Qat habit might ruin Sana’a

BBC NEWS - From Our Own Correspondent: Yemen’s khat habit soaks up water

This is a BBC report about the qat (or khat) habit, which uses 40% of Yemen’s scarce water supply and is growing, the result of which is that there is not enough water for the country’s capital city, Sana’a. The water and environment minister now proposes a programme of voluntary resettlement of Yemenis from the capital to the coastal region, where solar energy could be used to desalinate water.

A few years ago I remember a butcher’s shop near where I lived in Croydon, run by a Somali who invited other Somalis round to chew qat, and they were pretty miserable people. The shop was always on the rocks (largely as a result of being in a part of town where there were few Muslims, I suspect), and eventually foundered when meat supplies crashed during the foot and mouth crisis. As for Yemen, there must be a reason why they don’t all live on the coast; heat, perhaps, or malaria? Perhaps the threat of having to move there might shake them out of their stupor, but if the government chews (as this water minister does), what hope is there?

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