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Mosque water helps traditional gardens bloom again in Yemen

Page history last edited by Rosemary 12 years, 8 months ago

© Desert Development centre, AUC, Feb 08


Greywater reuse in irrigation now a model to be scaled up in different parts of Yemen

In a country where Muslims wash five times a day for prayer and water is scarce, Yemen has developed a unique model by reusing the often wasted ablution water for a green purpose – watering more than 56 of its traditional, but once dry, gardens. The project, begun through the Regional Water Demand Initiative’s (WaDImena) programme in Yemen in May 2006, is helping to conserve groundwater in Sanaa Old City and thus secure food and alleviate poverty.

In the past, traditional Yemeni gardens, called maqashem, were donated by wealthy people and placed beside every mosque. The water was first pumped from the well to the mosque for ablution, then released from the ablution basins or “mataheer”, to a cistern, called “birka”, that channeled the water to the garden plots. Gardeners thus were responsible for water management for the mosque and neighbourhood. However, as Yemen’s underground water situation deteriorated, the gardens began to dry up, most gardeners lost their traditional roles in supplying the mosque and the neighbourhood with water, and social tensions resulted.

While most Yemeni water management projects focused on saving water, the WaDImena project shifted the focus to reviving the traditional practice of reusing greywater - water used in showers, dish washers, and ablution. Ali Naji and Abdala Zeid, owners of Washaly Miqshama, have installed confined trench greywater treatment systems as a first step to effectively reuse the ablution waters from the mosque.

While the site was being prepared, neighbours came to look, and learned about how grey water can be reused. This supported the participatory approach used by the project team- four young female researchers, technical engineers and students- in engaging the gardeners, community, sheikhs, neighbours and local councils, as well as the Ministry of Waqf, Sanaa municipality, the Ministry of water and Environment.

The result was the creation of an Association for the Conservation of Sanaa Old City Traditional Gardens on 1 June 2007. More than 220 people joined to elect a board of directors and a supervisory committee, in which three women were nominated. And, thanks to WaDImena dialogue with the government and the greywater treatment system at the Washaly Miqsama, greywater reuse in irrigation is now be a model to be scaled up in different parts of the country.

The project's technical advisor, INWRDAM, an expert organization on greywater reuse in the region, has teamed up with the National Water Resource Authority (NWRA) to scale up greywater reuse in irrigating gardens. “We agreed that INWRDAM and NWRA will cooperate in near future to promote greywater applications in different locations in Yemen,” said Mr. Ba-Sheib, Chairman of NWRA.

NWRA will secure funding for greywater reuse for irrigation of mosque Maqashim while INWRDAM will provide the technical information on the greywater treatment types and benefit-cost analysis of greywater applications.

The Yemen project is one of eight pilot projects supported by the Regional Water Demand Initiative in the MENA region – or WaDImena - to generate innovative research on strategies and tools which contribute to better water use efficiency, equity and sustainability in this water-scarce region. Water Demand Management (WDM) is ‘getting the most of the water that we have’, while taking into account the social, political, economic and ecological context in which this process takes place. The Water Demand Initiative for the Middle East and North Africa (WaDImena) is a five-year project to promote the management of water demand in the region. WaDImena currently works in Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Palestine, Syria, TunisiaQatar, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, OmanBahrain, and Yemen. The other seven WaDImena applied research and pilot projects are currently being implemented in Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Palestine, and Tunisia.

This story was prepared from a story entitled Gardens blessed by grey drops, by Nesrine Khaled dated 7 Dec 2007, information about WaDImena on the International Development Research Centre website, and a story entitled Turning to Mosques for Water, 25 May 2005, published on the World Bank website. In 2005, a proposal for such a project was a winner in the World Bank’s Development Marketplace contest. Thanks to Nesrine Khaled of WaDImena for providing the picture to illustrate this story.


For other stories about water use and management, see:

Egyptian villagers manage their scarce water resources effectively and equitably

Saving costs and improving water management in India

Water, milk and honey flow in dry Jordanian valley

Rehabilitated wind-powered pumps bring water in Senegal

Orangi Pilot Project proves poor people in slums can meet own sewage and water needs

Facilitating south-south sharing on water governance


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