Protected Areas and Ecotourism in Yemen [Archives:2000/29/Last Page]

July 17 2000

David B. Stanton
Project Manager
MRDS Environmental
During the past ten years, the worldwide growth of ecotourism has been phenomenal. Although Yemen lags far behind in this realm, this is not likely to always be the case. Nature has endowed Yemen with rich natural assets. It is now up to man to make Yemen safe again for tourists, and to pave the way for sustainable ecotourism development.
One of the things that limits the ecotourism potential in Yemen is a lack of protected areas. There are currently no national parks or wildlife sanctuaries in this country although there are many areas here which are worthy of protection. Studies are currently underway to identify sites of special interest and to investigate the feasibility of creating a park system. Significant areas on Socotra are in the process of assessment for protection purposes. These are major steps in a process that may eventually lead to new laws granting protection to important natural areas.
Designating national parks and other protected areas automatically puts them on the tourist map and sets the stage for their preservation while providing regional employment. Such natural areas as Jebel Bur’a, Jebel Iraf, and the mangrove forest on Kamaran Island are special sites which should be protected. Wadis Rima, Sari, and Surdud, among many others, should also receive protection. The Aden and Hodeidah marshes are just two of the many places in Yemen where wildlife sanctuaries should be created.
Protective legislation for these and other natural areas would set the stage for a phase of sensitive ecotourist development that would eventually provide employment while ensuring that these places survive well into the future. Experience in other parts of the world has shown that tourists are willing to pay more for a service when they are sure that it adheres to ecotourism guidelines. In other words, that waste is disposed of in a way that doesn’t harm the environment, that the development doesn’t harm wildlife, and that local people benefit from the development.
Obviously, all of this will take time, but the process has started, and Yemen may someday join the ranks of the few enlightened nations that use their resources sustainably. Unlike many other countries, Yemen is in the unique position of being able to preserve, rather than having to restore, its natural resources.