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Middle East centre to tackle desalination research


Oman relies on desalination for much of its drinking water

Mohamed Alian
7 July 2006
Source: SciDev.Net

[MUSCAT] The Oman-based Middle East Desalination Research Center is preparing to conduct research for the first time since it was set up in late 1996.

Until now, the centre has only funded and managed research projects in the region, but from next year it will begin its own research programmes in laboratories currently under construction in the capital Muscat.

Its director Koussai Quteishat says that Lebanon and Syria are the only two countries in the Middle East with adequate water supplies according to the United Nations' definition of levels 'critical for development'.

He predicts that long before 2050, every country in the region will face dire water shortages that only desalination technology can avert.

Desalination involves purifying salty or brackish water by removing dissolved salts. Oman currently supplies 61 per cent of its annual residential water using this approach.

Quteishat says that the research centre's main aim is to find ways to make desalination less expensive.

Though he believes that desalination is the top technological approach for increasing water supplies in the region, Quteishat emphasises the need for other measures, such as recycling water and reducing consumption.

He points out that Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, which provide water for free, use more per person than anywhere else in the world.

Since 1996, the Middle East Desalination Research Center has funded 55 research projects involving researchers from 34 countries. It also provides scholarships for regional students taking higher degrees in desalination science, and conducts workshops in the Middle East and North Africa.


Egypt announces 15-year education strategy


A researcher analyses samples of virus at the University of Cairo, Egypt

Wagdy Sawahel
6 July 2006
Source: SciDev.Net

Egypt has announced a series of initiatives intended to strengthen its scientific research and higher education sectors.

In the latest move, Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak this week (3 July) approved a 15-year strategy for higher education whose aims include increasing the proportion of students who study at scientific institutions from 40 to 60 per cent.

Under the plans, Egypt will establish two private and 13 state universities this year. These will include universities specialising in engineering and in medical and pharmacological sciences.

Egypt also plans to build specialised international universities for technology and industry in cooperation with international partners. Discussions are already under way to establish universities in Egypt in collaboration with China and Japan.

The plans, drawn up by the Supreme Council of Universities, include improving staff-to-student ratios in science universities to one to 20.

They also call for the creation of foreign branches of Egyptian universities to promote the transfer of technologies to other Arabic, Islamic and African countries. In addition to its branch in Sudan, Cairo University is already considering plans to set up a new branch in Bahrain.

Egypt is also strengthening its scientific links with Europe. Last month (21 June), it agreed a science and technology action plan with the European Union (EU).

The plan, which will be adopted by autumn 2006, focuses on increasing Egyptian researchers' awareness of opportunities to collaborate with European partners such as through the EU's Seventh Framework Programme (FP7). 

It will assess the possibility of a Mediterranean Technology Platform to foster public-private partnerships between researchers, industry and policymakers in the region.

The EU said it would allocate 11 million euros (US$14 million) over four years for a new Euro-Mediterranean Partnership to support research and development in Egypt. This will twin small and medium-size enterprises with researchers at publicly-funded institutions.

Earlier last month (15 June), Egypt launched a US$17.4 million research fund that will focus on connecting researchers with industry to promote technology transfer.



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