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Cooperation the Answer to Mid East's Environmental Issues

Hadassah-Sponsored UN Workshop Explores Opportunities for Working Together to Defeat Challenges Presented by Global Warming and Water Shortages
Genever McBain

(New York, NY -- September 06, 2007) -- Global environmental issues, which also specifically affect the Middle East, offer opportunities for cooperation between Israel and its neighbors, according to an environmental researcher and scientist working on the ground in Israel. At a workshop, held yesterday at the United Nations in conjunction with a conference, “Climate Change: How it Impacts Us All,” Clive Lipchin, Director of Research at the Arava Institute, said: “There are multiple environmental issues challenging the region. To find solutions requires that we cooperate.

“For instance, most of the water sources originate in the West Bank. In addition, Syria, Lebanon and Jordan are all part of the Jordan River watershed. We see these transboundary issues as not just challenges, but opportunities.”

The workshop, titled “Water Security and Climate Change,” was sponsored by Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America. The Arava Institute, the premiere environmental teaching and research program in the Middle East, is also the premier model in the region for cooperation on transboundary environmental issues. Its student body is comprised of Israelis, Palestinians, Jordanians, as well as other nationalities, who study and live together, building networks of knowledge and understanding.

Located on Kibbutz Ketura, in the Arava region of Southern Israel, both it and the kibbutz were founded by members of Young Judaea, Hadassah’s Zionist youth movement.

Among the specific environmental issues impacting Israel and its bordering countries are: the reliance on seasonal and unpredictable rainfall for water; the prospect of a rise in sea level due to global warming that will affect the Mediterranean coastline where the majority of people live in Israel, Egypt and Lebanon; the pollution of surface and ground water; and the increasing intensity of the sun, resulting in growing desertification.

Opportunities for cooperation span the spectrum of solutions. Sea water is a potential source for water to meet a radically growing demand, but desalination technology is so energy intensive that it is not currently feasible on a large scale using traditional energy sources. According to Suleiman Halasah, a student at the Arava Institute who is involved in a bi-national solar energy project between Israel and his native Jordan, “It is necessary to find sustainable and renewable energy resources to solve the Middle East’s water problems.”

Lipchin believes that whether through government bodies or NGOs, regional cooperation is the answer. “International bodies are realizing that security issues are related to environmental issues,” he said, pointing to NATO, which gives funding to the Arava Institute through its Science for Peace and Security program.

“In the Middle East we all use the same ground and surface water. The water is the same. What is different is the socio-economic and cultural environment of the users. We must come together to deal effectively with all these issues,” stated Lipchin.

Date: 9/6/2007 12:00:00 AM

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