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Yemen running out of water

The New York Times reports that, “Across Yemen, the underground water sources that sustain 24 million people are running out, and some areas could be depleted in just a few years. It is a crisis that threatens the very survival of this arid, overpopulated country, and one that could prove deadlier than the better known resurgence of Al Qaeda here.”

“The government now supplies water once every 45 days in some urban areas, and in much of the country there is no public water supply at all. Meanwhile, the market price of water has quadrupled in the past four years, pushing more and more people to drill illegally into rapidly receding aquifers.”

“For millenniums, Yemen preserved traditions of careful water use. Farmers depended mostly on rainwater collection and shallow wells. In some areas they built dams, including the great Marib dam in northern Yemen, which lasted for more than 1,000 years until it collapsed in the sixth century A.D.”

Globalization and the end of traditional agriculture:
“But traditional agriculture began to fall apart in the 1960s after Yemen was flooded with cheap foreign grain, which put many farmers out of business.”

“Qat began replacing food crops, and in the late 1960s, motorized drills began to proliferate, allowing farmers and villagers to pump water from underground aquifers much faster than it could be replaced through natural processes.”

Climate change:
“Climate change is deepening the problem, making seasonal rains less reliable and driving up average temperatures in some areas…”

Population growth:
“At the root of the water crisis – as with so many of the ills affecting the Middle East – is rapid population growth, experts say. The number of Yemenis has quadrupled in the last half century, and is expected to triple again in the next 40 years, to about 60 million.”

Yemen was elected this past September to chair the G77 for the 2010 term. The G77 is a loose coalition of developing nations, designed to promote its members’ collective economic interests and create an enhanced joint negotiating capacity in the United Nations. There were 77 founding members of the organization, but the organization has since expanded to 130 member countries.

The full New York Times article is at http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/01/world/middleeast/01yemen.html?scp=2&sq=yemen&st=cse.