in the fields of energy, the climate and food threaten us all. However, in addition to these, the Middle East faces additional problems such as water scarcity and an expansion of its deserts. Israel, like its neighbors, which must deal with these challenges on a daily basis, encouraged the finest Israeli researchers to conduct intensive research & development in the field of water technology.

Thanks to this experience, Israel currently has unique experience in managing a limited water economy, reclamation of sewage for agricultural irrigation, desalinization, and in advanced agricultural irrigation technologies. The State of Israel is successful in reusing sewage at the highest rate in the world - 75%.

We pay special attention to desalination technologies, and by 2012, approximately two-thirds of the amount of water for domestic use (600 million cubic meters) will be derived from desalination. In Israel, the largest, most advanced and cheapest reverse osmosis desalination plant in the world operates, and in one year an additional plant will be established - one even larger. The cost of desalination, which has become highly attractive at less than 70 cents per cubic meter of desalinated water, led to the solution of desalination becoming the most concrete and attainable solution.

Agricultural development in the Negev, the "Israeli desert," presented us with difficult challenges. Drip irrigation, a revolutionary Israeli invention which only grows more sophisticated over time, contributes to the maximal utilization of irrigation water - 70% to 80%, as opposed to 40% with regular irrigation - around the world.

I do not list these accomplishments in order to tell you of our successes.

These achievements and others can significantly reduce the water problem and the increased desertification of the Middle East, as well as in other areas in the world; improve agricultural production; and reduce poverty around the globe.

To this end, we must create partnerships and cooperate with our neighbors on matters of water technology; we must integrate Israeli inventions which are used in many countries around the world, including in the European Union - in the Middle Eastern countries as well.

Indeed, from the earliest times until today, the Middle East has been witness to tensions, conflicts and even wars waged over water distress.

However, today we have the technological solutions to water shortages and desertification in our hands, and we must discover a way to cooperate and work together - governments, academia and businesspeople - so that we can take full advantage of the accumulated knowledge to improve the use of water for the benefit of our citizens, and primarily - in order to prevent unnecessary tensions."

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