Ever since the discovery of oil there, environmental problems have become more and more prominent in the Middle East. Limited freshwater resources combined with a growing population has led to the development of desalination plants. The Middle East has little fresh water, most of it in the form of rivers, aquifers, and oases, but has abundant salt water resources in the surrounding seas. Although there are multiple ways to desalinate water, they all serve one basic purpose: to separate the salt from the drinkable fresh water. “Like neighboring Kuwait, where virtually all supplies of fresh water comes from desalination, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has now reached a level of need for fresh water in which it requires at least $50 billion of investments in new desalination plants to meet its growing fresh water needs…Saudi Arabia produces about 30% of world’s desalinated water” (Picow). The development of desalination plants has allowed this water-starved region to meet much of its needs for fresh water.
Another environmental issue in this region is the pollution of the oil industry and the conflicts it has caused. During the Persian Gulf War (1990-1991), Iraqi troops set fire to more than 700 oil wells and dumped about 250 million gallons of oil into the Persian Gulf. The spill spread 350 miles along the coastline of the Persian Gulf, killing thousands of marine animals and threatening millions of birds with smoke from fires (Boehm and Zike 482-483). Conflicts continue to erupt throughout the region, and their effects on the environment are devastating.
Yet another environmental problem in the Middle East is the Soviet Union’s nuclear and chemical pollution. Kazakhstan remains severely affected by nearly 500 nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons that were tested there during the Cold War. In many cases, the locals in these areas were not warned or evacuated before testing was commenced. Kazakhstan was also a heavy industrial site during the Soviet Union. Toxic chemicals released into the air has been linked directly with infant mortality, or death before a child’s first birthday, in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. Nuclear and chemical pollution will remain in this area for quite a long time (Boehm and Zike 484). Other environmental issues may persist, but the need for fresh water, the impacts of oil, and the Soviet Union’s lasting impression are the most prominent is the Middle East.
Boehm, Richard G., and Dinah Zike. Glencoe World Geography and Cultures. New York: McGraw, 2012. Print.
Inside a reverse osmosis desalination plant, Israel. Green Prophet. Green Prophet, 6 Oct. 2010. Web. 6 Mar. 2013. <http://cdn.greenprophet.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/10/desalination-hadera-israel.jpg>.
Picow, Maurice. “Maurice Picow Saudi Arabia’s Desalination Market: A $50 Billion Opportunity.” Green Prophet. Green Prophet, 2007. Web. 6 Mar. 2013. <http://www.greenprophet.com/>.