The critical environmental and sustainability issues of Tunisia are:
1.Education and Unemployment
Tunisia is a small country in Northern Africa with a population of 11.5 million people. According to UNESCO, the literacy rate between 15-24-year-olds was 96.1 percent in comparison to 39.77 percent of those 65 and older as of 2014. The World Bank reports that “the unemployment rate has remained around 15.5 percent and is particularly high among women (22.8 percent), graduates (29.4 percent) and in poor regions.” According to UNESCO, the education rate between young men and women in Tunisia is almost equal: In 2007, 96.7 percent of girls and 95.5 percent of boys were recorded to be in school.
2.Poverty and Inequality
According to a 2010 estimate, nearly 15.5 percent of Tunisians lived below the poverty line, whereas in 2014 the poverty rate was as high as 24.7 percent. Furthermore, the income inequality in Tunisia is dramatic – the top 20 percent of Tunisians earn 46.3 percent of the national income while the bottom 20 percent earn only 5.9 percent. Poverty affects those in central Tunisia at a higher rate than those on the outskirts of the country’s borders.
3.Increasing Water Demands
The main water uses are irrigation, tourism, industry and drinking water, totalling a combined annual volume of 2528 Mcm. The demand for irrigation is 2115 Mcm, or 84% of the total allowances, making agriculture by far the largest water consumer. Drinking water demand was estimated at 290 Mcm in 1996 and is projected to reach 491 Mcm by the year 2030. The water demand for industry is also projected to almost double between 1996 and 2030 going from 104 Mcm to 203 Mcm. The exploitation index of renewable resources, the degree to which renewable natural water is exploited, and the vulnerability of the country as regards cyclical shortages is estimated at 57 % for the period of 1990 to 1997 (Blue Plan, 2000). Above 50%, this index reveals high pressure on renewable fresh water resources and indicates the need for rationalizing the management of water uses and demands.
4.Health and Diseases
In recent years, the life expectancy at birth has increased while non-communicable diseases accounted for 72 percent of deaths. First and foremost, the concentration of doctors in Tunisia is remarkably uneven. The three governorates of Sfax, Tunis and Medinine all had around 3.3 to 3.5 doctors for every 1000 people. This demographic is particularly vulnerable too; according to the WHO, “approximately 75 percent of maternal mortality was due to avoidable causes, such as monitoring and postnatal follow-up in Tunisia as of 2008 compared to 46 percent in France as of 2006.” According to a WHO report, “regarding the HIV situation, recent behavioral data confirmed a concentrated HIV epidemic in key populations, mainly in men having sex with men (13 percent) and in injecting drug users (2.5 percent).
5.Hunger and Food Waste
Approximately 28 percent of the country’s rural-dwelling citizens are poor, coming out to around one million people. Food waste is a serious problem. Bread is the most wasted product with around 16 percent going uneaten. The Tunisian National Institute for Consumption states that food waste represents around 5 percent of food expenditures per year, coming out to the equivalent of about $197 million. The average family loses $7 on food waste per month. Currently, 10.9 percent of children of this category is considered to have stunted growth, meaning that their growth is below normal due to prolonged malnutrition. While the percentage of children affected has fallen since 2000, it is slowly on the incline, rising from 9 percent in 2005 to 10.9 percent last year.