Yemen NCAP Project
Yemen’s Capital, Sana’a
Linking Water Scarcity with Climate Change
This project explored the linkages between water scarcity and climate change. While there were numerous activities and outputs of the project spread over the period 2006 to 2008, efforts focused on the overriding goals of
(1) achieving a better understanding of both the level of vulnerability of rural/urban communities to future changes in local climatic regimes; and
(2) identifying types of adaptation activities that would build resilience against increasing water scarcity.
Yemen is an arid Middle Eastern country, occupying an area of 527,970km² at the south of the Arabian Peninsula. It is bordered to the north by Saudi Arabia, to the east by Oman, and to the south and west by its 1,900km coastline along the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea. With an annual population growth rate of about 3.5% one of the highest in the world Yemen’s population is putting increasing pressures on its limited water resources and straining the ability of the government to provide vital social services. As of 2000, Yemenis numbered approximately 18.3 million, an increase of nearly 4 million over the course of the previous six years. During the same time, poverty increased nearly threefold, particularly in rural areas, where three quarters of Yemenis live (Roy, 2002b).
Yemen is burdened with low human and economic development, serious environmental challenges, and a high degree of vulnerability to current and future climatic variability and change. It is widely acknowledged within government policy dialogues that Yemen’s major environmental resource problem is water scarcity, a situation prone to exacerbation under climate change. According to the country’s First National Communication to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), temperature across the country is expected to rise, while precipitation is expected to decrease, leading to increased pressures on the country’s delicate balancing act between water resources and water consumption.
Rainfall varies widely, depending on its five ecological zones: hot and humid coastal plains, temperate highlands, high plateaus and uplands, desert interior, and islands in the Red Sea. Annual rainfall varies from less than 50mm in the coastal plains, rising with the topography to between 500 and 800mm/year in the western highlands, and dropping again to below 50mm/year in the desert interior zone (Al Hemiary, 2002). The rains come primarily in spring and summer, and are determined by two main mechanisms: the Red Sea Convergence and the Inter Tropical Convergence Zone. Temperature depends primarily on elevation, and in the coastal areas, is determined by distance from the Red Sea and Indian Ocean. Average annual temperatures range from less than 12°C in the Highlands (with occasional freezing) to about 30°C in the coastal plains (Al Hemiary, 2002).
Historically, as per capita availability is falling steadily with growing population, scarce water resources have become increasingly precious. In 1955, Yemen’s per capita water availability was about 1,100m³. By 1990, it had fallen to less than half of this level, about 460 m³/person/year, and is projected to drop to 150 m³/person/year by 2025 under business-as-usual scenarios of increased demand – to say nothing of future climate change-related impacts. Whereas surface water is largely seasonal and unreliable, groundwater is being extracted in extreme excess of natural recharge levels.
Yemen continues to make development strides, yet profound poverty and other challenges persist. The 1998 Household Budget Survey showed that about 18% of the population lived under the food poverty line, with about 42% incapable of meeting basic food and nonfood requirements. Unfortunately, these percentages remain largely unchanged today and reflect the entrenchment of poverty conditions among approximately 7 million people. Moreover, other factors such as adult literacy (at 54% of the general population over 15 years of age; significantly higher for women) and GDP per capita (at US$760/year) combine to place Yemen near the bottom of the Human Development Index in 2007 (World Bank, 2008)
Objectives of the project
The primary aim of the NCAP project was to identify and mainstream priority adaptation activities that would build resilience against increasing water scarcity among vulnerable communities, sectors, and ecosystems in three representative areas. Within this overarching goal, there were four major objectives for each case study area:
(1) assess current and future vulnerability of water resources to climate change;
(2) identify potential adaptation strategies within a stakeholder-driven process;
(3) formulate a pilot adaptation measure which has been identified as the highest priority option from the stakeholder process;
(4) integrate the results into national policy discussions and legislative action.
This project was carried out under the Netherlands Climate Assistance Programme (NCAP) which was funded by the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs. ETC International managed the overall NCAP project.
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