ISLAMABAD: The completion of work on a mega water and sanitation project has raised the standard of living of thousands of household in Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) and Chitral.
The Water and Sanitation Extension Programme (WASEP) has benefited over 210,000 people in 12,000 households in the region.
The collaboration of the German government and Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) has not only helped improved lives by providing safe drinking water and sanitation facilities, but also benefited people through the installation of over 10,000 latrines, around 12,000 household tap stands and over 500 communal taps.
These details were shared at a seminar on ‘Water and sanitation extension programme in Gilgit-Baltistan and Chitral,’ organised under the Aga Khan Foundation and Aga Khan Planning and Building Services, here on Wednesday.
The seminar highlighted the completion of a four-year safe water and sanitation project in collaboration with the German Federal Foreign Office through Kreditanstalt fur Wiederaufbau (KfW) Development Bank, AKDN, and Aga Khan Planning and Building Service, Pakistan (AKPBSP).
Speakers said that the project demonstrated a unique public-private partnership between AKDN, the governments of Gilgit-Baltistan and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) and the local communities.
As part of a Rs1.25 billion KfW grant announced in 2010, safe drinking water, sanitation and sewerage facilities were provided in northern Pakistan through WASEP.
“Water and sanitation are often taken for granted and people expect them to be there when needed like electricity,” said the KfW Country Director, Wolfgang Moellers. “Life in far-flung areas is difficult.”
Following the project, Moellers said that the quality of life had improved as the elimination of a two kilometre trek to get water gave women and children more time for other activities.
“Clean water is one of the key challenges facing Pakistan,” said secretary German Embassy First Secretary Almut Anita Knop. “Providing safe drinking water to people living in remote areas is an important step.”
AKF Pakistan CEO Akhtar Iqbal said WASEP’s approach of working with local communities had helped in building the capacities of the local people and empowered women.
“With the application of sustainable and risk-resilient technical interventions, we have been able to uplift the lives, particularly of women and young girls, who used to spend a large part of their day collecting water from contaminated sources located far away from their villages,” AKPBSP Chairperson Hafiz Sherali said.
Nearly half the population in G-B and Chitral does not have access to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation facilities.
According to pre-intervention indicators in the region, 30 to 40 per cent of all deaths were attributed to water-borne diseases. Women and young girls spent on average three to four hours per day travelling long distances to collect contaminated water; and on average 30 per cent of a household’s income was spent on medical expenses related to waterborne diseases.
“My daughters would suffer terribly due to diarrhoea from drinking dirty water from the well,” said Tasleem Bano, a resident of Khanabad in Lower Hunza.
She said that at least Rs500 out of her husband’s total earnings of Rs6,000 would be spent on medical treatment for her children. Following the project, Bano said, she was able to use the additional time to help her children with their homework or stitch clothes for them.
Other post-intervention achievements include water and sanitation awareness and education outreach through more than 1,500 School Health Improvement Programmes (SHIP) and 1,300 Community Health Improvement Programmes (CHIP).
Published in The Express Tribune, January 29th, 2015.