Addictive Leaf May Rob Yemen of Water

Khat consumes water, drains family resources, detractors say
By Nick McMaster,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 25, 2009 8:15 PM CDT
In this undated photo released by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, stalks of khat are displayed.   (AP Photo/U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration)
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(Newser) – It's no secret that Yemen loves khat—a leaf chewed to produce a mild, amphetamine-like effect. Nearly 90% of men and 25% of women indulge, and most families actually spend more on khat than food. The ramifications have been long chronicled, but Time points out a less obvious one emerging as a serious threat: Khat is robbing the parched nation of precious water.

Nearly all of Yemen’s arable land is devoted to khat, which requires so much water that it sucks up 30% of the nation's supply. "Yemen is in real danger of becoming the world's first country to run out of water," writes Andrew Lee Butters. The nation already is in a fragile state as it battles a separatist insurgency. It may not be able to survive a massive drought, followed by the inevitable mass migrations in search of water.