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Shahbaz - harnessing traditional knowledge and scientific innovations

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  • 1. Harnessing Traditional Knowledge and Scientific InnovationsMohammad Shahbaz, Advisor, National Center for Research & DevelopmentHistorically Asia has been a water wise turbulent region, coupled with stressesand hopes of innovations. One of the major deficiencies in this region is ariditythat leads to water resources scarcity. The availability of those resources orotherwise have created competition among nations with deep rooted conflicts.In a recently published article by Whitehead P.G. reveals that the Dead Searegion (meaning the eastern basin of the Mediterranean) was subjected totemperature rise after the last ice age, with relatively little change thereafter.Rainfall, however, shows significant variation with higher rainfall in the earlyHolocene dropping irregularly towards modern levels from around 8000 BP,intermediating a brief wet phase around 5000 BP. Followed by a rapid decline inrainfall after 5000 BP leading to longer periods of dry conditions.Evidently the rising temperatures and declining moisture through historic eras inWest Asia forced the residing populations to adapt to those conditions. Inessence modern day water scarcity and its prevailing impacts are subject tothose arid conditions forced by nature on the said region.Ancient history documented various approaches of the populations occupyingWest Asia to satisfy their dyer needs either by force or innovative methods tocapitalize on the available water resources. In many cases both force andinnovation were applied to overcome scarcity, the Romans concurred theNabataeans to copy ancient water harvesting technique, and employ them inmega projects emphasizing state majesty. However, history exhibits theingenuity of the Nabataeans in water resources management, more importantlytheir excellence is witnessed in the facade of Petra for refined water collection,storage and distribution systems. No doubt the issue of security was their primedriver for excellence; hence the Romans had to block their water sources toconcur.In the early 40s Svend Helms discovered the Lost City of the Black Desert, Jawa,at the north east of Jordan. It was revealed that Jawa was established in the EarlyBronze Age, with a population of 6000 people. In the mean time the city itselfwas supplied with water through a magnificent water cistern, using flood controlstructures from Wadi Rajil, such as diversion dams, and a unique water storagesystem split into two parts: one for sanitary use by the population; the other forwatering livestock. It has been speculated that a third part was employed forirrigating agricultural crops. 1
  • 2. Those inherent water resources management practices formed a knowledgeplatform still widely used by communities and individuals, modern terminologydefines it as “Traditional Knowledge”. Although those models are based on trialand error withstanding the test of time are valid in application. Generations aftergenerations made use of this knowledge to the advantage of their communities,perhaps with modifications as they come.The living example today is the Marib Dam, “the site of the great dam (SuddMarib) is upstream (south-west) of the ancient city of Marib, once the capital ofthe Kingdom of Sabaa, believed to be the kingdom of the legendary Queen ofSheba. The Kingdom of Sabaa was a prosperous trading nation, with control ofthe frankincense and spice routes in Arabia and Abyssinia. The Sabaens built thedam to capture the periodic monsoon rains which fall on the nearby mountainsand so irrigate the land around the city. Recent archaeological findings suggestthat simple earth dams and a canal network were constructed as far back as2000 BC. The building of the first Marib dam began somewhere between 1750BC and 1700 BC”. Evidently the modern dam was built by the Yamanigovernment in the vicinity based on the profound ancient site selection criteriafor the same purpose.In conclusion of the traditional knowledge section a scientific based integratedeffort should be placed in the WANA region, to elaborate on the documentationof the exceedingly rich heritage in water resources management practices.Capitalizing on the lessons learned and adding knowledge to the modern sciencebase.Innovation existed since the creation of mankind, purposefully serving as theplatform for human civilization progress ever since. Innovation and innovatorsare always there, but need the appropriate incubation to lead them forward.One witnesses the excelling domestic human resources leaking to the industrialworld without any return due failures in the support systems: no adaption, noincentives, and short comings in the legal frameworks leading to frustration.Innovation is driven by creativity and originality from childhood in individuals,fostered by a profound inventive culture in the society, characterized byprecision and endurance.In modern societies with advanced thinking appropriate systems are formulatedto embody such individuals that have exceptional performances leading toinnovation.Such initiative must be capitalized upon in our societies if a positive change isdesired. The essence of this change must target youth with objective programs,programs that include adoption of distinguished individuals with the followingpotential: 2
  • 3. 1. Curiosity that is associated with problem solving, 2. Inclination towards exploration and detection, 3. Brilliance, 4. Imagination, 5. Dedication, 6. Resourcefulness, 7. Independence, and 8. Adventurous.The incentive within such a framework is preservation and protection of patencyrights, a key factor that needs much improvement in our governing systems. Theappropriate recognition (patents) of those innovators is the enablingenvironment, which provides security and incentive; further more it feeds thewheels of development to reach new heights for better future. 3

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