With GTZ’s support, Yemen seeks to solve water problem [Archives:2008/1202/Local News]

October 27 2008

Mahmoud Assamiee
SANA'A, Oct. 22 ) To contain the water crisis caused by limited water resources and great water consumption, the Yemeni government, supported by German Technical Cooperation or GTZ, has drawn up a list of practical measures to protect national water resources, organize water consumption and find new sources of water in Yemen.

On Wednesday, the National Water Resources Authority (NWRA) held a workshop to present the draft of a by-law to compliment the existing water law to concerned officials and asked them for their feedback.

Deputy Minister of Water and Environment Mohammad Al-Hamdi asserted the importance of banning random well drilling and of educating people to stop such drilling to preserve ground waters.

Al-Hamdi, who opened the workshop, highlighted the German government's efforts in supporting water projects in Yemen and urged Yemenis to notify the government on any case of random drilling.

The new by-law aims to implement the water law in fields of distribution, management and utilization of water resources as well as their protection from draught and pollution, and to improve the means of water distribution in Yemen.

It intends to achieve better management, maintenance and operation of water facilities and to include beneficiaries in investment as well as the management, protection and preservation of the country's water resources.

In the workshop attended by 70 participants representing the Ministries of Water and Environment and of Agriculture and Irrigation, NWRA, GTZ, World Bank and other concerned bodies, constructive feedback was given about the draft.

Dr. Mohammad Al-Saqqaf, legal consultant, emphasized the dangers facing water security in Yemen. He explained that, while the country is among the poorest in the world in terms of water resources, its high population growth rate means that its water consumption is very high.

Al-Saqqaf, asked by GTZ to review the draft of the by-law, indicated that cultivation activities, in particular the expansion of qat cultivation to consume 30 percent of Yemen's ground waters, are the main factors of draught. He suggested an additional clause to the draft to ban qat cultivation in the country and import the narcotic plant from Ethiopia to satisfy the needs of qat-chewers instead.

The comments focused on important issues the draft did not previously include such as the absence of penalties for random well drillings, the definition of a water crisis and the inclusion of beneficiaries contributions.

The World Bank's Water Resources Specialist for the Middle East and North Africa Yoshiharu Kobayshi stressed the importance of preserving ground water and of preventing the depletion of the Sana'a water basin. Citing studies that reveal that Sana'a Water Basin will reach depletion during the next 10 to 15 years, he urged the government to take strict measures to save the Sana'a basin.

GTZ supports five water projects in Yemen and has supplied water sectors with $ 80 million for the period of 2006 to 2015.