The development of a National Meta Information System on Groundwater in Yemen is a joint project of National Water Resources Authorities (NWRA) in Yemen and IGRAC. The project aims to collect, store, manage and disseminate meta-information about water related activities (programs and projects), products of these activities (documents, maps, databases/info-centres) and main actors (organizations and persons) in Yemen. The main institutional objective of the project is to establish and sustain institutional memory related to (ground)water information in Yemen and to improve cooperation on management of information among various providers and users.
In the foreseeable future, groundwater in Yemen is likely to remain the key resource to improve the domestic water supply coverage and the agricultural and industrial production. It is also an important conditioning factor in regional environmental processes. The development of groundwater therefore should be carefully managed to make full benefit of its potential, to protect its quality and to guard against over-exploitation. Yemen faces increasing shortage of water due to increasing population pressure. Sustainable development strategy of Yemen depends very much upon technical and socio-economic solutions of water related problems. Moreover, due to its physiographic setting, Yemen is vulnerable to natural disasters such as earthquakes and flooding. A rapid identification of potential sources for water supply is crucial during such critical events. A proper exploration for groundwater and the exploitation of water resources (including surface water) in general, requires a large amount of data and information on various aspects of water.
Over the past 40 years, several hundreds of water-related studies have been carried out in Yemen. These studies vary in scale from small water supply projects to large water resources assessment programmes. During execution of these studies, existing data were processed to obtain the required information and new data were collected to bridge information gaps. Total costs of the acquired data amount to hundreds of million dollars in expenditures for fieldwork, design, installation and maintenance of monitoring networks, drilling operations and laboratory analyses. In Yemen, water-related information is dispersed among various institutions: NWRA (HQ and branches), NWSA, ministries, Sana'a University, bilateral (embassies, NGO's) and multilateral (UNDP, World Bank) donor organisations and private firms. Lack of knowledge about other organization's data can easily lead to a costly duplication of effort.
A meta-information system stores information about data and information sources. It organizes available information in a manner that suits requirements of potential users dealing with specific water themes on various scales (a custom-based approach). The system does not store any "scientific" data (measurements, analyses etc.) but informs the user on the whereabouts and kind of the data. Meta Information System is an important management tool to prevent substantial disinvestment resulting from lost access to available data and information. Development of a Meta Information System on Groundwater is an example of an appropriate application of IT technology to promote "information rescue" and "institutional sustainability" of water information.
IGRAC incorporated the development of a prototype meta-information system in its work plan for 2006-2007. During the initial phase the cooperation between the partners has been formalized. Technical activities included inventory of water-related documents available at selected locations in Yemen (NWRA HQ and Branches) and The Netherlands (TNO and DHV) and extraction of meta-information from more than 400 documents. A prototype of an on-line meta-information storage and retrieval system has been developed to demonstrate the functionality of the system. By December 2007, the system included 395 documents. The prototype of the meta-information system is accessible through the NaMIS project workspace on the IGRAC website. Capacity building component of the project included on-the-job training of Yemeni counterparts in input of meta-information and the use of digital project workspace. The initial phase of the project revealed a large number of potential sources of water-relevant information in Yemen on one hand and a limited access to these sources on the other hand. It also revealed that today web-technology allows for an easily manageable storage and retrieval system for meta-information.
NWRA and IGRAC are investigating the possibilities how to upgrade the NaMIS prototype to a fully operational and sustainable system. Consultation with the Netherlands Embassy in Sana'a for a financial support of the project, as part of the bilateral cooperation water-programme, is ongoing. As the sustainability of the meta-information system depends on the willingness of all water-related institutions to provide relevant information they own, cooperation with these institutions are being formalized. Training of Yemeni staff through courses, workshops and on-the-job training will provide a solid base for imbedding and periodical updating of the system in NWRA.
The meta-information system will considerably improve access to a very large amount of information that, under the current conditions, is difficult to trace in Yemen. It will also provide facilities for a continuous update of information and in such way it will consolidate the results of completed water-related projects and secure the potential benefits of past investments for future development activities.
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