Can NWSSIP save Yemen from water crisis? [Archives:2007/1064/Health]

July 2 2007
Photo from archived article: photos/1064/health1_1
Photo from archived article: photos/1064/health1_1
Amel Al-Ariqi
[email protected]

Yemen is officially classified in UN Human Development Reports not only as a water scarce country but a country facing a water crisis. Yemen lacks big rivers or lakes with its main water supply originating from rainfall or groundwater which already faces overexploitation. At the end of 2006, only 60% of the urban population and 37.5% of the rural population had access to water. The discrepancy between water consumption and available resources reached more than 1000 Mm_ in 2005, and this figure is increasing every year.

The above mentioned crisis has been pranced since the 1980s, ever since that time many environment experts believe that the best way to face this crisis is to plan and implement proper water resource management schemes in coordination with all the actors involved- the government, public and private sectors, foreign representatives, and civil society organizations.

This consideration has been translated into the National Water Sector Strategy and Investment Program, NWSSIP (2005-2009).

The NWSSIP is a consolidated strategy, action plan and investment program for the water sector, which faces complex development problems, its most serious challenge being scarcity of water resources and over-exploitation of aquifers.

To tackle these problems, the Ministry of Water and Environment, in cooperation with the Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation, has formed four sub-sectors: urban water and sanitation, rural water and sanitation, irrigation and water resources, with a total membership of more than 100 professionals, parliamentarians, donors and civil society representatives.

Work groups drafted the proposed strategy and investment program in 2004 to be discussed with a broad base of governmental representatives and donors.

The NWSSIP proposes a set of institutional and financial measures aimed at addressing the four sub-sectors in an attempt to work out solutions to Yemen's water crisis and protect stakeholders' interests in such resources. . The strategy, which covers the period 2005-2009, requires an investment of US$ 300 million per year with the key donors in the sector comprising the World Bank, Germany, and the Netherlands

After two years of approving this strategy, Yemen is still facing the same crisis, which becomes crystal-clear with time elapse with time passing. People keep on complaining of constant water cut off other trend to use polluted water in spite of their knowledge of its risks. Additionally random wells are being dug here and there by rich people, a phenomenon which leads to careless depletion of water sources.

Such attitudes and circumstances posed many questions about the efficiency of the proposed plan.

However, The Minister of Water and Environment Abdulrahman Alaryani confirmed that Yemen has the best water strategy and hydrocarbon preservation legislation in the Middle East, but such measures are yet to be put into action; “the problem lies in the implementation” he said.

The minister statement was proved in the first and second annual joint review of the strategy . These reviews were documented by a monitoring and evaluation unit to evaluate and measure implantation and results alongside NWSSIP targets.

The first annual review, was issued in 2005 revealed that limited financial sources stand in the way of achieving the goals of the NWSSIP.

The total five-year NWSSIP investment program is $153.8 million – 27.9 percent financed by the Yemeni government, 35.8 percent from donors and 36.3 percent as yet un-financed. Therefore, to achieve NWSSIP objectives, the water sectors require an estimated $307.6 million annual disbursement for each of the five years. Total disbursement was only $102 million in 2005, leaving an estimated funding gap of $205.6 million.

The second review, issued last week, showed also that NWSSIP actions in year 2006 were again under financed, making available only 52% of total requirements (2005 = 39%)

The review blamed in this regard the Yemeni government, represented by the finical ministry, which did not fulfill its commitment of providing the water sector budget with 30%. The ministry provided the water sector only with 10 % .

However, I don't consider limited financial sources is the main problem that facing NWSSIP” said Anwar Al-Sahooly, Chairman of the Technical Secretariat in water environment ministry, who added

“There are shortcomings from outside… We do not have the competent capacity to apply the projects, wither those fancied by the government or the donors. We are lack of qualified and training staff. So this year our focus will be on capacity building, software, which goes with career development”

He pointed out that some of the NWSSIP's goals may be reconsidered in terms of water services delivery ” we try not just to meet the strategy goals but also the Development Millennium Goals and that is a challenging tax, so we will do our best to get the capital capacity to meet these goals” he added.

Besides the limited financial support, both review repeated many obstacles and difficulties that prevent the complete implementation of many NSSIP'S targets, such as the Constant urban population growth part, constant random wells digging, expanding of qat planting, and lack of awareness regarding water management among locals.

There was slight difference of the first evaluation and the second: the first described the overall performance of the water sector by “moderately satisfactory.” , whereas the second review described the implantation of the strategy during 2006-2007 is “satisfactory.”

The tow evaluations gave the impartation that there is little happened in implantation process during these two years. That leads the donors to explain their concern “we are concerned that the implementation of agreed actions and recommendations of last years firs joint annual review workshop has been rather poor. This not only invalidates the efforts made to conduct this sector review, but also raises doubts about the seriousness in addressing identified shortcomings.” Said Annette Frick, who gave this statement on behalf of the Donor Core Group in the conference that held to discuss the second annual review.

“Donors have voiced repeatedly the need to advance, particularly on the water management front in terms of actions aimed at improving the highly deficient water resource balance” she added.

She insisted on that Water, or rather the water crisis, cannot be the responsibility of a single institution or a particular sector” it is one of the main development challenges Yemen faces today. The objective to reduce unsustainable groundwater abstraction in order to ensure availability of water for the livelihood of future generations deserves high political support and a combined effort by all.”

She concluded her statement by calling upon the government of Yemen to formally establish the Inter-ministerial Steering Committee (IMSC) under the auspices of HE the Prime Minister and make the Steering Committee fully responsible for the implementation of NWSSIP, related action plans and recommendations emanating from this JAR.