War turns Yemen’s nature reserve back into waste dump – TrendyNewsReporters

War turns Yemen’s nature reserve back into waste dump

Yemen’s Al-Heswa nature reserve which was once hailed as a beacon of conservation efforts by the United Nations has turned it into a rubbish-strewn wasteland reeking of sewage by civil war.

The ticket office had been abandoned at the entrance to the 19-hectare site in Yemen’s southern city of Aden, where trees were cut down and construction waste dumped.

“Al-Heswa used to be a recreational outlet for residents and tourists, it has now become a rubbish dump, full of insects and sewage,” said Aden resident, Ibrahim Suhail.

Declared a nature reserve in 2006, Al-Heswa was one of the 35 initiatives awarded the UN’s Equator Prize in 2014 for meeting climate and development challenges through sustainable use of nature.

Wastewater that had previously flown into the sea was treated and redirected to create an artificial wetland on the site of a former garbage dump, attracting the migratory birds.

The initiative was said to be the first of its kind in Yemen, because it improved livelihoods, created jobs and generated about $96,000 in revenue in 2012.

“The communities behind Al-Heswa Wetland Protected Area have successfully transformed a garbage dump into a functioning wetland ecosystem that provides a breeding site to more than 100 migratory bird species,” the UN Development Programme said at the time.

However, since 2014, Yemen, already the region’s poorest country, had been embroiled in a conflict between the government, supported by a Saudi-led military coalition, and the Iran-backed Huthi rebels.

The reserve had been left in ruins by the fighting.

The director of Yemen’s department of nature reserves, Salem Bseis, said that the wastewater treatment tanks had not been serviced since 2015 and that some nearby residents had seized parts for their personal use.

“This led to a disruption in the maintenance and treatment of sewage,” Bseis said.

While visitors had mostly stayed away, some parts of the reserve had been used as an “informal waste dump”, according to the United Kingdom-based Conflict and Environment Observatory.

The UN considered war-torn Yemen the world’s worst humanitarian disaster and estimated hundreds of thousands of people had been killed, directly or indirectly, by the war.

Millions were reported to have been forced from their homes by fighting, and this was pushing the country to the brink of famine.

“Insecurity from violence, war, and conflict poses the most significant threat to the long-term sustainability of this initiative,” the UN Development Programme said.

“Since the intensification of the conflict in Yemen, visitor levels have dropped to zero.

“When peace is restored, the community is committed to working with government officials to enhance the economic and environmental services provided by the protected areas,” it added.


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