By Asma al-Mohattwari
Yemen is a country with one of the highest rates of population growth in the world. It is also the country with the highest rate of exhaustion of water sources in the Middle East. Half of the Yemeni population in the country is in need of access to clean water. The water crisis has become a real threat.
Running water is available in some parts of Yemen, but most villages remain without it. An example is the rural population in Amran province, which lies to the north of the capital Sana’a, which is suffering because of water shortages and a lack of public services. 35 years ago, women in remote areas typically drew water from the nearest well or from a cistern, sometimes walking more than two hours each way. Artesian wells were pumped into an open tank and then people took the water to their houses. In 2005, a water project was implemented in Amran in different areas and there has been a water meter for all the houses. Villagers’ lives have become easier and girls have started to join schools because they have no need to leave the school because of water. Unfortunately, armed conflicts in Yemen between the government and Houthis armed group robbed the villagers’ joy when the two water tanks in Amran were damaged by the clashes and the same suffering of bringing water repeated again.
Because of the acute water crisis in Amran and to reduce its health and social affects, the General Authority for rural water projects in Amran and UNICEF implemented some projects in different areas in Amran. Adnan Mozahem, the Director of the General Authority for rural water projects in Amran, said that the beneficiaries of the projects are about 13,084 people in four areas in Amran Da’an, Bani Hajaj, al-Jaef al-Ala and Bait Sherah Allah. “The projects were emergency tanks because of the damage of the the main tank that had become unfit for use, as well as refurbishment the water networks in addition to the supply of pumping unit,” Mozahem added.
Hussein Da’an, the project manager in Da’an area, Amran, said that Da’ana has 6,000 people and the water project has provided 350 Water Meters to the citizens. “The water in the previous tank was not enough for all houses, but the new one provides all people with water.”
Da’an added that the water arrives to people once every ten days. “We divided the area into 10 neighborhoods and every day we run water for one.”
Women and children are the biggest beneficiaries of such projects because their suffering is the greatest. Amal Ahmed, one of the beneficiaries, said that early in the morning, Amal with her two daughters were walking 2 km to bring water from the nearest well to their village. She left everything behind in her house and went to bring the water before it finish by the other women in the village because the water was not enough for all the village’s citizens. She carried the water on her head or loaded them onto donkeys.
“The water project makes our lives easy but sometimes we return to the same suffering because the diesel for operating the tank runs out,” she added.
The water tank in the health facility in Bani Hajaj in al-Souda depends on rainwater. Saddam Ahmed Amri, the facility director, said that they gathered the water with difficulty and some of it was wasted because they don’t have possibilities save it. “After installing the horizontal pumping unit, we can save the water easily and the water serves us for one year when the tank is full and about 5,000 people are getting benefit from it,” he added.
Khalid Alkhalida, the Chairman of the Project Supervisory Department, said that to facilitate the operation of the projects and to ensure its continuity, they form associations authorized to deal with the project management and to implement it.
Mozahem added that there is a law in the Authority stating “the provision of safe water in terms of quantity and quality is safe to drink”. According to Mozahem, in the rural water projects dig wells and then conduct tests. If it is drinkable, they complete the project, and if there is the possibility of treatment they do it with the laboratory that analyzed it. “But if it was a high percentage of pollutants with extensive damage to the citizens, we shut down the source and look for an alternative source.”
Unclean water causes a lot of diseases, especially for the kids. “We give guidelines for the disinfection of pond water in the areas where there is clean water and we disinfected with chlorine.”
As a local body, Mozahem said that they have a list of needs of 40 projects that are under discussion with the local authority that is expected to be approved next week and then be marketed to different organizations and institutions.
With renewable water resources of only 125 cubic meters per capita/year, Yemen is one of the most water-scarce countries in the world. This level is less than one tenth of the threshold for water stress, which is defined at 1,700 cubic meters per capita/year. Total water demand of 3,400 million cubic meters per year exceeds renewable resources of 2,500 million cubic meters per year, thus leading to a steady decline in groundwater levels, varying between 1 m per year in the Tuban-Abyan area and 6–8 m per year in the Sana’a basin. Today, there are between 45,000 and 70,000 wells in Yemen, the majority of which are under private control. No one can be certain of the exact number, as almost all were drilled without license. Agriculture takes the lion’s share of Yemen’s water resources, sucking up almost 90%, and it is estimated that qat production accounts for 37% of all water used in irrigation.
Climate change, the increase population, qat cultivation, and the irrational water use put Yemen as one the poorest countries in water resources with 125 cubic meters per capita/year, which is 2% of the global average.