Refugees from Syria are exacerbating a looming energy crisis that threatens to plunge the Middle East into a wave of violent uprisings far bloodier than the Arab Spring, Prince Hassan of Jordan
Unless Arab states unite to solve the region’s increasingly acute shortages, they will be starved of water and power in 15 years, he predicted.
The millions of refugees are piling intolerable pressure on the already creaking infrastructure of their neigh-bouring countries such as Jordan,sparking protests against blackouts and water queues.
“We are at a tipping point. It is not going to survive much further, because the populace won’t have it,” Prince Hassan,the uncle of King Abdullah, told The Times. The impetus for another series of revolutions would be less about the vote and more about “the
absence of basic services, such as water and energy”, he said.
He also predicted that new uprisings were likely to be far bloodier than those that began sweeping the Middle East and North Africa in 2010, due to the influence of extremists linked to al-Qaeda.
“They are going to be motivated by the level of the violence and professional cruelty that we have seen in Iraq and Syria and Afghanistan to basically create a tsunami, a violent takeover of the
region. The downstream consequences of that are immeasurably destructive.”
Every tenth person in Jordan is a Syrian national. The influx of refugees has pushed Jordan from fourth to third on the list of countries most deprived of water, and there are concerns that sewage and waste from the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan, the second biggest in the world, are threatening underground water supplies nearby.
Despite this, Prince Hassan said, there has been no cross-border thinking about how to address the water problems that affect the entire region. By 2030, for instance, 45 million Iranians are expected to be on the move because of shortages, he said.
“You need to have the ability to think regionally, but that’s not encouraged,” he said, referring to sectarian divisions that are dominated by Shia Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia.
One answer might be the waters of the River Jordan, depleted over decades by the rival efforts of Syria, Israel and Jordan to divert its flow to their advantage. “This is the lifeline of the region. This is what should be developed.”
He suggested a supranational body — “above politics and above sticky fingers” — that would meet daily until Arab governments could go to the UN and express a collective view. It would also need to look at the depleted stocks of the Euphrates and the Tigris.
The proposals of Prince Hassan, who is chairman of the UN Advisory Board in Water and Sanitation, will go before Arab ministers in the spring. Does he think his plan has any hope? “I’m not an optimist in that I think everything’s rosy, but not a pessimist in that I think nothing is practical,” he said.