Arbitrary Planning & Lack of Sense of Responsibility This is Why Sanaa is Suffering from a Backward Sewerage System [Archives:2001/16/Reportage]

April 16 2001

Jalal Al-Shar’abi
Yemen Times
Many streets in many Yemeni towns and cities lack any proper sewerage system planning, which poses great health and environmental hazards. Sana’a, the capital, was a telling example of such a situation. The problem of water and sanitation has been an aching headache agitating the residents for many years. The old backward and random sewerage network has not only intensified suffering of the people. It has also made companies winning tenders of fixing this system fall in the trap as the infrastructure of the sewage system is completely ruined.
A direct correlative result is the sewage swamps in streets and alleys. This is the case throughout the year, except for occasions of national festivals or visits of high foreign delegations when the authorities concerned assign some companies to conduct temporary repairs to portray a rosy picture of a real misery. No sooner had the delegation left or the occasion is over than the situation is as bad as ever. This has, furthermore, created new hurdles and obstacles in this regard.
So far, officials concerned have never come up with the goods for real efforts to put an end to this problem. Except for al-Rehab Engineering and Construction Company sewerage project in the Western al-Akmah. It is an exemplary model worth all praise and appreciation.
Sewage overflowing in various areas of the capital is actually the challenge of the newly appointed officials in the Environment, Water and Sanitation Ministries in the newly formed government.
Companies winning tenders to conduct reforms in the sewerage system project worried about different drawbacks which obstruct the launching the reforms. The most serious being the overflowing sewage in streets and alleys, great number of cesspools, a random and backward network, low cables of electricity and telephone, and people’s use of cesspools to get rid of stagnant rain water, etc.
Moreover, improper and arbitrary planning of houses has impeded access of tools and machines to these streets and alleys. Some houses are very old and could hardly withstand the impact of machines. This, more often than not, leads to problems with house-owners. Sewage pipes were also sometimes found mixed with drinking water pipes constituting a health disaster.
Eng. Essam Maki, sewage system project manager, Sana’a, Taiz, Aden and Mukalla governorates, told YT “The Arab Fund presented $ 60 million to conduct reforms in the sewage system in various areas in the capital of Sana’a Including Sawad Hanash, the Eastern al-Safiah, the main street from Saba roundabout to the Finance Ministry, etc.”
He viewed what has been achieved in the western al-Akmah a remarkable progress and that the project was an astounding success in that area despite all the difficulties faced.
The question that remains hanging is “Which companies are going to conduct the reforms in the remaining areas and will they be as responsible as the al-Rehab Company?
Now, there is no plausible excuse on the part of authorities concerned. The loan is too big and is enough to conduct all the reforms if it is used in a proper, transparent and responsible way.
Swamped Sewage Poses Health Hazards:
Various health studies point out various health hazards resulting from the lack of a sewage system, indicating that many diseases including Malaria and Anemia are caused mainly by stagnant sewage.
Dr. Mohammed al-Kamali, pediatrician in Hayel Street, said “Tests on many children, leads us to the conclusion that these diseases are mainly caused due to sewage spread in streets and alleys. Many cases took a long period of time to recover due to unhealthy surroundings.
Malaria is the most rampant disease due to these swamps of sewage, besides, children suffered from colic complaints due to polluted water. Results of tests confirmed that drinking water is mixed with sewage water.”
A health official in the capital said that sewage overflowing in streets is posing tremendous environmental and health hazards. Good and clean environments make strong and clean bodies, consequently enabling active participation in all the activities of life.
Economics of Sewage Hazards:
A healthy environment including clean and well-paved streets are a crucial requirement for trade in any country. It is clear that swamped sewage has had a considerable impact on the trade in many areas of the capital. An illustration in point is the case of Hayel street which used to be full of hustle and bustle some years ago. However, sewage flooding this street has given a defeating blow to trade. Most of the merchants and shop-owners have suffered heavy losses, especially restaurant owners.
Mr. No’man al-Asbahi, al-Bawraji shops, in Hayel street, said “Our sales have improved a little recently after many years of heavy losses due to the sewage which made the street impassable. I do not know how officials concerned shrugged off and did not care about this suffering. When al-Rehab company started drawing out designs we expected that it was doomed to failure. However, the company managed to overcome all the difficulties and allowed us to smell fresh air again. We highly appreciate this.”
Moreover, more than once the state has already borne heavy financial burdens due to the building of roads without heeding the infrastructure of the sewage network. This resulted in superficial reforms which soon failed.
Challenges Before the Water & Sanitation Reform:
It seems pretty clear that capital secretary, is going to be sacked from his current post. Change is sure to befall him as he recklessly disregarded this vital issue. He also fully realizes that there are many streets in Sana’a which are no longer fit for driving or walking and that stagnant sewage has become an inescapable sight, especially for those coming from Sana’a airport along al-Rawdah street. What an achievement he has made while in office!!
Now completion of the sewerage network in the capital is a top priority. We propose to officials concerned, especially as a national company proved that they can rise to the expectations. The al-Akmah project is an example to be followed.
Difficulties facing the sewage system are too many, including the large number of cesspools and their thick covers reaching 1m, overflowing sewage, traffic jams, a ruined old sewage network and densely populated areas.
Moreover, many engineering companies carrying out projects suffer due to the missing of tools and materials from the working sites, said the Western al-Akmah project manager. He added “At places, digging is quite difficult due to rocks. Stagnant sewage is quite a big problem as it impedes the digging processes. The people are also part of the problem, as they open, either knowingly or in reckless disregard, the cesspools’ covers for the stagnant rain water. This damages and sometimes ruins the sewage network. Lack of sub paved roads is also another problem for this work that pressures the company to do the work quickly as it creates traffic problems.
Proposals to Put an end to Sewage Network Problem:
Many proposals have been submitted by the authorities concerned, to solve the problem of water and sanitation. One of these is to conduct the overall designing of the sewage network in the capital and ask for bids which are to be tested transparently and objectively.
This shows the importance of making use of all fields survey conducted in the capital which should be given to the Yemeni engineers’ cadre. This will allow them to have a hand in it since they have proven to be competent.
Foreign as well as local companies working in this direction are to be monitored and observed by the authorities concerned to see that work is carried out according to the standard specifications and designs. National interest and sense of responsibility is to be stressed here to put an end to this major headache.
No doubt there are lots of major issues before the new government, and the question is will it be able to overcome these obstacles?
Finally, we send a token of appreciation to all those who have done something to solve this problem. One is the al-Rehab company for the constructions. We do hope that the officials concerned will heed these remarks and be up to the expectations to make the capital clean and beautiful. This can never be achieved unless there is a real, sincere and determined attitude, on the part of those in charge to solve the situation before it is too late.
Other authorities including electricity, telecommunication, water, and environment have to coordinate with the water and sanitation authority to make this a success. After finishing the fixing of the sewage network, roads have to be paved and cleaned to reflect a lovely picture of our city.
The new government is now put to the test and the people will soon come to see if it is a government of change or a copy of the former one.