Kuwait Sustainability Issues

The critical environmental and sustainability issues of Kuwait:

  1. Unemployment

Kuwait’s unemployment rate increased to 2.09% in June 2018, from the previously reported number of 1.24% in June 2017. The data reached an all-time high of 2.23% in June 2011 and a record low of 0.71% in June 1999. The data is reported by CEIC Data. 

Kuwait’s population reached 4.62 million people in Dec 2018. The country’s Labour Force Participation Rate dropped to 73.82 % in Dec 2019.


  1. Economic Issues

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) said that Kuwait’s non-oil growth strengthened in 2019, but lower oil prices and output curbs are weighing on the oil sector, bringing the country’s overall growth to around 0.7 percent in 2019 from 1.2 percent in 2018. Its overall score has decreased by 1.4 points, the result of a steep drop in the score for judicial effectiveness and declining scores for government spending and monetary freedom. Kuwait is ranked 8th among 14 countries in the Middle East and North Africa region, and its overall score is below the regional average and exactly at the world average.


  1. Health System

Health systems are undergoing rapid change and the requirements for conforming to the new challenges of changing demographics, disease patterns, emerging and re-emerging diseases coupled with rising costs of health care delivery have forced a comprehensive review of health systems and their functioning. Some health systems fail to provide the essential services and some are creaking under the strain of inefficient provision of services. A number of issues including governance in health, financing of health care, human resource imbalances, access and quality of health services, along with the impacts of reforms in other areas of the economies significantly affect the ability of health systems to deliver. The frequency of medical errors in Kuwait was found to be high at 60.3% ranging from incidences of prolonged hospital stays (32.9%), adverse events and life-threatening complications (32.3%), and fatalities (20.9%). 


  1. Water Scarcity

With no permanent rivers or lakes, groundwater is Kuwait’s only natural water resource. In a report published by the World Resources Institute in August 2015, Kuwait is placed among nine of the highest-ranked countries that face an ‘extremely high water risk’ by 2040. The long-term average rainfall is around 121mm per annum; high evaporation rates and deficient soil moisture mean only a small percentage of this infiltrates aquifers. The country has almost no internally renewable sources of groundwater. It relies on an inflow of about 20 million m³ annually in lateral underflow from Saudi Arabia. For its freshwater resources Kuwait is dependent on desalinated seawater, its scarce natural groundwater and treated municipal wastewater; an optimum utilisation of all water resources is required for sustainable development. Kuwait’s water consumption is among the highest in the world with per capita consumption averaging 447 litres every day. The groundwater withdrawal rate is 255 million m³ per year, 12 times its annual groundwater inflow. Of total water withdrawn annually, 54 percent is used for agriculture, 44 percent for municipal purposes and 2 percent for industrial purposes. High rates of withdrawal are leading to increased salinity in the existing water supply. Desalination plants are the primary source of freshwater for drinking and domestic purposes in Kuwait, providing 92 percent of water for domestic and industrial needs and 60 percent of total water supply. There is no charge for the use of groundwater supplies, which leads to wasteful practices in agriculture and misuse of high-quality water.


  1. Carbon Emissions

Fossil CO2 emissions in Kuwait were 101,492,225 tons in 2016. CO2 emissions increased by 1.36% over the previous year, representing an increase by 1,358,741 tons over 2015, when CO2 emissions were 100,133,485 tons. CO2 emissions per capita in Kuwait are equivalent to 25.65 tons per person (based on a population of 3,956,875 in 2016), a decrease by -0.46 over the figure of 26.11 CO2 tons per person registered in 2015; this represents a change of -1.7% in CO2 emissions per capita. 

Kuwait is facing a wide array of climate change issues including rise in sea level, scarcity of water, desertification and loss of biodiversity. Since 1975, Kuwait has experienced 1.5oC to 2oC increase in temperature, which is significantly higher than the global average. In recent years, there has been a sharp change in rainfall patterns in Kuwait, which may be attributed to climate change impacts. Historically, the country used to experience 125mm of average rainfall per year which has now been replaced by sudden spells of rainfall and long dry intervals.

In addition, there has been marked increase in dust and sand storms in the last few decades which are noticeable signs of change in climatic conditions in Kuwait and other West Asian nations.