Water Isn’t it about Time We Realize its True Value? [Archives:2000/11/Viewpoint]

March 13 2000

In three days, I will be flying to the Hague to cover the 2nd World Water Forum that will be held during 17-22 March 2000. As a journalist, I will not be alone. There will also be at least 2 more Yemeni journalists accompanying me in the trip and afterwards. However, some may think that it will be sort of a short vacation, some may think it is no more than a tourist visit.
However, I consider the coverage of this forum a difficult mission that is more important than covering any other conference I could think of. Why? Because it concerns coming generations’ future. It is a forum dedicated to the most basic element that life is based upon. It is dedicated to water.
“Water is life,” “Every living being needs water,” “Water is the most important indication of the existence of life, not only in earth, but possibly in any other planet.” These were some sentences we used to hear from our teachers during school days, and this continues to be taught today. However, did we actually give water the attention it deserved? Or did we only waste our time when being taught these things about the importance of water? Why have we reached a level of unawareness and carelessness towards the most vital element on earth?
Many factors played a role in making us reach this level of disrespect to the issue of water.
Forgetting about the past, and looking towards the future, during this forum, we are supposed to propose ways to save what is left of our pure water. What has been wasted is wasted, and cannot come back. We need to learn from our mistakes and try to correct them for the sake of the future generations.
Yemen’s participation in the Hague forum should be a step in the right direction.
Our country needs more attention than most of the countries in the region, mainly because Yemen is the country with the highest ever population growth rates (exceeding 3.7% annually), the illiteracy rate among Yemenis reaches a staggering 60-70% and most important of all, we are a country that consumes 90% of the used water for agricultural purposes. Being the poorest country in the Arabian Peninsula, Yemen also needs funds. Hence, the Yemeni delegation should raise the issue of finding donors to fund water supply and sanitation projects for the public. The country has absolutely no rivers, hence we can only depend on underground water and rain harnessing. We need to teach our people, especially farmers how to use water efficiently to harvest their crops without wasting much water, as the statistics shows an incredible 70% waste of water in agriculture. Besides, we use more than 60% of our water to grow qat, which is eventually not more than a waste of money, effort, and water.
The clock is ticking and time is running. Unless we act fast, we could find ourselves without any water, let alone for agriculture, but even for drinking. The issue is serious, and it is about time to give this issue its deserved share of attention. Let us act fast if not for the sake of us, at least for the sake of our children and their children.
I cannot judge on the performance of the Yemeni official delegation to the Hague in bringing the issue clearly and pushing hard for serious solutions. However, I could definitely promise you, our reader, that we will not take this issue lightly. We will report thoroughly on this event and bring about the strong and weak points brought by our official delegation in the forum. We expect them to do their best. Don’t they represent our country?
For a newspaper that has dedicated tens of its pages to water issues, we feel that it is our responsibility to cover this event extensively. After all, the very last editorial written by the founder of Yemen Times, Dr. Abdulaziz Al-Saqqaf, as many know was about water. Just as we continue the spirit of our founder, we will continue his path, and give this issue the importance it deserves.
Finally, while I hope them success in doing all their best at the Hague, I also hope we would as usual, rise to the level of expectation of our readers in quality, honest, and independent reporting. That very same reporting you are used to in every issue of Yemen Times.
Walid Abdulaziz Al-Saqqaf            
Chief Editor