As the water crisis in Jordan deepens, the countryâ€™s ministry of religious affairs is urging citizens to hold special prayers for rain. The move comes after a significant delay in the rainy season and five successive years of limited rainfall which threatens the countryâ€™s water supplies.
Jordan has no significant rivers or lakes of it own and so relies on rainfall to replenish underground aquifers and reservoirs for water. The special Muslim prayer called Salat al-Istisqa, which has been practised since the time of the Prophet Muhammed (s) who would pray for rain in Mecca whenever the rainy season was late, is being carried out in the water-dry country.
â€œUnprecedented Absence of Rainâ€
Thousands took part in prayers for rain in Amman in early December and hundreds of Jordanians also participated in an open-air prayer event organised by the Muslim Brotherhood in late November.
The government has announced precautionary measures such as reducing the amount of water sent to farms whilst sustaining the domestic water supply to tackle the crisis. The Ministry of Water and Irrigation is also drafting an emergency water plan following the â€œunprecedented absence of rainâ€ to help better manage the scare amounts of water stored in dams over the next five months. There will also be an evaluation carried out to assess the causes behind several water cuts, delays due to high water demand and reoccurring power outages.
And itâ€™s not only Jordan that is suffering this year. A hot summer and delayed rainfall in Lebanon has also threatening the availability of water in the countryâ€™s major springs. According to the meteorology bureau, Lebanon has had only 51.2 millimetres of rain since September which is dramatically down from the 214.8 millimetres during the same period last year.
A Region In (Water) Crisis
In fact, the entire MENA region is water scarce and heading towards more problems if more drastic action isnâ€™t taken. A report by the Arab Forum for Environment and Development (AFED) found that the regionâ€™s per capita share of water is declining and could fall from 1000 cubic metres (already below the level of water scarcity) to below 500 cubic metres as early as 2015. To help you put these figures into perspective- the world average water share per capita is 6500 cubic metres.
The report also highlighted the fact that the Arab region is one of the driest in the world- 70% of the land is dry and rainfall is sparse- and the effects of climate change will only exacerbate the situation. AFED added: â€œWithout fundamental changes in policies and practices, the situation will get worse, with drastic social, political and economic ramifications.â€
Whilst some have questioned the practicality of praying for rain, the act could be a vital way of highlighted the issue of water scarcity to the wider Jordanian population. Coupled with some practical advice on how to preserve water and also limit waste, it could be an effective measure in reducing the scale of the problem. As I have written before, working within the Islamic framework could be a useful and meaningful way to tackle the issue of water scarcity in the Muslim world.