Eng. Abdulaziz Mahyoub to Yemen Times”We are in dire need to increase our water resources” [Archives:2005/866/Health]

August 8 2005
Eng. Abdulaziz Mahyoub
Eng. Abdulaziz Mahyoub
Ridhwan al-Saqqaf
Yemen Times Aden Bureau

Most water basins in Yemen are subject to heavy consumption because of a dramatic rise in demand for water, as the population rate keeps growing, in addition to the expansion in agricultural and industrial projects. Wells are drilled indiscriminately and in large numbers. All this has led to a sharp decline in underground water reserves and to varying waters' degrees of saltiness, according to conducted studies and regular well surveys.

Like other areas in the country, Aden province has seen increased urban activities in different aspects due to the population growth and availability of a wide range of investment options – economic, social, etc. The same is true for neighboring areas in Lahj and Abyan. The agricultural areas have widened and new lands have been cultivated. Many investment and service facilities now exist and urban planning is still conquering new areas and tightening the knot around water basins and drinking water wells.

To shed light on this issue, Yemen Times interviewed Eng. Abdulaziz Mahyoub, General Manager of Aden Water Resources.

Q: How can we tackle the currently deteriorating water situation?

A: Actually the Water Resources Authority was established in 1995 for this purpose. It started executing its tasks with the purpose of regulating water consumption and ensuring best use of water resources.

Consequently, the Ministry of Water and Environment was created in 2004 in order to organize the water sector through establishing an institutional foundation to manage water around the country in an integrated manner and hence provide an investment friendly environment likely to cope with Yemen's exacerbating water problem.

The Ministry was assigned one of the most critical development tasks, which is the paucity of water and the challenge of how to supply people with pure water in rural and urban areas. Not only that, it is also responsible for treating wastewater, managing water resources and planning how to use them according to water legislations.

Q: What are the most important routine tasks of the Aden Water Resources Authority?

A: Our Office carries out its assignments in the provinces of Aden, Lahj, Abyan, and Dhale' in accordance with the National Program for the Integrated Management of Water Resources (2003-2008), supported by the UNDP.

Being a member in Aden Province's Executive Council, Aden Local Water and Sanitary Sewage Authority and several other committees related to water and environment, the Office takes up a number of different responsibilities that directly touch the life of people.

The Office also coordinates well with the other government offices, Aden University, research centers and scientific and technical committees, exchanging data and setting up studies and researches.

Q: Could you give us a thorough idea about the water situation in Aden, Lahj and Abyan?

A: I may summarize it in the following points:

First: Exhaustion:

All studies conducted on the underground reservoirs point to water imbalance, discernable more in recent years because of changes to water usages.

Second: Pollution:

The signs of pollution have appeared in some basins at different degrees. It is important to realize such a danger before water becomes too impure to use it. We cannot afford treatment costs.

Q: What do you think are the recommendable solutions?

A: It is a challenge. To deal with these problems and their sever consequences necessitate that we take a number of swift and radical measures that aim at developing water resources, rationalizing water use and slowing down consumption rates as well as fighting pollution. Unless we increase water resources, we won't be safe. We are in dire need to increase our water resources.

Rationalizing water consumption entails adherence to the following:

1- Rationalizing agricultural consumption. That can be achieved through using advanced equipment to optimize the irrigation efficiency especially in water-poor areas in proportion with the quantities of renewable waters based on the water balance of each basin. We should install meters on wells to make sure the pumped water doesn't exceed a particular point. And we must ensure that water should be always distributed according to a plan. Another measure is to plant trees that resist drought and enlarge rain-depending agriculture.

2- Household water rationalization: The water-distributing network has to be maintained to bring down quantity of leaked water and meters should be replaced to gauge consumed water. A set of regulations should be drafted to specify water quantities to be consumed in facilities that need large water quantities such as mosques, schools, camps, hospitals, etc.

Price of water used for miscellaneous purposes like car washing and swimming pools, need to be redefined in order to limit water usage in similar activities.

3- Developing water resources: Increasing planned building of dams, water barriers, cisterns, and tanks. Encouraging rain harvesting and reusing wastewater and treatment plants' output.

We should make the utmost use of conventional and non-conventional irrigation methods, form water groups and basin committees, conserve trees and botanical cover, boost public efforts to implement projects that develop water resources. Funds should be made available for establishing seawater distillation plants, which are inevitable especially in coastal areas.

Concerning pollution, we need to reduce over-pumping in coastal areas so as to prevent seawater from mingling with underground water. Cesspits should be far from water basins and the sanitary network has to be maintained so that public water is not polluted.

Moreover, fertilizers and pesticides having detrimental effect on water resources should be specified. Dumpsites, on the other hand, must be chosen according to studies. We should address the consequences of dumping wastes in valleys or near water basins and establish more laboratories that analyze water samples and detect pollution sources.

There is the communication aspect. Official media including (TV, Radio, and papers) are required to launch a water awareness campaign to shed light on the problems and introduce ways to rationalize water consumption in a manner that conforms to the spirit of Islam. Educational curricula are a good way to influence the public opinion. However, it is important to promote new irrigation technology. Farmers should be encouraged to purchase them. It should be a continuous campaign run by organizations, associations, sports clubs, woman associations, and schools using a variety of different ways like posters, booklets, articles, newspaper caricatures, instructions on electricity, water and telephone bills.

We have to take care of another yet significant issue and that is “legislatures”. We should apply legal provision aimed to protect water from exhaustion and pollution. Violators should be made liable to penalties under the Water Act. Well drilling has to be regulated. Importation of drilling equipment as well as indiscriminate drilling should be stopped. Rig owners have to abide by law and do not drill wells unless they have permits from the concerned authority.

Q: What is the role of the local authority in this issue?

A: Being administrative bodies elected by the people from different categories, the local councils are urged to contribute to these efforts by applying the rules of the Local Authority regarding water resources, which state the following:

Supervising and monitoring the implementation of water policies and protecting water basins from exhaustion and pollution; paying attention to water resources development by encouraging dam and water barriers construction.

Thus the Local Authority's system forms a crucial component of the strategic vision for an integrated development project. The Local Authority laws represent the legal manifestation propped constantly by real interest and directives from the political leadership.

Therefore, all policies, legislations and measures elicited by the Water Resources Authority and Ministry of Water and Environment from the Legislative Authority require active participation on the part of local councilors, security, water user associations to contribute effectively to the plan through the following:

1- Participating in the awareness program and teaching the community about the seriousness of the water condition.

2- Creating associations to protect water resources from exhaustion and pollution.

3- Applying the legislations and laws and prioritizing water uses.

4- Public participation by prompting local councils to stop any indiscriminate drilling of wells.