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Ihsanoglu: OIC Water Vision is to envisage an incremental approach and growth of cooperation in all aspects of water

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The Secretary General of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), Professor Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu who participated at the second Istanbul International Water Forum on "Regional Cooperation for Water" in Istanbul on 03 May 2011, said that the challenges of reliable access to water for health, livelihoods and production, as well as the management of unpredictable water-related risks, are becoming more pronounced due to population growth, depletion of resources, environmental degradation and the phenomenon of climate change, emphasizing that these challenges necessitate collective responses within a framework of cooperation at all levels, global, regional and sub-regional.

Ihsanoglu underlined that regional and sub-regional organizations can play a critical role in promoting regional cooperation for addressing challenges and finding solutions to problems including water-related issues. He noted that the OIC member states have 8379 km3 of renewable water resources which represent only 15.3% of the world renewable water resources and many OIC countries are suffering increasing water scarcity as their total renewable water resources (TRWR) per capita are lower than the threshold level of 1700 m3 per year. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), he mentioned that twenty-one (21) OIC member states have TRWR per capita of less than 1700 m3 per year. Since 1992 TRWR per capita in the OIC countries has declined by 22.8% and climate change will further exacerbate water availability in these areas leading to a decline in agriculture, he added.

Ihsanoglu noted that climate change will increase the vulnerability of some OIC countries, such as Pakistan and Bangladesh, to floods, stating that this phenomenon has induced sea level rise may be up to 59 cm or even more by the year 2100. As a result, it will damage the agriculture sector by increasing salinity of soil and contaminating the fresh water resources. He underlined that some of the most vulnerable regions are the Nile delta in Egypt, the Ganges-Brahmaputra delta in Bangladesh, Maldives and Bahrain.

The Secretary General declared that the OIC has established an Advisory Panel of Experts comprising water experts from the Muslim world. He announced that the OIC General Secretariat is in the process of preparing the OIC Water Vision in collaboration with the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) and the International Center for Biosaline Agriculture (ICBA) to envisage an incremental approach and growth of cooperation in all aspects of water. He emphasized that cooperation within the framework of OIC Water Vision and the OIC Water Council will lead to building of trust, confidence and understanding within the OIC membership and beyond.