How Water Scarcity and Political Turmoil in Yemen Interlock

How Water Scarcity and Political Turmoil in Yemen Interlock

Some experts predict that Yemen’s underground water reservoirs will run out completely in 2017. The government can barely provide for a tiny proportion of the population. In Sana’a, Yemen’s capital, only around 40 percent of households are connected to the water supply. Most cities have outdated drainage systems and around 60 percent of available water is lost through leaks.

Because of Yemen’s arid climate, water shortages are common. Current political instability wrought by terrorist and rebel groups exacerbated the issue. The somewhat manageable issue became a crisis after the Arab spring, the series of protests that led to the toppling of residual Western-instituted governments back in 2011. The then-president Ali Abdullah Saleh resigned in 2012 and left vice president Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi in charge. In 2015, Hadi and his staff resigned after Houthi militants took control of the capital and seized power. Hadi now operates out of Saudi Arabia while the Houthi militants remain in control of Sana’a. The Saudi Government has ordered a military intervention to stop the rebel Houthi forces.

The critically low amount of water has destabilized the country. A report from a local pro-government newspaper, Al-Thawra, shows that around 70 to 80 percent of rural conflicts result from a lack of water. An old estimate shows that around 4000 people die each year from such conflicts, a number greater than victims to terrorism. Terrorist organizations are taking advantage of the water crisis and are recruiting desperate Yemenis in need of water. Al-Qaeda is known to give out water in rural regions where the government has no control nor infrastructure to deliver this resource. These “acts of kindness” allow terrorism to spread easily, and the weakened government cannot do anything to stop this influence from spreading.

Some scientists have tried implementing technology to capture fog, which is abundant in Yemen. Others have suggested that the abuse of groundwater has to stop, and that the country has to switch back to capturing and storing rainwater before groundwater deposits run out. Whatever the case, Yemenis have shown that lack of basic necessities fuels a worsening political situation in a vicious positive feedback loop.



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