A recent report issued by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) revealed that Yemen is among the poorest ten countries vis-à-vis water.
The report said that the average share of renewed water for a person in Yemen amounts to around 125 cubic meters a year, pointing out that this portion is only 10% of what an average person in the Middle East and North Africa region gets, which is 1250 cubic meters per person, while the global share of water for a person is 7500 cubic meters.
The amount of arable land in Yemen is estimated at 3.6 million hectares, only 6.5% of the area of Yemen. However, due to the sharp decrease of water, the total cultivated area in Yemen does not exceed 1.6 million hectares, a much smaller 2.9% of the total area of Yemen.
The water problem in Yemen, the findings revealed, is one of the most dangerous catastrophes threatening the country, just as it is one of the most significant reasons for poverty. It deprives huge numbers of the workforce from participation in the agricultural sector, which is the main industry in Yemeni society.
The report reviewed the key problems that lead to the water crisis in Yemen and the depletion of water resources that are associated with the widespread cultivation of qat, which is one of the crops that need large quantities of water for irrigation.
Cultivation of qat has lead to the depletion of ground water, the report concluded. Experts said that more than 60% of the water consumed in Yemen goes toward qat irrigation, which encompasses 800 million cubic meters annually. In the Sana’a capital secretariat alone, about four thousand wells provide water for qat, which results in the decline of the water table by 3 – 6 meters annually.
The demand for qat has increased in the last three decades due to the rise in wages and the expansion in digging ground wells, as the chewing of qat turned from a habit practiced from time to time into a daily pastime for many Yemenis, both men and women.
In addition, neither was a strategy of restructuring the Water Sector implemented, nor was its administrative efficiency raised. Also, expansion of the implementation of financial and management decentralization in administering water policies has not been implemented.
That is to say, there is no clear water policy.
Available alternatives, which could alleviate water depletion have not been used. The appropriate use of sewage water and the technique of desalination could have been adopted.
The waste and excess in using water, whether in agriculture, in the household, or for other uses, is one of the problems that led to the water crisis.
There are no sufficient dams and water containment walls in the country that could be used for many vital purposes in agriculture and in other aspects. Such dams could play a vital and significant role in feeding ground waters.
Some people are unaware of the importance of coordination with the concerned authorities for eliminating this problem that endangers the security and stability of the country.
Minister of Water, Abdul Rahman al-Iryani, had earlier warned against the huge depletion of water and said that the water reserve is almost finished, pointing out that the quantity of ground water goes down by six meters every year in critical basins, which are expected to deplete in the next few years due to the pumping of water from one hundred thousand wells in Yemen.
The Strategic Vision of Yemen up until 2025, issued recently by the Ministry of Planning and Development, has estimated the reserve of ground water available in all the basins at almost 20 billion cubic meters.
But based on the current consumption rates, Yemen depleted around 12.02 billion cubic meters in 2010, which leads to the fact that the reserve of water would only be sufficient for a few years.
The chairman of the Ministers Council had stressed in a meeting that included most of the bodies concerned with water that the water problem will be dealt with by all means available and that during the coming period decisions will be made to empower local authorities to confiscate the drills which dig the deepest and most wasteful wells and deal with the phenomena more strictly, as it is considered a step towards alleviating the prevailing crisis.