Strategy to avert water crises in Yemen [Archives:2007/1093/Front Page]

October 11 2007

Nadia Al-Sakkaf
SANA'A, Oct 10 ) Halving agriculture consumption of water, reducing urban water waste by 50 percent, and treating wastewater are the main measures proposed to avert a water crisis in Yemen.

An action plan has been drawn up after a two-year study by Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). Working with the Gneral Authority for Rural Water Supply (GARWSP) and the National Water Authority (NWRA), they have warned that unless demand for water is reduced significantly, the water resources in the Sana'a Basin may disappear “in the very near future”.

In order to mitigate the future threat of drought in five Yemeni governorates, a Japanese technical team conducted a development study funded by The team proposed a water resource management action plan for Sana'a Basin of seven actions, which were agreed by the Yemeni authorities. They include reducing water consumption in irrigation, reducing physical loss of urban water supply, reuse of treated wastewater, constant consumption of industrial and touristic use, institutional and organizational development.

As a consequence, Yemeni farmers will be educated on new methods for irrigation, and their use of water will be regulated. The purpose of this regulation is to save 90 million of cubic meters annually by 2020. This means irrigation efficiency will be improved from 40 to 70 percent.

Similarly, the second action aims at saving 9.9 million cubic meters of water consumption by reducing physical loss from 30 to 15 percent. Awareness activities on wasting water and controlling leakage in the domestic water network are means to achieving this aim.

According to the action plan, treatment of wastewater will yield around 50 million cubic meters every year. This water will be dedicated to irrigation purposes. For this to take place, the only water waste plant in Sana'a must be increased 20 fold, according to engineer Moain Al-Muhajery at the Technical Department of Sana'a Municipality.

The action plan addresses the critical issue of the water shortage in Sana'a Basin where water shortage has become worse and has been accelerated by continued imbalance between annual recharge and the growing water demand. It warned that if the projected future water demand continued to be satisfied, the groundwater resources may be depleted very near future. The action plan consists of eight actions to be taken immediately to reduce over-use of water resources, secure domestic water and develop institutional organization. The study also aimed at transferring Japanese technology and knowledge on water resources management to the Yemeni counterpart personnel through their direct participation into the study.

Capacity building and advocacy

The strategy also includes capacity building of GARWSP branches in the targeted governorates: Sana'a, Dhammar, Ibb,Taiz and Almahweet. Staffs were trained on job and through pilot projects, some had been sent to Japan to get training.

A public awareness campaign with a specialized awareness package is deployed during the strategy. A reliable source of information and analysis will also be available for political leaders in order to assist them to making the right decisions. The people working on the strategy ending in 2009 will work closely with the local councils in the fiver governorates in order to ensure local ownership and decentralization.

Ali Al-Surumi director of GARWSP confirmed that the idea of such decentralization is to improve local capacity around the republic. “I feel our job in GARWSP is to facilitate local bodies in handling their own problems. Our job is to provide technical assistance and guidance. This is why we work closely with the local councils.”

JICA has been extending its technical assistance to Yemen since 1978 to contribute to the socio-economic development of Yemen. This assistance is now focused on Basic Education, Public Health, Rural Water Supply and Vocational Training, which became a priority area of JICA's assistance after President Saleh's visit to Japan in 2005.

Development of legislative framework for Sana'a Basin water management includes:

– A ban on well new drilling for agriculture and irrigation use

– Licensing of all wells irrespective of depth

– Mandatory water abstraction metering

– Groundwater pricing for agriculture and irrigation use.