Cablegate: Top 3 Yemen Environmental Issues: Water, Water,

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.




E.O. 12958: N/A

1. Summary/comment. Several critical environmental issues
face Yemen: overgrazing, soil erosion, desertification,
sandstorms and summer dust storms. The most crucial issue,
however, is the lack of potable water which affects the
majority of Yemen's workers and future export sectors. By
most estimates, fresh water resources are expected to reach a
crisis situation in the next five to ten years. Without
serious attention to declining water resources, Yemen will no
longer be able to rely on agriculture as a primary source of
employment. End summary/comment.


2. According to the World Bank, Yemen,s agricultural sector
accounts for 21.6 percent of GDP, employs fifty percent of
the workforce and could be considered as a potential sector
for export growth. The agricultural sector draws
approximately 90 percent of the water resources. Yemen
boasts the highest fertility rate in the Middle East: 6.7
children per woman. Some international observers in Yemen
believe the unofficial birthrate to be even higher and expect
the population to double again in ten years. This explosive
growth rate, coupled with estimates of water withdrawals at
approximately 125 percent of actual renewable water
resources, creates a rapidly accelerating water crisis in the
years to come. Ref A explains the water situation in the
central city of Taiz.

3. The water situation in Sanaa, while not as severe as in
Taiz, also suffers from a low underground water basin. One
businessman mentioned that ten years ago, when he was
building his house, the well he dug hit water 60 meters down.
In the last year, he dug 300 meters to reach underground
water. Municipal services in Sanaa, such as, water,
electricity and sanitation do not connect to most homes with
any consistency in frequency or coverage.


4. Yemen enacted the Environmental Protection Law under Law
No. 26 in 1995. This law established an environmental
protection council to prepare a national policy for
environment protection and to coordinate that policy with
other relevant government bodies. The law contained
extensive provisions on the protection of water, soil and use
of pesticides; regulation of environmentally damaging
activities such as hazardous waste handling; and marine
pollution. On July 13, 2004 the Council of Ministers
approved a significant by-law for the Ministry of Water and
Environment, which now oversees the Environmental Protection
Agency (EPA). The regulations enhanced and strengthened the
ministry's role in development of water resources and efforts
at increasing strategic planning, international cooperation,
and inter-agency cooperation. At the same time, the by-law
enacted measures to prevent the pollution of the environment
and to ration, protect, and conserve natural resources.

5. Yemen is party to the following international agreements:
Biodiversity, Climate Change, Desertification, Environmental
Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Ozone Layer
Protection, and the Kyoto Protocol.

6. Articles 6 through 14 of the comprehensive 1995
Environmental Protection Law regulate the protection of
water, soil and use of pesticides. Article 9 prohibits any
activity that directly or indirectly damages the soil or its
fertility. Article 14 prohibits any activity to the
vegetation of any area that causes desertification. This
includes the cutting or removal of any forest tree, shrub or
bush without permission from government authorities.

7. Articles 15 through 21 regulate the handling and use of
pesticides. For instance, Article 17 provides for the
registration period of any pesticide for a period of five
years and extensions thereof. Article 19 stipulates the
conditions for storage and warehouse sites as "far away" from
populated areas, commercial zones, or foodstuffs

8. Articles 22 through 44 provide detailed guidelines for the
control of environmentally damaging activities, environmental
disasters, standards and licensing. As to the handling of
hazardous wastes and materials, Articles 45 to 55 specify
such regulations as: the state shall bear the direct and
indirect expenditures which arise from the measures to
prevent improper disposal of hazardous waste.

9. Articles 62 to 64 govern marine pollution issues and
define the discharge of pollutants in the territorial waters,
the continental shelf of the exclusive economic zone to be an

10. Articles 75 to 95 specify environmental damage
violations, liability, punishment and compensation. For
example, Article 83 outlines the liability for environmental
risk to correlate to compensations for damages that arise due
to polluting materials and shall be applied according to the
rules of Sharia Islamic law and others.

11. As is with the case with many laws in Yemen, the Ministry
and the EPA have solid legal grounds to carry out
environmental policy. Government agencies, however, suffer
from poor central government support and inadequate budget
resources for law and regulatory enforcement. Examples of
poor enforcement include the turtle poaching on the Indian
Ocean coast, clear-cut forests and countless roads built
without environmental impact statements and EPA coordination.

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