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World Bank: Water Is Focus of Climate Change in Middle East and North Africa

January 8, 2008

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n the Middle East and North Africa climate change is an especially urgent issue, particularly in a region that experiences increasingly frequent droughts and a looming water supply shortage.

Based on estimates from the UNís latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) assessment, most of the MENA region is expected to become hotter and drier.† Higher temperatures and reduced precipitation will increase the occurrence of droughts, an effect that is already materializing in the Maghreb, the western part of North Africa.

According to IPCC computer modeling, an estimated additional 80 million to 100 million people will be exposed to water stress by 2025, putting more pressure on already depleted groundwater resources. Climate models further project sea levels rising by over 0.5 meters by the end of the century would place low-lying coastal areas in Tunisia, Qatar, Libya, UAE, Kuwait, and Egypt at particular risk.

For the MENA region, climate change is not a completely new phenomenon. †ďThroughout the ages, societies of the MENA region have been under pressure to adapt to water scarcity and heat, and have developed various technical solutions and institutional mechanisms to deal with these environmental constraints,Ē says Inger Andersen, Director of the Sustainable Development Department in the Bankís MENA region. ďHowever, the scale of impacts that are expected from climate change is likely to be beyond the coping range of many communities and countries, and will require additional adaptation efforts.Ē

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