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Prospects of Saline Agriculture in the Arabian Peninsula

Edited by Faisal K. Taha, Shoaib Ismail, Abdullah Jaradat

US $79.95, 2004, 576 pp. ISBN: 1-884940-32-3

This Proceedings presents a comprehensive review of the prospects for saline agriculture in the Gulf
Cooperation Council countries. In the six Gulf Cooperation Council counties of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman,
Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, only 170 – 200 cubic meters of renewable water
resources are available per person per year. This is less than 3 percent of the global average.

Nevertheless, agriculture still consumes the largest proportion of the freshwater in the region. The
withdrawal for irrigation in the six Gulf Cooperation Council countries is 85 percent. Only 15 percent is
used for domestic and industrial purposes.

Unfortunately the use of freshwater for agriculture per person is higher in the Gulf Cooperation Council
countries than the global use per person because of the aridity and high summer temperatures over much
of the region. Thus, irrigation in agriculture assumes a greater significance. Even in areas where the
environmental conditions preclude intensive agriculture, there is a growing demand for water in
horticulture and landscaping. In the six Gulf Cooperation Council countries, the area planted to
horticultural crops increases by 12 – 15 percent per annum form 1980 to 1999.

Hence, saline agriculture will become increasingly important because, in the Arabian Peninsula, water
resources will be exhausted within the next 20 years unless consumption of fresh water is reduced.

Recent advances in biosaline agriculture and salt-tolerant crops now merit assessment of saline water
resources and their potential for agricultural use. Moreover, there have been rapid advances around the
world in the use of saline water for irrigation, including development of irrigation systems, improved water
management and control of salinity within the root zone.

Biosaline agriculture technologies use salty water productively. Plants that tolerate salt in water and soil
are being evaluated for productive use, perhaps replacing varieties that will only grow in sweet soil
irrigated by fresh water. If economically useful plants are grown with salty water on saline land, more food
and feed can be made available globally and land abandoned because the soil has become saline can be
put to economic and sustainable agricultural use. Making the use of saline water for agriculture will relive
pressure on the scarce freshwater resources.

This Proceedings is therefore timely and makes an important contribution to furthering the development of
agriculture using saline water. The papers will proved and invaluable reference and source of information.

Thanks and appreciation are extended to the Islamic Development Bank (IDB), the International Center
for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA), and the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries (MAF),
in the United Arab Emirates for their support for the Symposium and this Proceedings.

Dr. Mohammad Al-Attar

Chairman, Board of Directors, and Director General International Center for Biosaline Agriculture (ICBA)

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