Harnessing Rain Water [Archives:1997/43/Viewpoint]

October 27 1997

Yemen is one of the least water-endowed countries of the world. We have no lakes. We have no rivers. And we are fast exhausting our underground aquifers. Therefore, harnessing rain water is a rational and visible priority. Unfortunately, this is not happening at the moment. These days are the rainy seasons – one of three during the whole year. The country gets considerable rainfall in a short period of time. Indeed, the rainfall is erratic. But we can harness the water and put it to good use. The main option to us is building small dams and cisterns. I think building small dams and water reservoirs is a viable possibility and a good idea. It is practical for many reasons, as follows:
1. Helpful Terrain: The mountainous terrain of the country is conducive to building little reservoirs and dams. The mountains first of all give us watersheds that easily channel and direct the rain water, and second, they enable us to build dams by connecting the sides of mountains.
2. Available Skills: Yemenis boast a long history of water harnessing by building dams and reservoirs. After all, it was our ancestors who built the Marib Dam which allowed the Sabaean civilization to flourish. All over the country, little cisterns used to dot the landscape.
3. Tapping Unused Manpower: Yemen today has a major unemployment problem. Most of the available labor is skilled in one thing – construction. Therefore, by embarking on a widescale construction of dams and cisterns, we will create employment opportunities, and also tap available skills.
4. Environmental Upgrading: Over the last few decades, Yemenis have damaged much of the environmental beauty of the land. Trees have been cut down and never replaced, desertification has crept in, and old terraces have been allowed to tumble down due to lack of maintenance. Harnessing rainfloods could enable us reverse the environmental degradation. 5. Self-Help Initiatives: Building localized water reservoirs could be a good scheme to revive the partnership between the people and the state. The construction of the small dams could easily be a joint venture between the official organizations and local voluntary efforts and NGOs. 6. More Water: First and foremost of all reasons, of course, is the fact that there will be more water available for the nation because of better harnessing of rainwater. Surface water can be used for irrigation and various other uses. The underground reservoirs will be replenished. For those and other reasons, I feel that the government should zero-in on the construction of small dams. If we can agree on the goal of constructing of 100 little dams and one large one every year, for the next ten years, we could resolve the water problem of this country. It is workable. It is within our reach!
By: Pro. Abdulaziz Al-Saqqaf Editor-in-Chief and Publisher