January 19, 2018Important news or anything!

TED Express: A country with no water – Fahad Al-Attiya

Home / Agriculture / TED Express: A country with no water – Fahad Al-Attiya

Everything in this article is directly attributable to Fahad Al-Attiya, unless otherwise noted.
Welcome to Doha. I am in charge of making this country’s food secure. That is my job for the next two years, to design an entire master plan, and then for the next 10 years to implement it — of course, with so many other people.
Story of Qatar

Chapter 1

A country with no water - Chapter 1

What was Qatar in the 1940s? We were about 11,000 people living here. There was no water. There was no energy, no oil, no cars, none of that. Most of the people who lived here either lived in coastal villages, fishing, or were nomads who roamed around with the environment trying to find water. None of the glamour that you see today existed. No cities like you see today in Doha or Dubai or Abu Dhabi or Kuwait or Riyadh. And life expectancy was also short. Most people died around the age of 50.

We couldn’t live in a concentrated way simply because there was no resources.

Chapter 2: The Oil Era

1939, that’s when they discovered oil. But unfortunately, it wasn’t really fully exploited commercially until after the Second World War. What did it do? It changed the face of this country, as you can see today and witness. It also made all those people who roamed around the desert — looking for water, looking for food, trying to take care of their livestock — urbanize.

Chapter 3: Qatar Today

A country with no water - Chapter 3

What’s the population today? It’s 1.7 million people. That is in less than 60 years. The average growth of our economy is about 15% for the past five years. Lifespan has increased to 78. Water consumption has increased to 430 liters. And this is amongst the highest worldwide. From having no water whatsoever to consuming water to the highest degree, higher than any other nation. I don’t know if this was a reaction to lack of water [in the past].

Desalination: Converting Energy to Water

The interesting part is that we continue to grow 15% every year for the past five years without [naturally-occurring fresh] water. Now that is historic. It’s never happened before in history. Cities were totally wiped out because of the lack of water. This is history being made in this region.

How could we survive that? We have no [naturally-occurring fresh] water whatsoever. Simply because of this gigantic, mammoth machine called desalination. Energy is the key factor here. It changed everything.

So that [a desalination plant] is our lake, that is our river. That is how you all happen to use and enjoy water [here in Doha]. This is the best technology that this region could ever have.

Global Risks and Crisis

A country with no water - Qatar situation

[In Qatar] we only have two days of water reserve. We import 90% of our food, and we only cultivate less than 1% of our land. The limited number of farmers that we have have been pushed out of their farming practices as a result of open market policy and bringing the big competitions, etc., etc. So we also face risks. These risks directly affect the sustainability of this nation and its continuity.

A country with no water - Resource demand

If you look at the global facts, you will realize, of course I have to worry. There is growing demand, growing population. We’ve turned seven billion only a few months ago. And so that number also demands food. And there’s predictions that we’ll be nine billion by 2050.

By elevating to a higher socio-economic level, [people] also change their diet. They start eating more meat [which is more water intensive]. On the other hand, there is declining yields because of climate change and because of other factors. And so someone has to really realize when the crisis is going to happen.

Sustainable Solution

The question is, is there a sustainable solution? Indeed there is. This slide sums up thousands of pages of technical documents that we’ve been working on over the past two years.

A country with no water - Sustainability plan

We know very well that we’re going to need energy [for desalination, but] what sort of energy? A depletable energy? Fossil fuel? Or should we use something else? Do we have the comparative advantage to use another sort of energy? We do: 300 days of sun. And so we will use that renewable energy to produce the water that we need. And we will probably put 1,800 MW of solar systems to produce 3.5 million cubic meters of water. And that is a lot of water.

That water will go then to the farmers, and the farmers will be able to water their plants, and they will be able then to supply society with food. But in order to sustain the horizontal line — because these are the projects, these are the systems that we will deliver — we need to also develop the vertical line: system sustenance, high-level education, research and development, industries, technologies, to produce these technologies for application, and finally markets. But what gels all of it, what enables it, is legislation, policies, regulations. Without it we can’t do anything.

So that’s what we are planning to do. Within two years we should hopefully be done with this plan and taking it to implementation. Our objective is to be a millennium city. We are only 60 years old, but we want to live forever as a city, to live in peace.

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