Extended Pollution from Mokha to Bab Al-Mandab

The coasts of Taiz are plagued by waste and garbage
Zakaria Al-Mashwali
June 17, 2024

Extended Pollution from Mokha to Bab Al-Mandab

The coasts of Taiz are plagued by waste and garbage
Zakaria Al-Mashwali
June 17, 2024

With a unique climate, mesmerizing scenery, and diverse landscapes that possess their own allure, the beaches of Al-Makha and Dhubab districts in the western governorate of Taiz are renowned as some of Yemen's finest. However, they have recently fallen victim to the accumulation of waste and garbage, posing a significant threat to the livelihoods of the coastal communities.

The coastal stretch within Taiz governorate spans approximately 128 kilometers, starting from the Mawshah area, which borders the northern Al-Khokha district in Hodeida governorate, and extending all the way to Bab Al-Mandab, encompassing the coasts of Mudaraba district and Ras Al-Ara in Lahj governorate to the south. Regrettably, the coasts of these areas, particularly the shores of Dhubab leading to Bab Al-Mandab, have become heavily polluted, transforming them into dumping sites for waste. Unfortunately, there is a lack of official attention from governmental authorities and local entities to address this pressing issue.

The degradation of these once pristine coastal areas is not only a threat to the environment but also jeopardizes the well-being of the communities that rely on the sea for their livelihoods. It is imperative that immediate action is taken to tackle this pollution and restore the natural beauty and cleanliness of these beaches.

Challenges and Significant Risks

The pollution problem poses significant challenges and risks to the beaches and coasts of Bab Al-Mandab, causing great concern and frustration among the local communities. The ongoing war and conflict in Yemen since 2015 have also led to a significant decrease in the number of visitors.

Bab Al-Mandab encompasses several coastal areas, each with its own significance. One of the most prominent areas is "Al-Za'afur" in the "Al-Suwaida" region, located at the southernmost point. It is adjacent to the Ras Al-Ara coast in Lahj governorate, making it an important part of the coastal landscape. In the northern direction, we have the coastal area known as "Al-Shawra," which poses a major issue for the region. This area suffers from pollution primarily caused by the intense fishing activities carried out by local fishermen, who use it as a harbor for their boats. Unfortunately, being situated within the Bab Al-Mandab area further exacerbates the challenges faced by this coastal region. Furthermore, we have the Al-Ardhi coast, which lies between the Shawra and Al-Ardhi coasts also plays a role in the overall coastal situation and contributes to the environmental concerns in the area.

Hudhaifa Abbas, a resident of Bab Al-Mandab, comments on the pollution of the beaches, stating to "Khuyut" (a local news outlet), "People in Bab Al-Mandab are suffering greatly due to the pollution, but the residents here are very simple and cannot do much about it. Since fishing is their only source of livelihood, they are forced to go back and forth to the sea every day, without paying attention to the dangers posed by pollution and waste."

The lack of commitment from official authorities to protect the environment in coastal areas is indeed a major factor contributing to the disastrous consequences of pollution. This negligence not only affects the natural ecosystem but also has detrimental effects on the two crucial resources of fisheries and marine life, as well as tourism let alone the health damages affecting the residents of coastal areas which cannot be ignored.

Hudhaifa continues, "The coastal area in Bab al-Mandab is quite shallow, allowing you to walk over it for a distance and witness the floating waste on the sea. It is quite striking to note that the local authorities have completely neglected their role in removing this waste and have failed to fulfill their duty in assisting the residents. This lack of action is deeply disappointing and leaves the local community to bear the burden of this issue alone as the authorities need to step up and take immediate action to address the waste problem which also poses a direct threat to the well-being and livelihoods of the coastal residents."

Experts and environmental specialists agree that marine pollution poses a significant danger to both people and the marine ecosystem as a whole. Coastal residents may suffer from serious illnesses due to the consumption of contaminated fish. Moreover, pollution can lead to food crises for the local population and even for those who import fish from the shores of Bab al-Mandab.

It is worth noting that Bab Al-Mandab's coastline is also plagued by a dense spread of plastic waste, which emits hazardous gases, notably methane and ethylene, known for their contribution to global warming. Several studies have demonstrated that the presence of bisphenol A, a substance found in plastic, can result in various health risks that affect the residents of such coastal areas. This alarming situation necessitates immediate action to mitigate plastic pollution and safeguard the well-being of the people living in these coastal areas.

Coastlines inhabited by pollution

There are numerous waste products generated from human use of ships and boats in the sea, but most of them are not disposed of properly in designated areas. Instead, they are thrown into the sea. Over time, these waste materials break down into tiny particles that reach larger marine animals. These animals ingest them, leading to their death as they are washed ashore by the sea waves. Accordingly, the coastal areas are thus heavily impacted by this pollution.

Ahmed Hamdi, a social activist, highlights the concerning issue of abundant single-use waste along the coasts of Taiz, particularly in the neglected coastal areas of Dhubab. These areas have unfortunately become hotspots for pollution, with no efforts made to clean or maintain them.

Hamdi further explains that fishermen spend extended periods at sea, engaging in their fishing activities. Unfortunately, many of them dispose of their plastic and other waste materials directly into the sea. Consequently, the waves carry and deposit these materials onto the shores and coasts, contributing to the accumulation of marine waste. Additionally, fishing centers operating in the sea also generate their fair share of waste products.

In addition to the fish brought in by fishermen from the sea, unfortunately, many of them are already dead and rotten. These fish are then left on the beach without being cleaned or properly disposed of, remaining there for extended periods of time. Furthermore, even the designated fishing areas, known as "masyadat," have also become polluted due to their deteriorating condition and lack of maintenance.

Hamdi further emphasizes, "It is disheartening to see that even the fishermen, traders, agents, and visitors contribute to the problem by using water bottles, plastic bags for food, and tin cans, which they thoughtlessly discard on the beach. They seem to overlook the severe consequences of their actions."

This careless behavior not only adds to the existing pollution but also poses a significant threat to the marine ecosystem and the overall well-being of the coastal environment. It is crucial for everyone to understand the impact of their actions and make conscious choices to reduce waste and properly dispose of it in designated areas.

Experts and environmental specialists have emphasized that the negligence of official authorities in protecting the environment in coastal areas bears a significant share of responsibility for the devastating consequences caused by pollution. This pollution not only severely impacts two crucial resources, fisheries and marine life, but also has detrimental effects on tourism. Furthermore, it poses health risks to the residents of coastal regions. The failure to prioritize environmental protection and address pollution issues has resulted in irreparable damage to these vital ecosystems and the well-being of both human and marine populations. It is imperative for the authorities to recognize the urgency of the situation and take immediate action to mitigate pollution and safeguard the coastal environment for the benefit of present and future generations.

Anwar Al-Shadhli, an environmental researcher, voices his dissatisfaction with the Yemeni authorities' lack of attention to environmental issues. Despite the presence of specialized environmental offices, he criticizes their failure to effectively fulfill their duties and prioritize environmental protection. Al-Shadhli expresses disappointment that these offices, which are specifically established to safeguard the environment, have not been successful in carrying out their responsibilities. This disregard for environmental concerns is alarming, given the potential consequences for the well-being of coastal areas and their ecosystems.

Mismanagement of Sewage Waste

Moreover, Al-Shadhli emphasizes that the increasing population in coastal areas has a direct and concerning impact on the waste being disposed of in these regions, including the sea. This waste can originate from human sources, such as sewage, as well as from agricultural, industrial, and commercial activities. He stresses that this pollution will undoubtedly have detrimental effects on the residents of coastal areas, both in the short and long term.

Indeed, the local population, whose livelihoods depend on fishing, will bear the brunt of this pollution. Not only does it pose risks to their means of sustenance, but it also directly affects the areas in which they reside and carry out their daily activities. The contamination caused by this pollution becomes even more concerning as the ebb and flow of tides and currents can bring the waste back to the shores, exacerbating the contamination issues that they face. This vicious cycle perpetuates the harmful effects on both the environment and the lives of the coastal communities. The authorities must acknowledge the gravity of the situation and implement effective measures to address the pollution problems, safeguard the livelihoods of the local population, and preserve the health and integrity of the coastal areas.

The environment has borne the brunt of the damages caused by the war and conflict in Yemen, considering its consequences and the overall impact on environmental and economic aspects. The catastrophic effects on nature and humanity are evident, including the mass deaths of fish, as well as the severe plight and imminent extinction of turtles and crustaceans due to the unsuitability of the coast for their survival.

Al-Shadhli continues his discussion, saying, "The coastal inhabitants endure extremely poor economic conditions and live in a polluted environment, with the coast stretching before them and the mainland behind them. If they engage in agricultural activities on the mainland, they face challenges of pollution and saltwater intrusion due to the ebb and flow of tides. This saltwater intrusion can affect agricultural lands, even if it may not be immediately visible, as it moves through the soil."

In addition, coastal areas serve as habitats for the local population, which makes them particularly vulnerable to diseases, especially children. As Al-Shadhli, the environmental researcher, explains, "Coastal villages are located at the mouths of rivers, which in itself is another disaster. These rivers also carry the waste from mountainous areas, turning their villages into gathering spots for garbage."

He further adds, "The coastal environment is ill-equipped and lacks the basic necessities of life. Its beaches are polluted, and the impacts extend to humans, marine organisms, and the entire ecosystem. However, the most significant impact is felt by the humans who depend on these sectors. They are the ones most affected economically, in terms of livelihood, and in terms of health."

The loss of marine life

The environment has borne the brunt of the damages caused by the war and conflict in Yemen, with far-reaching implications for both the natural world and human beings. Al-Shadhli emphasizes the breakdown of environmental laws and international commitments, exacerbated by the division within the country. This has had a profound impact, particularly on the environment, as our extensive coastlines serve as crucial migratory routes for birds, relying on the beaches as their annual habitats. The pollution has dire consequences for these avian species.

Furthermore, the coastal areas are home to rare and precious marine creatures like beaked turtles and green turtles, both of which are suffering immensely and teetering on the brink of extinction due to the inhospitable conditions along the coast. Additionally, the coasts are teeming with a significant population of crustaceans, which venture out of the sea and establish their habitats on the sandy shores which presents a potential source of national income. However, their survival is now at risk as their numbers have dwindled due to pollution sources that impede plant biodiversity. The repercussions on these delicate ecosystems are evident and demand urgent attention.

Indeed, it is important to highlight that in the past three years, inhabitants of coastal regions have been witnessing a concerning occurrence – the widespread mortality of fish and marine organisms. Unfortunately, the exact causes behind this phenomenon remain a mystery, primarily due to the absence of dedicated research centers that specialize in environmental studies, as noted by Al-Shadhli. In addition, he expresses his concern, stating, "There seems to be a lack of investigation or in-depth examination of the situation, and nobody seems to be actively seeking the root causes behind the death of these marine creatures and the disappearance of crustaceans."

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