Dr. Mohammed al-Mashjary to Yemen Times: Public Awareness of Environment Protection is Instrumental for EPA’s Mission [Archives:2002/05/Interview]

January 28 2002

The issue of environment protection and preservation is topping the agendas of all governments all over the world. Yet, the Republic of Yemen is one of the countries facing grave environmental problems mostly in all its related aspects. Lack of sufficient funding and inadequate financial resources as well as the weak technical and institutional capabilities play a major role in the government’s inability to contain these problems.
In an attempt to know more about the activities of the Environment Protection Authority (EPA), Ismael al-Ghabiri met Dr. Mohammed Said al-Mashjary, Chairman of the EPA and filed the following interview.
Q: How do you assess the environmental situation in Yemen and what are its major problems?
A:Yemen pays attention to the protection of environment and the conservation of natural resources. Currently, Yemen faces a lot of environmental critical issues, such as the degradation of agricultural land, desertification problems, air pollution in the major cities, poverty, high population growth rate, health insecurity, and a host of other problems that further worsen the situation.
Yemen as one of the least developed countries (LDC) drastically suffers from the shortage of resources. These environmental problems will certainly pose a real threat to the future of Yemen if no positive steps are taken to solve these problems. Some of these major environmental problems have started to be dealt with and considered through the environment-related projects sponsored and funded by some international organizations, such as UNDP, World Bank, GEF and other donor countries like the European Union, the Netherlands, Italy, Japan, Poland and other Arab and friendly countries.
Q: What has Yemen done with regard to its participation in the 2nd World Summit on Sustainable Development?
A: Yemen which has signed and ratified most of the international conventions related to environment and is fulfilling its commitments towards the full implementation of these conventions is now actively preparing its national report which will be presented to the Earth Summit-2 or RIO + 10 conference to be held in September 2002 in Johannesburg, South Africa. A preparatory committee for the preparation of the national report on environment and sustainable development has been set up by a ministerial decree. It has started working under the leadership of HE Mr. Abdulmalik al-Iryani, Minster of Tourism & Environment (MTE) and with the membership of various concerned agencies, governmental and non-governmental organizations, as well as women and youth associations, private sector, academia and others. The summit met several times and a workshop was organized as well. The outcomes of the workshop recommended forming 6 working groups in the following environment-related fields: Biodiversity – terrestrial and marines, water and pollution, women’s role in sustainable development, population & health, poverty and environment, and the role of NGOs in environment protection.
The working groups are going to submit their reports by the end of February 2002 to the preparatory committee. The final national report is expected to be in its first draft-form by early March 2002. A national country-wide forum will be held at the end of March 2002, where the draft national report will be discussed and adopted by the participants in the forum. After adopting the draft report, it will be referred to the cabinet for approval. At the same time regional coordination among the Arab countries through the Arab League is taking place. Several meetings of Arab countries have been held in Cairo, Beirut and Bahrain to prepare a unified Arab report to be presented at the Earth Summit-2 in Johannesburg.
Q: What is the role of EPA in addressing environment problems?
A: The Environment Protection Authority is implementing projects and conducting surveys and studies to identify these problems. The EPA has conducted a series of workshops, symposiums and conferences, where all organization and institutions participated in identifying these problems and studying the ways and means in finding appropriate solutions.
Q: What are the national policies and strategies adopted by the EPA in this respect?
A: EPA has prepared and participated with other governmental bodies in drafting different strategies and policies for the improvement of the environment and the conservation of natural resources. The main strategies are the biodiversity strategy, desertification strategy, water strategy, poverty alleviation strategy and others are currently considered to be the tools for the preparation of national action plans on various environment related issues. The EPA has also prepared the National Environmental Action Plans which is a very important tool to minimize these problems, by taking the necessary and positive actions in this regard.
Q: How the EPA is attentive to qualifying its cadre?
A: EPA With the assistance of international organizations and other donor countries have improved and upgraded the national staff capacity, and currently qualified Yemeni specialists are filling important positions within EPA and other relevant institutions.
Q: Public Awareness of environment protection is instrumental in its sustainability. How the EPA is interacting with the public in this domain?
A: Raising public awareness of environmental issues is one of the main objectives of the EPA. Public awareness programs and education have raised the awareness of people towards environment through making the utmost use of media in its various forms i.e. TV, radio, printed media and by conducting educational lectures at schools, institutes, universities, etc.