Invasive shrub blamed for Yemen floods

Agricultural experts and local communities in southern Yemen are urging the government to tackle an evergreen and fast-growing shrub that has been blocking waterways, with sometimes devastating consequences.

They say mesquite (Prosopis juliflora) is responsible for exacerbating flooding in October by blocking watercourses and diverting floodwater into villages, which might otherwise have been unscathed.

At least 90 people were killed, and 20,000-25,000 were left homeless by the floods, according to the UN IRIN news service.

Mesquite, which was introduced to Yemen several decades ago to combat desertification and stabilise sand dunes, is native to the Americas, tolerates harsh, arid, saline conditions, and has spread throughout arable parts of the Hadramaut province.

The shrub has recently colonised many uncultivated hectares of land in Yemen’s coastal and eastern desert areas, with animals responsible for the spread; the seeds are mainly disseminated in animal droppings.

When left unmanaged the shrub can form dense impassable thickets, particularly where land has been degraded or overgrazed, say agricultural experts. It also invades cultivated fields and irrigated farms.

Source: IRIN news

Date: 08/12/2008

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