Insights from Dario Scannapieco, Vice-President of the European Investment Bank, into the key ingredients for the emergence of a water and energy community around the Mediterranean.
What are the biggest challenges for the Mediterranean region in the 21st century?
Despite their differences, Mediterranean countries face the common challenges of developing strong socio-economic infrastructure, improving economic performance and creating job opportunities for their populations. They also face common environmental challenges: climate change and demographic trends are contributing to unsustainable strains on the environment, notably on fresh water resources – in what is already the most water-scarce region of the world. Dry regions are becoming even drier and water quality is gradually being degraded by pollution and unsustainable consumption. Population movements, such as the Syrian refugee crisis, have exacerbated these strains, particularly around urban areas where they tend to concentrate. The problems are not confined to urban areas but rather, to whole catchment areas, with cities competing for water with rural areas, notably the agricultural sector.
Our investments around the Mediterranean aim to support low-carbon and climate-resilient growth and to make water security a priority.
To sustain healthy societies, it is essential that solutions are found for the appropriate management of resources. Water security can often be improved with appropriate policy measures, sound management and consumer behaviour adjustments such as through sustainable agriculture. But this is not enough. Significant investments are needed in order to upgrade obsolete or inefficient supply systems, and to provide new infrastructure altogether. In coastal areas, desalination is an option; and inland, advanced wastewater treatment for reuse in agriculture for example is better than tapping into pristine sources. However, these solutions are expensive and should be considered carefully whether they are justified.