Water Crises [Archives:2006/999/Business & Economy]

November 16 2006

By: Raidan Abdulaziz Al-Saqqaf
[email protected]

The UNDP's recent Human Development Report was on the theme of power, poverty and the global water crises. The report pointed out Yemen as an emergency case, indicating that Yemen has one of the world's lowest fresh water availability and the amount is dropping far below the global average.

With water becoming scare it will ultimately become more expensive, the report cites that violent conflict took place in locations such as Taiz where civil unrest resulted from water scarcity. With a population doubling by 2025 such civil unrest is expected to increase and spread and prices of water will keep increasing, especially as water extraction is unregulated and 99 percent of extraction is done by the privet sector, which will sell the extracted water to the highest bidder.

The pattern of water extraction increases the problem. In urban areas such as Sana'a scarcity and prices of water will exacerbate the crises especially as the population of Sana'a booms with immigrants from other parts of the country.

Massive rural to urban migration is one of the consequences and its affect is related to the crises foreseen in the agricultural sector which employs 55 percent of the workforce and provides livelihood for 70 percent of the population. With increasing water prices and scarcity, agriculture productivity is bound to decrease, with the knowledge that non-rainfall dependent agricultural production amounts for over 80 percent of national agricultural production, therefore water scarcity will not only reduce the viability of agricultural activity and livelihood in rural areas. It will also decrease food security and force the economy to import more and more of its food products from the international market.

Yemen cannot cope with a water crisis of this size. There should be some fundamental policy changes and effective solutions to tackle this problem. Yemen isn't the only country suffering from water crises and it should learn from the pioneering solutions implemented by other countries. The Yemeni government should demand the technical assistance from the international community to solve this problem.