The Aga Khan Agency for Habitat (AKAH)’s goal is to provide sustainable, clean and safely-managed water and sanitation services to the communities it serves.
The Aga Khan Agency for Habitat’s goal is for all the communities served to have access to sustainable, clean and safely managed water and sanitation services. We are working to ensure every household has a tap in its home or yard that provides year-round access to water meeting WHO quality standards and every home has private sanitation facilities where waste is safely treated and disposed of. We have implemented over 1,000 infrastructure projects to build safe water and sanitation systems serving more than 600,000 people.
In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, safe water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) infrastructure is more important than ever. Strong WASH systems and practices across communities in homes and public spaces are critical to preventing the spread of disease and building resilience for future epidemics or pandemics. Frequent and proper handwashing and surface sanitisation are some of the most important measures to prevent infection and require robust WASH services as an enabler. Proper disposal and management of wastewater or greywater is critical to preventing the virus’s spread.
The pandemic poses additional risks and potential negative impacts to existing water and sanitation systems. Increased demand for water and sanitation services for prevention measures places additional pressure on existing infrastructure and scarce resources. In this context AKAH is redoubling efforts to expand water supply and sanitation infrastructure in homes, schools and hospitals across the communities in which we work.
In many of the geographies where we work, water and sanitation infrastructure is vulnerable to natural disaster, extreme climatic conditions, population pressure and in some cases damage and disrepair due to protracted conflict. Many areas also face water scarcity as groundwater resources are depleted or stressed due to climate change, weak governance and population growth. AKAH adopts an integrated approach addressing issues of access, supply, quality, behaviour and long-term water security.
Community-Managed WASH Infrastructure
Through our flagship Water and Sanitation Extension Programme (WASEP) we are working to build resilient, community-managed WASH infrastructure. Initiated in 1997 to expand water supply in rural
Community participation is central to our approach and we engage community members in the design, operations and maintenance of the systems. More than 850 community-level Operations and Maintenance Committees manage the water and sanitation schemes, and communities contribute funds and user fees for maintenance and upkeep. In India, AKAH is a key partner for the Government of Gujarat in promoting community-led water management and in Maharashtra for the Jal Jeevan Mission of the Government of India to ensure a tap in every household.
Sanitation and Waste Management
In India, AKAH has been implementing a comprehensive Environmental Health Improvement programme, focusing on water and sanitation since 1995, often working with government initiatives including the Government of India’s Swachh Bharat Mission (Clean India Mission). In particular we work with communities to build and improve sanitation facilities and promote better hygiene behaviours in homes.
AKAH promotes adapted designs and onsite technical assistance for sustainable construction and use of sanitation facilities integrating water conservation, hygiene behaviour change campaigns and waste management; we have built over
Building on this experience, we are expanding our community-led sanitation programmes across all our countries of operation, integrating solid waste management initiatives promoting sorting, recycling and reuse. We have developed a
Enhancing Water Security and Resilience
To address long-term water security, AKAH is working with communities to map and model water resources, introduce water conservation and recharge measures, and strengthen water management and governance. We are applying nature-based solutions using tree plantation for water conservation and wastewater treatment to build resilience and combat climate change. In Syria, as part of our humanitarian assistance programming, AKAH is working with communities on community-led tree plantation efforts to prevent desertification, enhance water table and mitigate climate change. In Pakistan and India, we are using bio-filtering measures such as tree plantation to filter wastewater and support healthy micro-ecosystems and wastewater recycling at village and community level drainage systems, as part of our water supply and sanitation infrastructure schemes.
Data and Water Governance
Access to information on water resources is critical to promoting conservation and better management. Communities cannot conserve and manage what they cannot estimate, measure or visualise themselves. AKAH is working on innovative initiatives to collect and expand access to data on surface-water and groundwater resources – quality, availability, recharge, future forecasts, scenarios, etc – to provide actionable information and empower users to make informed decisions for better management of water resources.
In India AKAH is developing an innovative digital app to create a real-time database on surface-water and groundwater resources, combining data from multiple sources including direct field surveys by AKAH, data submitted by community members through the app and analysis of future scenarios. Our goal is to give water users access to data to promote awareness and participation in monitoring, managing and conserving scarce water resources. We are testing this tool in 65 villages with a population of over 200,000 in four districts of Maharashtra and Gujarat. In Gujarat, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh AKAH also conducts community-led water budgeting exercises to educate and create awareness on water management and usage practices along with geo-hydrological and flood plain studies to help them trace the pattern of water movement from catchments to point of usage.
Water Conservation and Groundwater Recharge
To improve longer-term water security, we are also working with communities to introduce measures to conserve water and recharge water resources. We promote water conservation through behaviour change and awareness activities in schools and communities. We are also working with communities to implement rainwater harvesting and recharge structures.
In Syria we are promoting community-led rainwater harvesting systems at the household level, as part of our humanitarian relief efforts. In India, in addition to promoting household, school and community-level rainwater harvesting solutions in rural and urban areas, we are implementing structural measures and environmentally sustainable solutions such as