Protection of the Environment in Yemen [Archives:2005/803/Health]

January 3 2005

By Marit Mann and Mirco Fritschke
For The Yemen Times

While many people criticise the government for its record of environmental protection, the legal steps taken by the government have passed unfortunately largely unnoticed.

Article 35 of Yemen's Constitution says that “the protection of the environment is the responsibility of the state and the society, and a national and religious obligation of every citizen.” However, the constitution is not the only source for environmental law in Yemen. The Qur'an itself commands the preservation of the environment, and scarce resources. On the international level, Yemen is party to various conventions on habitat and biodiversity conservation, and sustainable land, waste and energy management.

On the national level, protection of the environment is provided for in the Environment Protection Law, issued on 29 October 1995. This law, though largely unknown even among government officials, is an important tool for the administration for preserving the environment and securing natural resources for the future of Yemen.

While the law on the one hand stresses the obligation of individuals, public and private institutions as well as of the authorities, to protect the environment and natural resources, to control pollution and to conserve wildlife and the marine ecosystem, it also establishes the right of every individual to live in a healthy and balanced environment. It provides rules concerning the protection of water and soil, the use of pesticides, marine pollution, on environmentally damaging activities and on the compensation for environmental damages.

The most important innovation of the Yemeni Environmental Protection Law is the Environmental Impact Assessment, which is compulsory for all projects that are potentially a source of pollution or detrimental environmental impact. The Assessment is carried out by an independent contractor, and has to be approved by the Environment Protection Authority before the project can be carried out.

Another important aspect of the Yemeni Environment Protection Law is that it establishes liability for damages to the environment. This liability includes the costs for the elimination of the damage, compensation for damage of property and a compensation for damage to the environment.Unfortunately, the lack of knowledge of environmental regulations and the lack of cooperation between the concerned bodies hinders the enforcement of the Environment Protection Law fully. Even government projects are often carried out without an Environmental Impact Assessment, though the Ministry of Water and Environment does its best to promote and secure application of the law. An improved inter-ministerial cooperation and increased awareness of the law amongst key agencies and judicial staff are necessary to assure the protection of the environment, which is essential for both the economic development and the improvement of the standard of living in Yemen.