Water Shortages Endanger Next Generations’ Life [Archives:2000/14/Reportage]

April 3 2000

By: Imad Al-Saqqaf
Taiz Bureau Chief
Yemen Times

The existence of all creatures on earth depend mainly on water without which no life can be found on this planet. The world has witnessed recently a clear downfall in the availability of water. Therefore, it has become an obsession agitating the minds of governments, nations, organizations, and research centers. All are discussing this issue and state that this issue has become a pressing issue in the new century and that it will be the center of conflicts and wars among countries in the present time and in times to come. This is what’s actually happening in this world which is surrounded five oceans; about 70% water and 30% land.
The world is suffering in course of time from limited water resources mainly because of its careless consumption. Great Industrialized and oil countries resorted to use advanced technology to the desalination of sea water whereas poor countries are unable to do a thing to save their peoples from a certain death. What they depend upon are the rains, however, if there is a scarcity in the downfall of the rains for some years, the future of the third world, our country included, is in jeopardy. Thoughtfully going over the situation of water in Yemen, one can easily discern the fact that the situation is a real misery and threatens horrible consequences that may befall coming generations.
Our country, like so many other countries, has limited water resources and is categorized among the barren or semi-arid countries mainly because the ratio of annual rainfall on the majority of Yemen’s lands is between 50 to 250 mm. Reports make clear that the annual individual share of water in our country is 135 m3 while what he actually needs is 1000m3. The limited resources of water in our country is associated with an increase demand for water which is the direct result of the huge increase of population and the arbitrary use of water.
Reports show that 85%-90% of water is being used in agriculture and that 60% of this water is being wasted due to the inefficiency of irrigation system in the country. On the other hand, there is an aggressive seeping away of the ground water which has made many wells run out of water. The case of Al-Haymah district in Taiz is an illustration in point. It has become almost a desert after the drying up of water.
Interested persons from NWRA in issues of water state that “Until sustainable solutions are found, there has to be a wise use of water. The World Bank offers more loans to dig more and more wells which means the drainage of ground water. It also views that the solution of water problem lies in the demand management, that is, through raising the prices of water to cover water costs. Eventually, the water use will be decreased on one hand and costs of water will be redeemed on the other.
However, the Yemeni man’s of the street obsession is to get water with the least prices, questioning not the quality but the quantity. Despite all that citizens are using water more carelessly realizing not that with every drop they waste, they jeopardize their as well as their children’s future.
The establishing of NWRA is a commendable step to prepare an information base and data about water in Yemen and to launch campaigns to develop people’s awareness to the importance of good and wise use of water. Yemen Times discussed the issue of water in Yemen in general and in Taiz in particular with concerned organizations and came up with this comprehensive survey.
Regarding the current water crisis, Mr. Jamal Mohammed Abdoh, chairman of NWRA said “We can not generalize the idea that there is a crisis of water in all parts of the country nor can we deny that there is not a crisis. There are some areas where water has become scarce while some other areas are witnessing signs of a crisis. Therefore, what we actually do is that we talk about this issue in a general way and I believe that measures to remedy the situation are still within hands if all join hands and are serious and sincere enough to this goal.
Reasons behind the scarcity of water can be owed to natural reasons, that pertaining to economic and social activities and that of environmental deterioration. It is clear that Yemen is characterized by a dry climate except some parts including the Western slopes on which there is a little downfall of rains which are seasonal rains. Thus, most of the valleys remain dry through the rest of the year. Besides, there is a visible ground water stress mainly because of the limited quantities of ground water, ever-increasing number of population, civil development and deplorable economic conditions leading to prices hikes up. This ground water stress obviously spoils the water balance in most of ground water basins in the Republic. This is actually associated with more ground water pollution hazards. The erratic digging up of wells in many areas, weakness of the lawful control and pre-mature public awareness, all have led to place water in Yemen on the decline.
Therefore, the economic life is bound to be affected negatively either as a result of high water prices and their effects on the economic productivity or the demographic imbalance which is the result of migration from areas which suffer from the scarcity of water.
I believe that the alternatives that can be applied to get rid of this current crisis is to raise people’s awareness to make a wise use of water in all sectors in general and in irrigation in particular. Besides, it seems urgent to pass the law of water resources and activate its application on reality. Control and supervision in addition to putting an end to erratic digging up of wells should also be enforced. Above all, the formal, public efforts and NGOs should be joined together and channeled to one aim to tackle the present crisis, anticipate its future prospects and trying to plan out a national agenda of action in the framework of NWRA which will be the central circle in sustainable national development plans.
The current situation of water resources in our country is at the ebb tide. The ground and shallow water is within the 2,5 billion m3 while the requirements are estimated at about 3,2-3,4 billion m3. In other words, the deficiency is between 0,7-0,9 billion m3. Therefore the needs are more than the available quantities of water.”In this deplorable condition threatening future disasters, there are some measures if taken the situation will be within control. Measures such as constructing dams, improving irrigating tools, putting an end to the using up of water to the irrigation of Qat farms and stopping the arbitrary digging up of wells.
Mr. Jamal Mohammed Abdoh also said “I would like to note that there are so many technical, administrative and financial difficulties that need to be tackled.” For example, on the administrative side, we have to reconsider the possibility of offering some local solutions such as assigning specific quantities of irrigation water, for household use, and drinking through using modern irrigating technology and treatment process of sewage water to relieve the pressure on fresh water resources. Besides, raising the efficiency of pumping water from wells and decreasing the possibility of wasting it has to be maintained.