Kingdom Among Countries Most Affected By Climate Change

RIYADH, 6 June 2006 — Saudi Arabia is among a group of seven countries experiencing a depletion of water resources because of climate change, which is also threatening its vast arid lands and deserts.

“The deserts, however, can be used as a key resource if urgent action is taken to protect them on regional and global levels,” said a report released by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP).

The report, released on World Environment Day yesterday, said that ground water levels in desert areas of the Kingdom and in similar regions around the world are dropping “very quickly as ancient underground aquifers are exhausted.” This year’s slogan of World Environment Day is: “Don’t Desert Dry Lands” whereas the theme is: “Deserts and Desertification.”

The slogan emphasizes the importance of protecting dry lands, which cover more than 40 percent of the planet’s surface.

Referring to the changes or threats faced by deserts because of climate change, the study said, “The world’s deserts are facing dramatic changes as a result of climate, high water demands, tourism and salt contamination of irrigated soils. There was also an overall temperature increase of 0.5 to two degrees Celsius in desert regions between 1976 and 2000. Many deserts will experience a decline of 5 to 10 percent in rainfall in the near future.”

The report said that one possibility for improving water efficiency is to restrict irrigated agriculture. “Desalination plants, which turn sea water into drinking water, are used in some countries but they consume large amounts of energy in a world where energy prices are rising sharply,” said the study.

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