This paper seeks to bring to light the problems of farms on the east coast of the UAE and show their water-related problems and its effects on domestic and business activities through a story (Cronon). The protagonist of the tale is Dr. Saif Al Qaydi, who was the Dean of Humanities of a local college in the East of the UAE. He like all the residents of the area faced first-hand the acute problem of water shortage. Al Qaydi was involved in several types of research on the issue and discovered that more than 20 farm businesses were rendered futile since 2000.According to the findings; the main reasons for the occurrences were depletion of natural resources including fertile soils and water through rapid urban development in the UAE.
Sustainable farming was a major problem in the UAE due to soils and water problems. This was particularly true for the Eastern residents who were entirely dependent on irrigation for their farming activities. Farming is their main source of livelihood the residents had little room to maneuver following the riveting environmental complications. In his belief, Dr. Al Qaydi believed that the concept of taking in the desert and trying to beat natural conditions using technology was bound to fail. The doctor's arguments asserted that even the intensive use of new technology in farming at one point would come to suffer because of the lack of water and soil related issues. Based on the research conducted, the doctor found out that over 85% of the farms owners both foreign and local had water related problems. The survey conducted covered over 200 farm owners and sought reliable data and information from the Ministry of water and Environment and the National Bureau of Statistics. Through the findings, researchers also discovered that the number of farms in the country was on a substantial increase since the 1970’s up to 2012.Records from the government repository affirmed that number of farms increased by 3000 for the previously mentioned time bracket in the UAE beginning with an estimated 2500 back in 1970.
Other parts of the UAE Dubai specifically, were living beyond their financial as well as its ecological reach. The ability of the state to run sprinklers all year round, establish a ski slope in the middle of the desert was evidential that the environment was being taxed heavily. Dr. Raouf a colleague of Dr. Saif Al Qaydi and a director at Gulf Research Center shared the same sentiments as his associate and told of the imminent loss when rivaling Mother Nature. The doctor added that Dubai was built with little regard to water facilities despite the land having few sources of water and receiving the lowest rainfall anywhere in the world. This has since forced Dubai to extract water from the sea. All the water used in the Emirates is derived from the sea and the unfortunate bit is that the reverse osmosis and desalination processes are utterly costly making water production more expensive than oil (Hari). Moreover, the process released carbon dioxide into the atmosphere as a byproduct making Dubai’s air one of the most polluted on the globe.
The main concern for the doctors and the community as well was that, when the finances run low, what would remain of Dubai. Tell the world shifted from using oil to other energy alternatives as it is happening currently; the state would be left in a state of chaos, as there was not water enough in the UAE reserves to last one week. One Dubai resident with American origin explained that the government remained oblivious of increasing environmental concerns despite reaching alarming levels. She- Amina (alias) worked in a hotel in Dubai and revealed how they conducted private professional analyses on the water after experiencing an increasing number of complaints of bad odor and sick patients. She decided to write to the ministry of health and tourism, but did not receive any reply whatsoever. The water quality deteriorated further as sediments of faecal matter and debris floated on the water. The results of the analysis showed an unimaginable number of bacteria causing germs were present in the water. It was evident that the urban development of Dubai happened so fast that the state could not handle the increasing waste production levels. Poor waste management eventually showed up in the form of polluted waters from which state waters were obtained. More efforts from Amina to complain about the issue ended with anonymous calls for her to stop embarrassing the state and threats of being deported back to the US.
All these occurrences added up to the burden of the eastern farmers whose main sources of water remain to be the desalination plants and municipal water all of which are too expensive for small scale farming. Mohamed Alzabi an old local farmer recalls back in the day when there was a lot of water and wells could be as shallow as six meters, and the soil was also fertile, that has not been the case since 1982 he says. Many peasant locals sold their parcels of land to the rich from Dubai and Abu Dhabi, whose extreme technology-laden water extracting methods made water out of reach for everyone else subsequently resulting in salty water that the locals only use for fruits and vegetables.
Al Qaydi a farmer himself and other farmers faced hardship in the production of organic food, which was in high demand. The farmers had to abandon technology and use natural techniques in order to produce entirely natural foods. Dr. Al Qaydi specifically constantly emphasized on the importance of the government’s support in helping locals obtain water for irrigation and supply of fertilizer to enrich the soils. Relentlessly, he pondered over a long-term solution not only for eastern UAE but also for the entire country. Such was the importance of the project that it needed support either from both the national government and private institutions the long-term goal being mutual benefit between the local farmers and the environment so that their farming activities could be sustainable in the long term. Dr. Al Qaydi together with various heads from the Gulf Research Centre proposed suggestions for the ruler in order to offer the long-term solutions for UAE’s water woes.
Today, Dr. Al Qaydi is happy that both the local authority and the national government have acknowledged the problem and have put fitting measures to provide the UAE with clean water for domestic and business use (Shahin and Salem). The Dubai ruler recently launched the UAE water aid foundation bundled with $1m prize money for sustainable solutions to curb water shortage through solar energy. Dr. Al Qaydi like many Emiratis respect the ruler, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum and seconded his decision on initiating the project because it would curb the perennial water shortages that the United Arab Emirates has been having.
Cronon, William. “A Place for Stories: Nature, History, and Narrative.” The Journal of American History 78.4 (1992): 1347–1376. Web.
Hari, Johann. “The Dark Side of Dubai.” The Independent 2009: 1–12. Print.
Shahin, Suzan M., and Mohammed A. Salem. “The Challenges of Water Scarcity and the Future of Food Security in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).” Natural Resources and Conservation 3.1 (2015): 1–6. Web.