Qat depletes water resourcesIt must be stopped [Archives:2004/765/Business & Economy]

August 19 2004

Mahyoub Al-Kamaly
Qat, according to a scientific-field study, is depleting our water resources. That must be stopped, and the demand and rapid dissemination of the Qat plant must be seriously taken into consideration in order to contain the problem.
The study confirmed that arable land currently utilized in Yemen is very limited, not more than 40%, in comparison to the expanse of arable land, estimated at 1.6 million hectares.
The study attributed the low size of the utilized arable land to the scarcity of the water resources. The study cited the tremendous expansion in the plantation of the Qat trees, which consume an estimated 8,000 cubic meters of water for each Qat-planted hectare – which is approximately 60% of Yemen's water resources.
The constant growing of Qat is considered a major agricultural problem that requires an immediate solution. Arable land must be expanded through the growing of vegetables, fruits and cash crops, not the Qat tree.
The Yemeni government has recently approved carrying out a feasibility study on the alternative of importing Qat from the Horn of Africa, to reduce consumption of water on irrigation and to preserve the available water resources.
The study suggested urgently assessing the water problem, and launching a feasibility study into the establishment of water desalination plants, (at least in coastal cities that suffer from shortages of water, particularly Taiz, Al-Mukala and Aden), before it is to late to prevent a catastrophe on the population.
The study warned of the imminent threats that would result from the water crisis during the next five years, including the doubling of internal migration in the search for water.
The study recommended launching an awareness campaign on the importance of rationing water usage in government buildings, corporations, ministries and farms, industrial facilities, households and in agricultural irrigation methods. However, the study pointed out that the rationing process was not the permanent solution to the problem. It also urged the related authorities to double their efforts in establishing and building more dams and water barriers to benefit from rainfalls.