Jordan grapples with dire climate predictions: Water scarcity looms, health and agriculture at risk


Published: 2023-11-22 22:34

Last Updated: 2024-03-01 11:42

Editor: Dana Sharayri

Jordan grapples with dire climate predictions: Water scarcity looms, health and agriculture at risk
Jordan grapples with dire climate predictions: Water scarcity looms, health and agriculture at risk

In an exclusive statement to Roya, Omar Shoshan, Chairman of the Jordan Environmental Union, unveiled alarming revelations from the Fourth National Climate Assessment.

This comprehensive report, a joint effort by Jordan's Ministry of Environment, the United Nations Development Program, and the Jordan Environmental Union (JEU), portends an ominous future for Jordan’s climate and ecosystems.

The report's stark projections highlight a significant increase in drought severity across the western parts of Jordan, indicating a distressing decrease in rainfall by 15.8 percent to 47 percent. Conversely, the southern region is expected to experience a 19 percent rise in rainfall.

However, amidst these forecasts lies a daunting reality – a projected 120 percent increase in heat waves coupled with a three percent decrease in humidity, likely leading to heightened drought incidents, particularly in the already vulnerable northern regions, escalating by 50 percent.

The agricultural sector faces an imminent crisis, with anticipated overall crop yield reductions of up to 20 percent. The report also suggests a shift in focus towards irrigated crops, foreseeing a 16 percent increase in vegetable production. This, however, is offset by the projected surge in water consumption for crops, expected to rise between 12-30 percent.

He added that pastures and fodder will decrease from 31 percent to 15 percent, while barley quantities are anticipated to increase by 18-25 percent, provided that the average rainfall remains around 200 millimeters.

-- Water sector under strain --

As for the water sector, the report foresees an 18 percent decline in surface water flow and a staggering 16 percent decrease in groundwater recharge.

Projections indicate a significant spike in water demand for agriculture, expected to soar from 1167 million cubic meters to 2094 million cubic meters by 2050, and a staggering 3167 million cubic meters by 2100.

-- Health implications --

Shoshan expressed concerns about the far-reaching health implications, warning of increased rates of skin diseases, a decline in livestock numbers, and escalated mortality rates, especially among vulnerable groups such as children, the impoverished, the elderly, and field workers.

He highlighted how climate-induced dust rates and sandstorms are anticipated to raise respiratory disease incidences, particularly among the elderly and individuals with respiratory diseases.

Moreover, anticipated floods could lead to the contamination of drinking water, spreading diseases such as malaria and Rift Valley fever.

Notably, changes in rainfall patterns and rates will result in a shortage of drinking water and an increase in waterborne diseases like typhoid and malaria, especially in southern parts of Jordan, according to Shoshan.

Among the health sector impacts mentioned in the report are "increased humidity leading to respiratory diseases."

The livelihoods of residents in areas like Borma, Bani Kenanah, Badia, Sakhra, Arjan, Ramtha, Irbid, Al-Koura, Ruwaished, and Ajloun will be affected due to climate change effects.

The report's wide-ranging recommendations call for poverty alleviation programs, job creation, improved nutrition, and the urgent implementation of projects.

According to Shoshan, citing the report, climate change impacts also touch biodiversity, indicating that "rainfall and temperature increases will not pose significant threats to ecosystems in 2050, 2070, and 2100, assuming global warming reaches 4.5 degrees Celsius."

However, temperature and rainfall effects on ecosystems in northern regions, Yarmouk, Jerash, Ajloun, and some parts of the northern valleys in 2100 will be moderate, he noted.

-- Call for Urgent Action and Investment --

To combat these challenges, the report urges for substantial investments, estimating a requirement of approximately USD 9.5 billion for adaptation and mitigation strategies. It underscores the direct link between refugee crises and the Kingdom's vulnerabilities in facing climate change, particularly in the water, agriculture, and energy sectors - the pillars of Jordan's food security system.

Shoshan said that this, in turn, affects political, social, and economic stability in the coming period, especially considering that Jordan is among the largest host countries for refugees compared to its population on a global scale. This prompted Jordan to present an initiative connecting refugees to climate change issues during the Climate Change Conference in Sharm El-Sheikh in 2022.

According to Shoshan, this is an invitation to invest in the upcoming conference by promoting strategic climate projects, such as the National Water Carrier Project from the Gulf of Aqaba, aiming to alleviate pressure and water stress, and to meet the expected demand due to the widening scope of drought, scarcity of water resources, and variations in rainfall patterns.

-- Jordan's involvement in Green initiatives --

As for reinforcing the role of the private sector, Shoshan said that the Central Bank of Jordan launched the Green Finance Strategy (2023-2028) this month which aims to maximize the role of the private sector in confronting climate change risks and adapting to the latest green financing practices. These practices are directed towards environmentally friendly investments and projects that reduce the impacts of climate change on the national economy.

He added that the Central Bank began collaborating with the World Bank in 2022 to develop this strategy in coordination and partnership with the banking and financial sector and relevant stakeholders in both the public and private sectors.

Shoshan noted that Jordan was among the first countries to endorse and join the Middle East Green Initiative (MGI) politically. This endorsement was evidenced by the attendance of His Royal Highness Crown Prince Hussein bin Abdullah at the initiative's launch ceremony in Riyadh and participation in its second launch during the Climate Change Conference in Sharm El-Sheikh.

Shoshan highlighted Jordan's struggle with the pressing issue of climate change, acknowledging its far-reaching consequences amidst substantial economic and security hurdles. Tackling this challenge necessitates a joint endeavor from diverse stakeholders—governmental, private entities, and civil society—requiring them to synchronize their efforts in executing adaptation plans, green growth strategies, nationally determined contributions, green finance strategies, and other sector-specific plans. This collaborative approach holds particular importance in critical sectors such as water management, agriculture, and the advancement of renewable energy sources.