War on Yemen turns nature reserve back into waste dump
Yemen's Al-Heswa nature reserve has fallen victim to the Saudi-led coalition's ongoing aggressive war on Yemen.
The United Nations originally heralded Yemen's Al-Heswa nature reserve as a paragon of conservation efforts, but the Saudi-led coalition war on Yemen has turned it into a trash-strewn wasteland reeking of sewage.
The ticket office at the entrance to the 19-hectare (47-acre) site in Yemen's southern city of Aden, where trees have been cut down and construction trash has been deposited, has been abandoned.
Crows have flooded what was once a refuge for flamingos and other migrating birds.
"Al-Heswa used to be a recreational outlet for residents and tourists," said Aden resident Ibrahim Suhail. "It has now become a rubbish dump, full of insects and sewage."
Al-Heswa, which was designated a nature reserve in 2006, was one of 35 initiatives honored with the UN's Equator Prize in 2014 for addressing climate and development concerns via the sustainable use of nature.
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Wastewater that would have otherwise flowed into the sea was cleansed and channeled to construct an artificial wetland on the site of a former waste dump, attracting migratory birds.
In 2012, the initiative was the first of its kind in Yemen, enhancing livelihoods, providing jobs, and producing approximately $96,000 in cash.
"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.
Insecurity from violence
However, Yemen, already the poorest country in the region, has been suffering under the Saudi-led coalition war since 2014.
The director of Yemen's department of nature reserves, Salem Bseis, said the wastewater treatment tanks had not been serviced since 2015. Some nearby residents have seized parts for their personal use.
"This led to a disruption in the maintenance and treatment of sewage," Bseis said.
World's worst humanitarian crisis
The UN considers war-torn Yemen to be the world's worst humanitarian crisis, with hundreds of thousands of people murdered directly or indirectly as a result of the conflict.
The war has driven millions of people to flee their homes, bringing the country dangerously close to famine.
"Insecurity from violence, war, and conflict poses the most significant threat to the long-term sustainability of this initiative," the UNDP Development Programme said.
"Since the intensification of the conflict in Yemen, visitor levels have dropped to zero." But the UN believes that all do not have to be lost.
"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.