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Yemen’s Sanaa: ‘We export gas to the world yet don’t have it in our homes’

Yemeni citizens have complained about the continued gas crisis in the capital Sanaa which has been ongoing for more than two months, despite the vast abundance of the commodity in the province of Ma’rib – located to only about 173 km northeast of the city.

Sanaa and a number of Yemeni provinces controlled by the Houthis are suffering from a lack of domestic gas. Gas is used as fuel for vehicles and the remarkable rise in its prices on the black market has forced residents to use firewood for cooking and heating.

One Yemeni citizen, Ahmed Al-Falahi, condemned the continued lack of gas, telling the New Arab: “We have gas in Yemen and we export it to the world, but in Sanaa, we are deprived of it and we do not know why”. He pointed out that gas is available in Ma’rib province and is under the control of the Yemeni government. Al-Falahi added that:

If the conflict between [the] Mar’ib government and the Sanaa government is the reason for depriving us of gas, this is a crime against Yemen and the Yemenis. We have nothing to do with these disputes and gas must be supplied at official prices and the Sanaa authorities must fight the black market.

Al-Falahi also pointed to “the absurdity of the availability of gas on the black market at high prices and its official lack in the sales centres”. He explained that he registers his name at the supplier in charge of providing gas to his neighbourhood, but he does not get it “until after a very long period of time. Thus, he was forced to buy it from the black market”.

Another Yemeni citizen, Jalal Al-Mashriqi, denounced the rise in the price of cooking gas – which amounted to 12,000 Yemeni Riyals – as a “very high price”. He told the New Arab that he had been looking for a gas cylinder for more than two weeks but to no avail. He did not have the money to buy gas from the black market and pointed out that he was forced to use firewood instead.

Al-Mashriqi added: “Even the price of firewood has increased dramatically, with the average package price reaching 3,000 Riyals, while the large package reaches more than 6,000 Riyals”. He stressed that he gathered firewood from decorative trees planted in the streets and sidewalks.

The lack of gas has caused a rise in transportation costs, which increased by 100 Riyals, in addition to the amount allocated for bus fare in Sanaa.

Ahmad Radwan, a student at the University of Sanaa, said that the recent increase in transportation costs has exacerbated the suffering of university students in particular and citizens in general. He explained to the New Arab that the fare to university has doubled, adding that: “Whereas I paid 400 Riyals for the transport back and forth to university, I now pay 800 Riyals, which is a high amount for me”.

For his part, a source from the Yemen Gas Company in Sanaa justified the causes of the gas crisis, citing the increasing demand from taxis, machinery, equipment and some factories which have resorted to using gas because of its low price compared to oil.

The source, who asked not to be named, told the New Arab that the high demand for gas has led to a shortage of availability. He pointed out that the authorities have adopted a mechanism for distributing gas through the disclosures received from neighbourhood chairmen, in which the latter receives a certain amount of gas to be distributed to the population at the price of 3,000 Riyals. Despite this, the source explains that “there is a kind of manipulation in the distribution operation by providing the largest amount and selling it to restaurants and bus owners, up to double the price”.

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