Sana’a attempts to go green
Muaad Al-Maqtari (author), Nicholas Linn (photographer)
Accumulated garbage covers both main and side streets in Sana’a and other Yemeni governorates due to the street cleaners’ sporadic strikes.
The residents of green cities are determined to reduce all forms of pollution. However, according to Omar Hassan Al-Saqqaf, Professor of Power Engineering at Sana’a University, Yemeni cities and particularly Sana’a were not constructed according to geometric designs which will enable residents to become more environmentally friendly.
Al-Saqqaf said that green cities are designed with greenery inside and around buildings. They use environmentally friendly substances; public transportation helps counter traffic jams and there is a strong emphasis on plant life.
“Since Sana’a and the other Yemeni cities were not designed according to green cities’ standards, they face great environmental and residential pressure due to urbanization. This is particularly the case in Sana’a because of the lack of services there.
“Water, power, sanitation, garbage waste, and transportation increase such pressure,” Al-Saqqaf added.
Al-Saqqaf thinks that trade and increase of industrial and residential areas contributed to air, soil, and water pollution, in addition to their effects on public health. Demand on lands and unfair attrition of sources increased too.
How Sana’a develops
Architects know which designs are suitable for green cities in order to reduce negative environmental effects.
Fuad Al-Qadasi, head of the Poverty and Sustainable Development Department in the United Nations Development Program in Sana’a, noted that Sana’a’s natural resources are not sustainable when compared to the population growth rate.
Al-Qadasi suggested that Old Sana’a follows green city standards because its designers built it in an organized way, paying attention to sanitation, garbage removal and excavation of wells.
Al-Qadasi pointed out that waterways in Old Sana’a are an indicator of the designers’ creativity. These waterways have disappeared because the rigorous standards of Old Sana’a were replaced by the chaotic standards of modern Sana’a.
Water, power services and infrastructure in Sana’a face enormous amounts of pressure that make them useless for the upcoming generations, he said.
Paving the roads in Sana’a has resulted in wasting rain water that previously collected in the aquifer below the city, Al-Qadisi stated. “It in order to be a sustainable source for the upcoming generations, water must be added to the aquifer at a faster rate than it is being removed. However, the contrary is happening.”
Official estimates suggest that underground water will run out in about 50 to 100 years in some areas in Yemen, and after only a decade in Sana’a.
Al-Qadasi said that sanitation services cover only 35 percent of areas in Sana’a. In the remaining areas, people resort to excavating sinks in the streets which affect the quality of soil and the underground water.
For his part, Ali Al-Dobhani, an engineer in the General Authority for Environmental Protection, said that 3 million cubic meters of water is being used in around 75 mosques in Yemen each year, one third of that in Sana’a.
Al-Dobhani said that the water used in mosques can be used again to water trees and green belts around factories and cities.
Advice for green cities
Al-Saqqaf said that there are steps to be followed so that Yemeni cities are able to improve their environmental standards towards those of a green city.
The first step is to adopt an environmentally friendly economy, reforming departmental strategies and reformulating the laws of urban planning.
The second step is to introduce the concept of green cities to officials in big Yemeni cities by holding workshops and visiting green cities in the Arab world and worldwide. Moreover, new green cities should be constructed to accommodate the population growth.
There are more than ten global classification systems that give certificates of green cities, the most important of which is the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED).
The certificate of green buildings is given according to certain standards that must be available in the building like location, water and power usage qualifications, climate and quality of construction. These standards, said Al-Saqqaf, are not to be found anywhere in Yemen except for Old Sana’a.