Water In Yemens Development Process

Owing to the rapid depletion of aquifers in the most populated areas of the country, and the present inadequacy of water supply to some major urban areas, water has become the most limiting constraint on Yemen's development process. The nature of the water constraint varies by region within the country, in part as a function of the location of aquifers. Pumping water from the very large Mukalla aquifer in the east to some of the major cities, including the capital Sana'a and Ta'iz, is probably too costly to be a realistic option, and so those cities will have to satisfy their water needs from closer sources, which are much more limited. On the other hand, in the long run Aden may be able to satisfy its water needs through desalinization, an option which is not available to other cities because their altitude would lead to excessively high pumping costs for the desalinized water.

For the highlands area of Yemen, including Sana'a, all of the aquifers of any scale are experiencing drawdowns, so interbasin transfers within that area cannot be considered a solution in the longer run.2 In almost all regions, a solution will require a drastic reduction in agricultural use of water, and probably in irrigation production itself, for the following reasons:

• Agriculture accounts for approximately 90 % of total water use.

• When present trends in water use are extrapolated, the foreseeable additional sources of water supply will not be sufficient to meet expected water demands by about 2010, without exhausting some principal aquifers, and on a per capita basis those demands are quite modest.

• The value added associated with using water in the production process is approximately 147 times greater in manufacturing than in agriculture.

1. This annex is adapted from a study developed by the author for the Yemeni Government and donor agencies at the end of 1995. Accordingly, some of its observations, particularly on policies, may be out of date. It is included here to illustrate some of the issues in managing scarce water resources and the scope of policies which may affect water use. The original study was issued as R. D. Norton, 'Economic Policies for Water Management in Yemen', Discussion Paper No. 1.1, Yemen Water Strategy, Multi-Donor Group on Yemen Water, The World Bank, UNDP and the Government of the Netherlands, Washington, DC, USA, December 1995. The author is grateful to Christopher Ward for helpful comments and guidance on the original study.

2. A possible exception to this statement would be the transfer of water from Marib to Sana'a, but that option would entail significant sacrifices on the part of the residents of the Wadi as Sudd and its environs, and it would not constitute a complete solution to the water problems of Sana'a.

Agricultural Development Policy Concepts and Experiences. R. D. Norton

© 2004 Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

ISBNs: 0-470-85778-1 (HB) 0-470-85779-X (PB) FAO Edition: 92-5-104875-4

In some well fields, water tables are reported to be declining by as much as 3 m per year (Sana'a North Basin), to 4m per year (Sa'dah Basin), and even 6 m per year (Amran, Rada' Basin, and Wadi Adanah). These declines in water tables will force groundwater-based irrigated agriculture to close down in less than a generation in principal basins, or sooner if pumping costs rise to unmanageable levels because of ever-deeper wells. Indications are that an increase in the diesel price to world market levels would make irrigated production of almost all crops unprofitable, even at present well depths. The production of the crop qat is perhaps the exception to this statement.

In such circumstances, the main policy goals of an integrated water strategy would be likely to include the following:

• Making this transition out of agriculture occur before water supplies to urban areas also vanish.

• Minimizing the social and economic disruption attendant upon such a transition. This can include measures to 'stretch it out' in time (but consistent with the first goal), such as gradually increasing pumping costs, so that the numbers of farmers driven to give up agriculture each year can be handled through special transition programs. It can also include efforts to reduce the disruption through measures such as improving irrigation efficiency and making wastewater available for irrigation. Nevertheless, it clearly means implementation of strong measures to stimulate the creation of employment in the industrial sector and very innovative social and economic measures to support an economic transformation that would be virtually unprecedented in nature and scale.

0 0

Post a comment