Some people wonder – and some have gone so far as to ask me directly – what an investment banker like myself is doing promoting awareness about the scarcity of drinking water. ‘Why would he care?’ they say.
The answer is simple. Water is essential to human life and, as humans, our bodies are almost entirely comprised of H20. We need it to survive. While we can go a month, say, without food, our bodies cannot survive a week without water.
Being a father of three, I want my children to grow up respecting this key natural resource and possessing the right habits and attitudes towards how they consume it in order to keep it available for future generations. And these are ideas that not just my children need to take on board – the Middle East and the wider world needs to listen too.
Since the establishment of our BMG Foundation – an NGO offshoot of investment bank BMG Financial Group – almost 15 years ago, we have been supporting different credible child-focused charities as part of our belief in the wellbeing of our most valuable human capital: future generations.
In 2030, less than 20 years from now, the average supply of water will have reduced by a third. In the twentieth century, the world population tripled and the use of water has multiplied sixfold. By the middle of this century, the world’s population will reach nine billion and most of these new arrivals will be born in countries already experiencing water shortages.
As a Saudi, I have a duty to spread awareness of our water problem – indeed Saudis are the third biggest per capita consumers of water on the planet. Even though a person only requires 48 litres of water on a daily basis, individuals in the US use an average of 500 litres, in Canada an average of 300 litres and in Saudi Arabia an average of 250 litres. The consumption sounds huge but factor in washing, taking baths and using dishwashers and washing machines – the litres quickly mount up.
Despite Saudi Arabia’s and other Middle Eastern countries’ high water consumption, it is estimated that 37.7 million Arabs are still deprived of access to clean water. Globally, one in three people lack access to adequate sanitation and one in eight people do not have access to safe drinking water.
A quarter of all clean water that enters our homes is used to flush toilets: one toilet flush uses 11 litres of water while at the same time millions of people in the developing world live on 12 litres a day. With such a wide disparity in consumption, it is critical that we spread awareness and inform the world’s largest consumers about the simple methods that can be used to better conserve water and make sure there is more for the world to share. And there are simple steps people can take to be more responsible. Brushing your teeth with the tap running, for example, consumes around 15 litres of water; turning the tap off while brushing consumes just one litre. A small effort makes a huge difference.
With shocking statistics about the water-related diseases which claim the lives of children every 15 seconds, one should pause for a second to reflect on what we must urgently do as world citizens. Talking about it is not enough. Serious action and drastic measures are crucial to make a difference. The core aim of our foundation is to bring the East and West together through positive steps of change. Unless we act now, what sort of East and West will we have in 50 years time?
Thousands of reports have been written and millions of pounds have been spent on research for technological advances like water desalination and reuse. But what is the point if world attitudes towards consumption don’t start to change?
Changing attitudes is a mammoth task and it takes at least a generation to make an impact. Through our efforts starting the ‘Our Water, Our Life’ initiative, we are raising awareness about bad habits at a household level. Initiatives include pressurising industrialists to manufacture smarter washing machines, contractors to install smarter bathrooms and gardeners to apply smarter irrigation methods. The list goes on.
This is a shared cause – a cause where Eastern and Western nations can unite under a common banner. Of huge concern is the notion that future wars – be it a decade, 20 or 30 years away – will be fought over precious natural resources, notably water. If we apply the diplomacy of water, who says we can’t start using water as a tool of peace for the survival of our future generations?
In aid of Corporate Cultural Responsibility
Founder Basil Al Ghalayini’s idea was to bring together high profile business and social leaders from the East and West with a shared noble intent. Over the last decade, BMG Foundation has raised funds for needy children in Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Lebanon and the UK, raised appreciation of sport and high art culture in the region and brought the East closer to the West.
BMG Foundation will harness all its efforts at addressing the crucial issue of water preservation, a global predicament with particular pressing urgency in the Middle East. BMG Foundation seeks to employ Arab youth innovatives to design effective campaigns with the aim of raising awareness for water preservation.