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The Issue of Water Crisis in Yemen

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Although many measures have been proposed for decades, at least until now, these attempts have not been successful. First, the initial regional development projects failed to achieve substantial improvement for conservation of ground water resources and rationalization of water consumption in rural areas because these project were carried out without a comprehensive strategy and a clear understanding of the underlying problems. The World Bank group pointed out that they should have focused on the issue of ground water depletion 20 years ago; however, because of the lack of a comprehensive strategy, this fundamental issue has not attracted much interest earlier.

Second, the NWSSIP has also been evaluated as having a minimal effect on overcoming the water crisis. The NWSSIP was particularly ineffective in reducing the water demand in rural area. It included plans to regulate illegal water resources development and to transfer water resources from rural areas to cities; however, these efforts were hampered by tribal leaders, farmers, other local stakeholders and the Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation (MAI) and have failed to produce any outcomes. Most legislative initiatives to reform the water sector, led by the MWC, were abandoned and the civil war that broke out in 2015 was enough to destroy even the weak achievement of promoting economic water use such as a water billing and collection system.

Third, although many studies point out that the reform of agriculture sector, including the introduction of radical regulations on qat cultivation, is the most urgent task, the measures taken so far have had an only negligible impact on water using behavior. There have been some accomplishments, such as increasing irrigation costs by the reduction of subsidies for diesel fuel in 2014, but there are still many things for agricultural reform should be completed. It is especially difficult to enforce bold regulations on qat cultivation because it generates a large portion of rural income. Concerns a about massive unemployment and political resistance have weakened the government’s political will to regulate qat. Fourth, the alternatives most recently proposed, such as desalination and resettlement, are evaluated as very difficult to realize. Above all, as it takes too much money for implementation, these measures can only be considered if sufficient funds are available through international aid or international financial markets.

Lastly, the political unrest that began in 2011 and the civil war that broke out in 2015 are destroying all efforts to overcome the water crisis. While many studies already show what has to be done, war does not allow anything to be done. The restoration of political stability in Yemen should be prioritized in order to resume the water sector reform.

The important point of the Yemen water crisis is that it is already known what has to be done for solving the crisis. The problem is how to do it. International communities should pay more attention to finding ways how to end the civil war, restore stability, resume water sector reform, and provide minimum water, food and sanitation for survival. Yemen is too weak to overcome this crisis by itself. Without help and support, The Yemeni people cannot escape from this miserable situation. Large-scale international aid, financial investment, and technical support are essential to overcome the current situation. In addition, international supports should be provided with clear objectives and specific strategies to maximize its effectiveness, and it should aim to build Yemen’s water management capacity in the long term to prevent the recurrence of the crisis. Now, there is no time to repeat the failure of the past 20 years.

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