Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Yemen's water crisis looms

Yemen Post: ….Located within a dry and semi-arid area, Yemen is among the world's poorest countries in water resources. The Yemeni individual's share of water per year is among the lowest worldwide. Yemen's average annual rainfall ranges from 500 to 800 mm in the high lands, 50 to 100 in the coastal areas and less than 50 mm in the desert areas.

….Only 4 percent of Yemen's total area is apt for agriculture, while the rest is waste and desert lands. Two thirds of this area is cultivated with cereals, 15 percent by vegetables and fruits, 10 percent with livestock grass and 9 percent for qat trees. Being lucrative, the area cultivated with qat is markedly expanding. Yemen depends primarily for water on rain as well as underground water. Yemen enjoys desert climate and this is the reason for the low rainfall. Unlike some Arab countries like Syria, Egypt, Lebanon and Iraq, the country has no rivers.

Qat contributes about 5 percent of GDP, some 29 percent of the total agricultural value added. It absorbs 1/4 of agricultural workforce. However, it is one of the key reasons for the speedy depletion of water resources.

…The depletion of water resources in some rural areas forced their inhabitants to emigrate to nearby cities or the capital, therefore causing a bigger crisis in cities where there is over-demand on water, electricity, sanitation services, hospitals and schools. Water experts expect the crisis of water in Yemen to loom especially under the unprecedented hot weather and climate change.

…Specialists suggest that the Ministry of Water and Environment should promote water-saving irrigation systems, especially when 3/4 of underground water is consumed for irrigation following traditional means. They also stress that the ministry should promote public awareness on the social impacts of water resources depletion. It must also points to the negative effects behind irrational consumption of water as well as the random drilling of water wells.

Further, experts see that it is important to build more dams and barriers across the nation in order to make the utmost use of floods and rain falls during rainy seasons. It should also adopt the traditional system for rain harvesting as for digging water cisterns and reservoirs which could help enrich underground water and irrigate crops under dryness.

Water Ministry presented three years ago an integrated strategy for addressing the water crisis in the country. This strategy advocates rationalizing the use of underground water and preventing any future drilling of wells especially in those basins close to depletion….

Photo of the town of Jibla in Yemen by Bernard Gagnon, Wikimedia Commons, under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation license, Version 1.2

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