Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Yemen could become first nation to run out of water

Judith Evans in the Times (UK): …Yemen is set to be the first country in the world to run out of water, providing a taste of the conflict and mass movement of populations that may spread across the world if population growth outstrips natural resources.

Government and experts agree that the capital, Sanaa, has about ten years at current rates before its wells run dry but the city of two million continues to grow as people are forced to leave other areas because of water shortages.

In Yemen, which is fighting three insurgencies, the battle lines of tribal wars have traditionally followed the lines of the wadis, desert valleys that become rivers when the rare rains fall. Amid one of the world’s highest rates of population growth — 3.46 per cent last year — the water shortage has become critical and is driving civil unrest.

Hannan, an 18-year-old mother of one from Lahej, near Aden, said that only the comparatively well-off could plan for cuts in supply. “In a good week we’ll have a water supply all week but then the following week there will be water only for a day or two,” she said. She and her husband, a factory worker, pay 3,000 riyals (£9) for a week’s supply of water from a touring water truck when the taps run dry. With an income of only 20,000 riyals (£60) per month, this means the family often spend half their income on water.

….Water available across Yemen amounts to 100 to 200 cubic metres per person per year, far below the international water poverty line of 1,000 cubic metres....

A view in Sana'a, shot by Tyabji, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0 License

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