SANAA: Ancient City Rushes into the Modern Age [Archives:1999/18/Front Page]

May 3 1999

Experts have made ominous projections regarding the future of Sanaa, a city whose number of inhabitants now approaches 1.3 million. According to a limited circulation report released last week, the city sinks some 4 centimeters every 10 years because of the depletion of the underground acquifers. 
That is not all. The prospects of achieving a good life in Sanaa are shrinking. 
First, the city suffers from what experts call “a closed echo-system,” due to a wall of mountains surrounding it. Second, an altitude of over 7,000 feet above sea-level means that there is very little oxygen in the air. First time visitors, particularly those with heart conditions or asthma, have to gasp for air. 
Added to these problems are the needs of a rapidly growing population. The average annual growth rate has been at about 8% for the last 20 years. 
There is a rising level of gas emissions from the 150,000 vehicles madly roaming the streets. 
Also, there is the high level of pollution generated by activities such as quarrying and industrial plants. 
Last but not least, there is the problem of a city unable to handle the garbage and sewer it generates. 
The problems of Sanaa do not end there. Among the other conclusions of the report is that the city is running out of water, and its management system (or lack of it) is on the verge of chaos. 
Sanaa is an ancient city rushing into the modern age. It carries with it the trappings of the past, and one can often see shepherds herding their goats and sheep in the middle of the city’s streets.