By: Fatima Shahryar
“Walking for miles, at times carrying our children along, to fetch water from the canal was a tough and time consuming activity,” says Parveen Saifullah (28), a resident of Village Abdul Majeed Utra, Rajanpur district. “We had to go to the canal at least once a day to fetch water for drinking and household use. For all purposes, it was our only source of water. Now we have a hand pump next to our house. We get clean water that our children can drink and they are healthier than before.”
Village Majeed Utra is located near southern border of Punjab. The women of this community are largely responsible for supporting their families. Daily routine for women includes household chores, harvesting the crops, taking care of the children and fetching water from a far off canal.
Ground water in most parts of Rajanpur district is brackish and not fit for drinking. Communities do not have easy access to safe drinking water in the absence of proper water supply schemes. The canal system meant for irrigation, is the main source of water but even that has its limitations as water is released in the canal only for a period of 20 days at different intervals. During the period when the canal is dry, people use traditional ponds to store canal and rain water which is muddy, unprotected and used by animals and humans alike.
“Unable to access the benefits of development, rural communities in far flung areas of Rajanpur district, were drinking contaminated water from traditional ponds,” says Sabahat Ambreen, WASH Specialist, UNICEF. “We have supported these communities in building paved water ponds which have a sand filtration system. Through hand pumps connected to these ponds, communities are now getting safe drinking water which prevents water borne diseases.”
UNICEF, through its implementing partner, Qatar Charity, has helped communities to construct seven water ponds in various union councils of Rajanpur district. Each of these ponds can store up to 154,000 gallons of water and benefit around 1,100 individuals directly and around 500 indirectly. Water from the canal goes through a filtration system before it is stored in the pond. It goes through another filtration system when it leaves the pond to be extracted through hand pumps installed within the community. One of these ponds has been constructed in village Abdul Majeed Utra.
Rana Abdul Majeed (58) and his six brothers own a fairly large piece of cultivatable land around the village which is named after him. He leads the local community and has played a pivotal role in helping his people build the water pond. He donated the land for the pond and has been a supporter of UNICEF which has helped his community improve their health and hygiene conditions.
“We used to dig in search of sweet water but to no avail as the ground water in this area is salty and bitter,” says Rana Abdul Majeed. “We had no choice but to fetch water from the canal which was not only hectic but also detrimental to our health. When the idea of building a water pond was brought to us by UNICEF, I instantly agreed and donated land for it. The community supported and we built the pond with our own hands. It is a blessing for us as we now get clean water at our door step because of which our children fall sick less often.”
When construction of the water pond in the village started, the entire community was mobilised. While people from the Qatar Charity provided technical advice and equipment including water pipes, hand pumps and filtration system, people of the village did all the labour work. It took them several months and a lot of hard work to build the pond. However, it is now a great sense of achievement for them and the community enjoys easy access to clean and safe drinking water. With access to clean water, the awareness about hygiene and sanitation has also increased in the community which will soon be covered by the Pakistan’s Approach to Total Sanitation (PATS) project for which UNICEF is a major partner to the Government of Pakistan.
“I cannot explain to what extent our lives have improved because of the water pond and the pumps installed in our village,” says Parveen Saifullah. “We save a lot of time and effort, and our children do not fall sick like they used to. It is a blessing for us in every way”