"Let nothing human be alien to me"- Terence

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Electricity in Yemen

Always Judged Guilty friend Haley Sweetland Edwards has an article in the GlobalPost about chronic electrical shortages in Yemen.   I know what you're thinking. You're thinking- hey!  I want to read about things blowing up, preferably the bad guys.  Well, relax.  First off, she* is a great writer, so it is very readable.  Second, persistent social annoyances like this are just as important, if not (in the long run) more important than the immediate security threats.   Here is the nut of it.

For Ali and many other small business owners, Yemen’s severe and worsening electricity shortage is more than just an inconvenience. It’s a financial catastrophe.
The cause of the electricity shortage is simple: Yemen’s rapidly expanding population, combined with the explosive growth of Yemeni cities thanks to internal migration, has outstripped the capacity of the nation’s decades-old diesel and steam power plants. Sana'a, the nation’s capital, is growing by a staggering 8 percent per year — making it one of the fastest growing cities in the world — yet the capital region draws power from virtually the same sources it did 20 years ago.

This helps to flesh out a portrait of a society in deep trouble, if not outright disrepair.  It is one of those things that seems small, certainly compared to the towering problems of war and water, but helps to add to the persistent sense that things are not working out.  It isn't entirely pessimistic, as the article talks about attempts to rebuild or expand the grid, though those attempts are being hindered by tribesmen.  (Basically, the tribes want concessions for the grid running through their land.  This is not uncommon in Yemen, but growing center-tribes distrust might throw up more obstacles).  Anyway, it is a good article, and I would be doing you injustice by summarizing.  Read it. 

* I got it right this time

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