COVENANT OVER MIDDLE EASTERN WATERS: Key to World Survival by Joyce Shira Starr


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A highly informative analysis of why water supply and allocation policies are rapidly emerging as the Middle East's central diplomatic issue. Starr, founder and chair of the Global Water Summit Initiative (1989-92) and author of Kissing Through Glass (1990) notes that every country in the region will face severe water shortages within a decade or two as a result of population growth and environmental and infrastructure problems (e.g., sewage pollution, leaky water pipelines, and ecologically harmful development). She also examines the links between countries' water and their food maintenance/agricultural policies. Perhaps the most timely sections of her book focus on what might be called ""hydrological geopolitics."" Start describes Baghdad's war against Iraq's own southern ""marsh Arabs"" through draining the lands that were at the heart of their livelihood and way of life, and notes how an Israeli-Syrian agreement over the allocation of Yarmuk River waters may be as integral to a lasting agreement between the two countries as their disposition of the Golan Heights. Inevitably, this book will be compared to Daniel Hillel's recent The Rivers of Eden. Both are well worth reading. Hillel's is somewhat superior in terms of its ecological analysis and wealth of data; Starr's excels in illustrating the often convoluted hydro-diplomacy affecting the region (including America's role) and in describing recent developments. Both authors insist that only regional cooperation in using existing water resources and the development of new ones can avert a human and natural disaster. At a few points, Start digresses from her basic topic, and once or twice, she speculates without offering substantiating data (as when she argues that Turkey has the potential to become the region's ""breadbasket""). Overall, however, Starr's many years of academic work and experience shaping water policies in the Middle East have yielded a work that is a must for anyone with a serious interest in the region's future.

Pub Date: June 8th, 1995
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Henry Holt