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Deforestation in Yemen’s Urban Areas – Sana’a University Campus as an example

By Nada al-Dahmashi , Water and Environment Centre (WEC), Sana'a  University:: June 14, 2019

Images: Nada al-Dahmashi

 The 1st of March is ‘Tree Day’ in Yemen. This annually reoccurring day was instated in 1975. It followed from a project that planned to have three million trees planted every year, and 9 million over three phases from 1975 -1978 in northern Yemen.

However, due to political obstacles, this project was stopped in 1977. By then, many public institutions and parks had already been planted with trees.

Does anyone nowadays remember this date and what activities are intended to celebrate this day? Unfortunately, the answer is negative and those who do remember the instatement do not remember the activities.

As an example, Sana’a University was decorated and planted with huge trees. Over time, the planting and the culture of making it greener has declined and reduced.

In the seventies Sana’a university stood symbolically as the greenest place in Sana’a city. The green color was giving inspiration and hope to the people living nearby and the students who were studying there.

Now however, the lack of awareness and the absence of gardening in the city has led to many degraded areas, as I will discuss further here.  Sana’a university’s land is becoming more and more deteriorated.

Trees inside the campus are being cut 

As a cause of the current economic situation that led to many issues such as the gas crisis, people started to cut the huge trees inside Sana’a university. They started to cut and collect the branches of the trees and to use them as  firewood for food or other domestic uses. Also, restaurants and bakeries in Sana’a are using the branches of the trees as an alternative, because it’s easier and cheaper to get and no need to queue for days for gas.

Firewood being used at bakeries and restaurants

Coming back to the lack of awareness, I don’t remember since I was a child that I knew any environmental terminologies or I have participated in any environmental activities such as afforestation. Meaning that even before the war and the economic crisis, Yemen education and systems were not environmentally sensitive.

Women cutting grass

People queuing up for gas

The lack of water is another anxious issue and Yemen biggest problem and for Sana’a University. Plus the accumulated garbage and the open air burning of garbage at different sites within the compound will lead to horrible effects on the Sana’a university soils and soil fertility, further degrading the land. So what is the solution to make Sana’a University a sustainable green place?!

In my point of view, as Sana’a University with many faculties, academic centers, academic teachers’ houses, cafeterias and other buildings, it should use its grey water in watering its plants to overcome water scarcity. And the university should establish more environmental campaigns and tutorials for school and university students, about the green movement and greywater uses. 

Continuing in such a behavior without knowing its consequences will eventually turn Yemen into large desert. A lot of work needs to be done, for example, spreading environmental awareness inside Sana’a University as youth in Yemen will have to be the development generators. Also, the Water and Environment Center (WEC) including all the specialist and professionals (including myself), should make a lot of effort in terms of awareness and engaging all the faculties in this process, reuse the greywater, plant more sustainable trees, and build a wastewater plant inside Sana’a university. Engaging students from different backgrounds will give them opportunity to develop their surrounding environment and feel more responsible towards it.

Many movements and actions are needed to be done by us. Even in the most miserable situation, starting from scratch is better than not to start at all.

I hope March will return next year with greener views and peace.

Burnt grass

Garbage being burnt in between rocks

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