World Bank loan to support water management in Yemen
The World Bank approved a $24 million credit to assist the government of Yemen in improving water-management in the Sana’a Basin. The Sana’a Basin Water Management Project is the first phase of a 15-year program seeking to extend the useful life of the available water resources within the basin, by modernizing irrigation methods and by accelerating the recharge of aquifers.
This is expected to slow down groundwater depletion in the basin, thus, gaining time for the government to convert the Sana’a Basin economy to less water-intensive activities. Yemen, at the southern tip of the Arabian Peninsula, is one of the world’s most water scarce countries.
Annual water abstraction is about one and a half times the rate of recharge. It is even higher in the Sana’a Basin, and, without this intervention, the economically exploitable water may be depleted in about 20 years time.
The Sana’a Basin is a center-highland area of about 3,200 square kilometers, with 1.8 million people. About 1.5 million—growing at an annual rate of seven percent—live in Sana’a City, the nation’s capital.
Effective water management is a high priority for Yemen’s socioeconomic development. This is the first operation dealing comprehensively with water management in Yemen. If successful, it may become a model for replication elsewhere in Yemen and the region.
The first phase will cover about half of the basin, introducing and testing demand and supply management methods, as well as an institutional and legal framework. The demand management component will promote water conservation through improving and modernizing irrigation, with the involvement of community organizations.
Under supply management, the project will rehabilitate existing and build small new dams, enhancing dam safety and aquifer recharge. The institutional component includes technical assistance and training to strengthen water management and regulatory agencies, but it also comprises information and public awareness campaign that will address all segments of the basin’s population, from students and teachers to farmers, politicians and decisions makers.
The benefits expected from this first phase include a higher awareness of water scarcity in the basin, introduction of modern irrigation methods, a regulatory and legal system to allow reducing water abstraction, hence, water savings, improved dam safety and reduction of sources of groundwater pollution.
Drawing lessons from other parts of the world on what makes rural development sustainable, this rural-based operation is largely driven by demand of the population. It will require active participation by beneficiaries, in kind and in monetary terms.
The Yemeni government is highly committed to this operation, according to a WB press release. With the assistance of the Bank and other donors it has embarked on a comprehensive water sector reform.
Last year, it signed into effect Yemen’s first water law, established special basin commissions for Sana’a and two other water-scarce basins, and most recently it created a new Water and Environment Ministry which will consolidate and streamline the main activities in the water sector.
The proposed program is in line with the World Bank’s country assistance strategy for Yemen, which highlights water management for environmental sustainability and economic growth targeted at poverty alleviation as a high priority. This is a long-term endeavor, in which the Bank and other partner donors will continue assisting the government.
The International Development Agency (IDA), an arm of the World Bank Group, which provides interest-free development assistance to the poorest countries, will issue the credit on standard terms with a 10-year grace period and a maturity of 40 years. The government of Yemen and local farmer organizations will contribute a total of $5.5 million. — (menareport.com)
© 2003 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)