Salt marshes in Aden affected by industrial waste [Archives:2008/1142/Health]

March 31 2008

Almigdad Dahesh Mojalli
A recent study conducted by the General Authority for Environmental Protection warned of environmental damage affecting the salt marshes on the coast of Aden due to the influx of dangerous heavy chemical elements such as lead, arsenic and petroleum materials as a result of industrial construction nearby.

Salt marshes are environmentally-sensitive lands that are considered to be the birthplace of one of the country's oldest maritime industries: salt collection. They are also home to numerous species of aquatic life and a sanctuary for many types of birds migrating to and from Europe and Africa.

According to the study, the laboratory analysis revealed the existence of industrial waste material, which not only ruins the environment for the salt industry but also negatively impacts the habitats of aquatic birds, small fish and the marine vegetation that the wildlife depends on as an essential source of food.

Because of the residual effects of the industrial waste, the salt industry will decline due to a reduction in the areas of the cisterns used in drying salt.

The study clarified that the salt marshes are considered one factor in observing environmental safety, particularly pollution prevention, of the seas.

The study asked official governmental bodies, environmental NGOs, concerned authorities and society in general to maintain the salt marshes, as they are considered part of the protected wetlands that need protection in accordance with the Ramsar agreement, a treaty that safeguards wetlands and maritime species, which was signed in 1971 and endorsed by the Cabinet in 2002.

There are currently many industrial facilities in the area, including a fiberglass factory, a plastics laboratory, a car wash and an auto repair shop. The study recommended removing the car wash station and car oil changing center as they deal with petroleum substances, grease and other derivatives that are dangerous for the environment. It also recommended preventing the creation and spread of any new industrial activities inside the district.

There were also recommendations to the environment protection authority to further study the current and future environmental influences on the salt marshes, along with alternative therapies to restrict the harm already done to the area.

The salt marshes span 6,504,421 square meters, in addition to Baja'a lake, which extends from the residential Remi district in the north to the water surfaces, water tanks and Al-Aresh district in the east and to the Caltex district in the west.

According to Yemeni historian Abdullah Mohairez, the salt marshes were established in Khor Macksar as a result of the existence of saline, the plentiful swamps and the quick evaporation of water there which left salt deposits behind.

The salt marsh district in Aden governorate is considered one of the oldest historical proofs of the sea salt industry worldwide. The evidence for this comes from the existence of structures made of bricks covered with kathath, a strong white substance used in building before cement.

Historical documents affirm that an Italian company was established on March 25, 1886, on the eastern side of the salt marshes and visitors can still find traces of the windmills, bridges and canals there today. The company left Aden in 1955, though an Indian metal company was established on the western side of the salt marshes in 1908, whose buildings are still in use today. The general salt corporation was established in 1970. The decision to add iodine to the salt collected there was issued in 1997.

The study was prepared by a governmental committee made up of employees of the water and sanitation sector, the environmental protection bodies and the Ministry of Industry and Environmental Health in Aden governorate and presented in Aden last month.