12/14/10

MATILDE GATTONI / WATER CRISIS IN YEMEN

© Matilde Gattoni
Matilde Gattoni has a project on the water crisis in Yemen that is beautiful and worrisome and informative. 

Water is one of the most important global issues and we're starting to see it in more projects from around the globe. Yemen is an especially heartbreaking example of a population running desperately low on a vital resource. A country that in many ways already has so little, has this serious and growing threat to contend with as well.

Gatoni gave me these startling facts:

Yemen is enduring a water crises that ranks among the worst in the world.
Yemen’s economy depends heavily on oil production, and its government receives the vast majority of its revenue from oil taxes. Yet analysts predict that the country’s petroleum output, which has declined over the last seven years, will fall to zero by 2017.

The government has done little to plan for its post-oil future. Yemen’s population, already the poorest on the Arabian peninsula and with an unemployment rate of 35%, is expected to double by 2035. Having one of the world's highest birth rates, the country's water supply system is failing to keep pace with its ever increasing population.  It is common that drills have had to bore down deeper than 1,000 meters to find water in the capital.

Sanaa’s wells are expected to dry out by 2015, partly due to illegal drilling, partly due to the rapid urban development of the capital and partly because 40% of the city’s water is diverted for qat production. Since cultivating qat is much more profitable than any other crop and the plantations are often controlled by influential tribal leaders, it seems impossible to change this cycle and conservation rules are difficult to enforce.

Only 20% of the houses receive water, the other 80% have to collect it from pumps and wells. More and more people must rely on costly water provided by water tankers, which are filled by private wells, but many cannot afford the cost of this water. 15% of the urban population only uses bottled water as its primary drinking water. The remaining 85% are the reason why Yemen has one of the highest world mortality rates with many diseases being related to impure water. 

There is an multimedia project of Gattoni's water series on the Guardian website  where you can hear her discuss the body of work and the problem more in depth.
© Matilde Gattoni

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