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If we don’t protect our fish, in one year’s time there won’t be any fish left in the Qatari waters.

Brig. Ali Ahmed Al Bedeed, Director of Coasts and Borders Security Department, in a press briefing about trespassers on Qatari waters, as quoted by the Peninsula.


According to Al Bedeed, fisherman from nearby GCC countries often deliberately head to Qatar’s waters to catch its hamour, despite repeated warnings to respect the nation’s borders.

Many who are caught say their vessels accidentally roamed into Qatar’s waters, but that excuse is wearing thin for people who are caught repeatedly, the official added.

“These people drop the trap for the fish in the middle of the sea and then they go home for five six days and comes back to pick the same traps for fish without any leaving any prior mark in the sea.

We are talking about metal traps and they have up to 300 and 400 of them. Nobody goes to the middle of the sea without GPS anymore.”

Qatar has been working to shore up its fish supply in recent years, but without much success. Meanwhile, government figures show that the demand for fish in the country has gone up by 20 percent in the past five years and is expected to be double than supply over the next 20 years.

Al Bedeed also reminded Qatar residents that only locals with licenses are allowed to fish commercially, and that no fishing off of the Corniche is permitted.

Those who do fish for recreation are not allowed to sell what they catch. Read more do’s and don’ts here.

a dohanews

Maybe Qatar can buy their way out of trouble…  #corruption

Possibly the world’s largest oil field discovered in Australia. Equivalent of Saudi Arabia and worth $20 trillion.

It will have to be fracked.  

Incredible find. Full coverage from ABC-AU with video, audio, maps. 

How did this lake randomly appear in the middle of the desert? What a great story about unintended consequences from infrastructure.

Human-Made Origins

Dave Clark, a hydrologist with the U.S. Geological Survey working in the United Arab Emirates, says this lake emerged from the sand a few years ago.

"You see local families out here and they’re all just enthralled," Clark says. "It’s water in the desert, so everybody’s pleased. But it’s definitely water that’s had a human touch to it. People have had their hand in this water, maybe literally."

Here’s how this lake got here: A desalination plant right on the coast pulls in saltwater from the Persian Gulf and makes that water drinkable and usable. The water is then pumped 150 miles inland to the city of Al Ain. The residents there drink it up, bathe with it and then flush it down their drains.

"It goes to the sewage treatment plant, and they treat it, and they bring it back into town. And they water the parks and the gardens and things like that, and that percolates down into the groundwater," Clark says.

And then it ends up in the desert, a short distance from Al Ain, by percolating back up from the ground. This water’s clean. But still, it comes as a shock to some in the desert.

"Just because the sand dunes look on the surface to be fairly barren doesn’t mean that they are. They are full of life," says Brigitte Howarth, an ecologist at Zayed University in Dubai.

The story is well worth listening to (only 4 minutes!) at NPR.

Wadi As-Sirhan Basin, in the Saudi Arabian desert 1987 to 2012.

Northern Saudi Arabia hosts some of the most extensive sand and gravel deserts in the world, but modern agricultural technology has changed the face of some of them. This photograph presents the almost surreal image of abundant green fields in the midst of a barren desert — specifically the Wadi As-Sirhan Basin of northwestern Saudi Arabia. As recently as 1986 there was little to no agricultural activity in the area, but over the subsequent 26 years agricultural fields have been steadily developed, largely as a result of investment of oil industry revenues by the Saudi government. The fields use water pumped from subsurface aquifers and is distributed in rotation about a center point within a circular field — a technique known as center-pivot agriculture. This technique affords certain benefits relative to more traditional surface irrigation such as better control of water use and application of fertilizers. The use of this so-called “precision agriculture” is particularly important in regions subject to high evaporative water loss; by better controlling the amount and timing of water application, evaporative losses can be minimized. Crops grown in the area include fruits, vegetables, and wheat.Via

Photo via The Telegraph.

These two are my favorite shots from the Olympics opening ceremony.

Top: “A live tweet from Sir Tim Berners-Lee, creator of the World Wide Web, appears in the crowd in Olympic Stadium, on July 27, 2012, in London. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)”

Bottom: “Sarah Attar and Wojdan Shahrkhani (background), the first female Saudis to ever compete in the Olympics, part of Saudi Arabia’s contingent, take part in the athletes parade in the Olympic Stadium, on July 27, 2012. (Reuters/Suzanne Plunkett)”

More: InFocus/The Atlantic

Solid, mind blowing photo essay on Alberta oil tar sands.

Good morning tumblr! Here is an ostrich running down a highway in Saudi Arabia. That is all.


At least some people are looking at the geopolitical implications of long-term drought in the Middle East and north Africa, instead of rah-rah boosterism about democratic impulses and the shiny power of social media.

Francesco Femia and Caitlin Werrell via The Center for Climate & Security

Out of the blue?

International pundits characterized the Syrian uprising as an “out of the blue” case in the Middle East  - one that they didn’t see coming. Many analysts, right up to a few days prior to the first protests, predicted that Syria under al-Assad was “immune to the Arab Spring.” However, the seeds of social unrest were right there under the surface, if one looked closely. And not only were they there, they had been reported on, but largely ignored, in a number of forms.

Water shortages, crop-failure and displacement

From 2006-2011, up to 60% of Syria’s land experienced, in the terms of one expert, “the worst long-term drought and most severe set of crop failures since agricultural civilizations began in the Fertile Crescent many millennia ago.” According to a special case study from last year’s Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction (GAR),of the most vulnerable Syrians dependent on agriculture, particularly in the northeast governorate of Hassakeh (but also in the south), “nearly 75 percent…suffered total crop failure.” Herders in the northeast lost around 85% of their livestock, affecting 1.3 million people.

The human and economic costs are enormous.  In 2009, the UN and IFRC reported that over 800,000 Syrians had lost their entire livelihood as a result of the droughts. By 2011, the aforementioned GAR report estimated that the number of Syrians who were left extremely “food insecure” by the droughts sat at about one million. The number of people driven into extreme poverty is even worse, with a UN report from last year estimating two to three million people affected.

This has led to a massive exodus of farmers, herders and agriculturally-dependent rural families from the countryside to the cities. Last January, it was reported that crop failures (particularly the Halaby pepper) just in the farming villages around the city of Aleppo, had led “200,000 rural villagers to leave for the cities.” In October 2010, the New York Times highlighted a UN estimate that 50,000 families migrated from rural areas just that year, “on top of the hundreds of thousands of people who fled in earlier years.” In context of Syrian cities coping with influxes of Iraqi refugees since the U.S. invasion in 2003, this has placed additional strains and tensions on an already stressed and disenfranchised population.

The biggest implication is that deposing one — or even a dozen — strong man totalitarian governments will not alter the situation on the ground. And projections — cited by the authors in the report above — show continued decline in rainfed crops in Syria “between 29 and 57 percent from 2010 to 2050”.

I agree with the authors and others that stopping the brutal suppression of the opposition movement in Syria is and should be the immediate focus of international efforts. However, the broader implications of Syrian drought — and the drought across the entire region — are not really addressed by the authors.

A region with growing population and rapidly diminishing water can only lead to a few scenarios, none of them good. Water wars and massive waves of ecological migration are not outcomes that the region — or the world as a whole — are willing to face.

(h/t Thomas Friedman)

Shameless plug: I wrote about Egypt’s new government and climate change policies for GOOD last year. I’m quite interested in Middle Eastern climate policies. I think they’ll carry a lot more political weight for the UN climate process once the countries begin to stabilize.

The United States Government has just asked the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) to raise the levels of its oil production in summer 2012. Oil production is otherwise anticipated to be at some 9.8 mbd this summer, with fluctuations of around 200 kbd about that number. (There are rumors it has just hit 10 mbd.) It is reported that the KSA could raise production to 12.5 mbd if needed. Saudi Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi has now stated that the KSA is able to meet that commitment.

Read the rest at The Oil Drum

The fact remains that oil will continue to play a major role in the overall energy mix for many decades. It is clear that a petroleum-free transportation system is decades away. And if you look at the vast range of products derived from crude oil, everything from lubricants to asphalt, medicines to plastics, it is clear petroleum is here to stay.

I see renewable energy sources as supplementing existing sources, helping to prolong our continued export of crude oil. And this is why we are investing in solar energy, which we also have in abundance. The Kingdom experiences roughly 3,000 hours of sunshine per year, emitting about 7,000 watts of energy per square metre. Saudi Arabia also features empty stretches of desert that can host solar arrays and it is blessed with deposits of quartz that can be used in the manufacture of silicon photovoltaic cells.

Al-Naimi, Minister of Petroleum and Mineral Resources, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (from his sick bed). The speech was delivered at the Middle East and North Africa Energy 2012 conference at Chatham House.
We know that pumping oil out of the ground does not create many jobs. It does not foster an entrepreneurial spirit, nor does it sharpen critical faculties.
Al-Naimi, Minister of Petroleum and Mineral Resources, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (from his sick bed). The speech was delivered at the Middle East and North Africa Energy 2012 conference at Chatham House. argues Canadian oil tar sands are the better choice over Saudi Arabian oil. The reason? Canada has better human rights and quality of life. 

Saudi Arabia via Google Maps

(via ckck)

Have you seen Colbert hilarious anti-fracking rant? Brilliant. 

Above: IceDream Project - Towing icebergs to 30 countries that need fresh water. Why not harvest the icebergs if they’re just melting into the ocean?