The Environment Protection law in Yemen, a national initiative completed with ESCWA’s advice
In the environment field, as in other fields, a clear law constitutes the corner stone of a good strategy for the preservation of natural resources. Almost all the member countries of ESCWA have adopted environmental protection laws, and Yemen has been one of them since 1995. Realizing the important role of reducing pollution and conserving resources in order to attain sustainable development, the Environment Protection Authority of Yemen has reached the conclusion that this law became insufficient in the context of their ambition for a fast and sustainable development of their economy. A new law on the environment is, therefore, being prepared presently by a committee of local legal consultants and will be presented to the Parliament for ratification and adoption in 2006.
However, Yemen has deemed preferable, before submitting this new law to the Parliament, to solicit the expertise and counsel of ESCWA – Regional Program for Technical Cooperation - in order to perfect and refine this legislation, which shall govern the protection of the environment and ensure resource conservation for years to come. This collaboration is in perfect harmony with many objectives defined by ESCWA, such as the introduction of the sustainable development concept to the countries of this region through preservation of natural resources and minimization of pollution loads.
For the observer of the development of Yemen, it is evident that the timing of the initiative for the adoption of a modern law on the environment is perfect. In fact, all the signs show that this country is experiencing an increasing economic development, a fast urbanization and an increase in population which, in case it is not coupled with the necessary precautions shall, without doubt, exert more pressures on the environment, similar to what happened in other regions of the world. Evidence is in the fact that, ten years ago, air pollution was so negligible in Yemen that even the concept of such pollution was ignored in the law of 1995. In the present time, however, the capital Sana’a has started to suffer from a real problem of air pollution, and this has duly been considered in the draft of the new law being currently prepared, in coordination with ESCWA’s Regional Advisor on Environment.
The elaboration of this new text by the local consultants, pursuant to the recommendations of ESCWA’s Regional Advisor, has led to the addition of new clauses (such as the chapter on air pollution), the deletion of others, and the modification of many articles in the previous law. ESCWA’s Regional Advisor on Environment, Ahmed Gamal Attaalla, specifies that the recommendations “supplement and consolidate the considerable effort exerted by the legal committee, since, in most cases, it touches on the technical aspects, which enhances the legal support required for the protection of the environment and conservation of resources in the Republic of Yemen”.
In revising the law drafted by the committee, the advisor followed many key-principles, which make this future law a strong basis for the protection of the environment as well as a springboard for reform in this field. Thus, the concern of introducing the concept of sustainable development to Yemen accompanied the revision of the law. The importance of the institutional framework, which guarantees the efficiency, and effectiveness of the protection of the environment, has been brought forward. The work already accomplished in this field in Yemen has been at the base of the proposed reforms. On the other hand, the experience of other countries proved to be useful in the formulation of the framework of this process. Last, the final text is characterized by clarity together and contains dissuasive measures to be applied against the contravening polluters.
This need for clarity, indispensable in legislative work, especially those concerned with technical aspects such as the laws on the environment, was recommended by ESCWA’s Advisor in connection with supplementary specifications and definitions of some notions. For example, the very important chapter on environmental impact assessment (EIA), which has become a must preceding the construction of any project that may constitute a source of adverse impact on environment, was modified: the new law differentiates between the EIA studies, which are carried out before approving the licensing and construction of a project, and the environmental inspection to be exercised over the already existing installations. Other fundamental notions were added to the original text, like those of sustainable development or the importance of economic assessment of environmental degradation.
The Regional Advisor also advised better future implementation of the law, such as charging a single authority to supervise environmental work in the country and to define and apply future strategies. In other words, a thorough analysis of the situation in Yemen allowed ESCWA to propose solutions for targeted problems. The original draft law prepared by the local legal committee evokes concrete mechanisms for a more efficient protection of the environment, which were proven elsewhere, like the creation of a special fund for this purpose, or a single judicial authority charged only with the affairs of environmental nature. The elaboration of this law on the protection of the environment demonstrates the determination of the Yemeni authorities to ensure a sustainable development for their nation.