Unplanned construction on Mount Aden [Archives:2004/751/Reportage]

July 1 2004

By Nazeeh Abdullah
For Yemen Times

The volcanic Mount Aden, primarily overlooking Seira Province is 74 square kilometers and twice the size of the province. Visitors to the hill are usually astonished at the magnificent works of ancient Yemenis during previous centuries in designing and establishing water barriers, flood deterrents and water wells and cisterns. They utilized rocks with a rare substance called, “Bomis”, discovered nearly 1500 years ago, as shown in the fascinating architectural designs of their homes and about 77 water wells scattered in the surrounding areas including 54 in Crater City alone. It is similar to modern cement. The majority of old homes in Aden were built of this material.
Nowadays, the hill constitutes a major threat to the inhabitants and residential neighborhoods in Seira province, especially during rain seasons. Some residents have begun establishing unplanned constructions on the passageways of floods and blocking the flow of rainwater.
Historical testimonials confirm that Crater Town is one of the oldest towns in the Aden Peninsula, dating back thousands of years. It flourished because of its natural harbor at the “Ramzeet” Gulf, Seira region. The harbor was transferred to “al-Moala” area during the British era. The town witnessed the eruption of the famous Aden volcano thousands of years ago according to the seismic studies conducted by the Royal British Science Team in 1964, headed by Mr. Albroft Ayahas, the founder of Open University in Great Britain.
Mr. Marouf Okbah, a geologist, indicated that Mount Aden is composed of bionic terraces consisting of three mountainous chains. The first chain is composed of hilly areas at approximately 550 feet. They surround Shamasan Mountain in the shape of a horseshoe in the north east, followed by the Mount Aden which is connected by streambeds and water cisterns. The hill's average height is around 220 meters. It also contains volcanic openings. The third chain consists of steep downward slopes is situated in the residential area. Its average height does not accede 30 meters.
Mr. Marouf added that the increased activities and movement towards the slopes threatens the housing and residents during periods of rainfall.
He claimed that a comprehensive report on Mount Aden was submitted to Aden's governor with the emphasis on the historical, economic, and tourist importance of the hill, such as the “Bomis” caves that reflect a highly advanced mining system. The “bomis” substance is far more distinguished than cement of nowadays. “Bomis” was discovered 1500 years ago, a more advanced material than Portland's cement, which was first manufactured in Britain's town of Portland in 1830.
“The submitted report points out the imminent danger to residents of these caves that requires their evacuation, especially during the rainfall seasons”, said Mr. Marouf. He added that the report recommends the integration and preservation of these caves.

Danger to residents in Aidrous and Khusaf
Studies indicate that Aden witnesses heavy rains after a span of 10-20 years, resulting in the formation of massive floods, similarly to those in 1982 and 1993, which resulted in the destruction of homes and deaths of several people.
Dr. Abdul Aziz Saif, Office Director of the Aden branch of the Agriculture and Irrigation Ministry, claimed also that a study was made by the ministry about Mount Aden, including the Aidrous and Ataweelah areas, which confirmed the presence of water barriers and dams since ancient times. They were commonly called “The Seven Gateways”. The British in the 19th century integrated them to holdback waters before moving them into underground cisterns.
Dr. Saif asserted that renovation work on the seven dams was launched in 1998 but was suspended after the completion of only five of them in 2000. Special renovation work is still required for the remaining two dams in order to ensure prevent damage during rainfall.
However, danger looms around the newly established residential areas due to two factors. The first is the ongoing destruction of the eastern part of the hill by the rock-demolition machinery, affiliated with Public Works Office. The second is due to the western slopes of the hill.
The lack of a wide area for collecting waters makes it very difficult to establish dams and water barriers, and therefore, the floods will have to go through residential areas instead.
Dr. Said added that some measures have been taken to ameliorate the situation in Khusaf, such as to suspend the demolition activities on the eastern side of the hill and to establish water barriers in order to prevent the flow of floods. On the western side, in Aidrous, a drainage system needs to be constructed to reduce potential flood damage to housing that was built without proper planning permission and is situated in the path of floodwaters.
Mr. Jamal Alyamany, Director of Seirah province, confirmed that the housing constructed in the path of floodwaters remain in danger. We hope that the citizens who reside in the floods' way will move to another safer and more suitable area.
Mr. Alyamany alluded to future projects in the province. To ease the flow of traffic, a bridge will be built behind the National Bank, in addition to setting up a corniche near Seiral mall and a number of other services and development projects for the convenience of citizens in the province.