Pipeline could rein in Emirates’ desalination investment

A giant pipeline between Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) could stem the Middle Eastern states’ investment in desalination according to an Emirates businessman.

Chief executive of carwash franchise, Geowash, Abdulla Al Shehi, has suggested an underground 500-km pipeline from Pakistan’s river Dasht to Fujairah could provide the solution to the Emirates’ persistent water shortage. He claimed to see no technical, political or other problems that would impede such a project.

Al Shehi - whose carwash system uses less than 2% of the water needed in conventional systems, said excess water from the Dasht River’s annual floods that was routinely channelled to the sea could be put to use in the UAE.

Chief executive of the UAE’s research institute, Masdar, Dr Ahmad Belhoul, said although it was investing heavily in researching renewable energy to fuel desalination plants, he welcomed new ideas. “I think that the very spirit of creating a company like Masdar is to encourage people to come up with ideas, some which are very practical and others more ambitious,” he said.

Al Shehi said the pipeline could produce “”an environmental impact.” But he foresaw that the benefits in saving water from desalination would offset those effects.

However, water expert, Professor Hussein Amery, warned that the proposed pipeline would be fraught with political issues. He added that even if those hurdles were overcome the pipeline would not be efficient because some 70% of water in the UAE was used in agriculture. “It’s much cheaper and much more efficient to have the Pakistanis grow wheat and feed cows, then export the food,” Amery said.