A fast-depleting water table and the challenges posed by desertification are shrinking arable land in Qatar. Rapid deterioration in the quality of water has resulted in agriculturists abandoning several farms located adjacent to the coastal strip. This has followed the overexploitation of resources in the country.
A recently- published document by the UN says the groundwater reservoir in Qatar has declined by 25 percent in the 12 years covered by the study period. Over the years, a major share of the tapped ground water is being used for irrigating farms.
A decrease in the available water for irrigation has now led to deterioration and desertification of the farms.
Qatar has an estimated 28,000 hectares of arable land. A recent document released by Qatar Science and Technology Park (QSTP) said farmers were forced to abandon 293 out of a total of 1,285 registered farms in Qatar due to the overexploitation of groundwater.
"Overexploitation has resulted in increasing salinity levels in groundwater due to salt water intrusions, from 71 to160 per cent. The overuse of groundwater has resulted in the disappearance of many springs," the document said.
The UN document says: "The accumulated groundwater deficit calculated during the period 1972-1995 reached 994 million cubic metres (MCM), more than one-third of the 1977 estimate of total groundwater reserves in the country (2,500 MCM). Consequently, groundwater levels have dropped up to 0.5-1.10 metres per year and the quality of water deteriorates due to seawater ingress and to the intrusion of saline water from deeper aquifers. The estimated safe yield of the aquifer, based on the calculated average natural recharge over the last 20 years, is of the order of 35 MCM/ yr."
Considering the current trends towards an ever-increasing amount of groundwater exploitation, it is estimated that the remaining groundwater reserves will be severely depleted within 10 years.
Consequently, agriculture will face a crisis, hit by an acute shortage of adequate water for irrigation
The salinity of the water in the southern parts of the country is higher than that in the north.
The country's reserves of fresh groundwater are concentrated in the north, where the fresh water body floats on saline groundwater which is saturating a lower part of the Umm er-Radhuma formation.
Desertification is leading to large-scale land degradation in Qatar, including the loss of plant productivity, biodiversity and soil fertility.
The causes of desertification in Qatar are basically three — a drop in groundwater levels, an increase in salinity of the groundwater and encroachment of sand on agricultural land. .
Sand dunes in Qatar cover about 1,500 sq km or about 13 percent of the country's total area. Other sand formations cover five percent.
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