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  • School children in Gilgit, Pakistan use a hands-free handwashing station installed by AKAH. In the context of the COVID pandemic, we are redoubling efforts to expand safe water supply and sanitation infrastructure across the communities in which we work.
  • Students develop healthy hygiene protocols for their home and school as part of AKAH’s WASH behaviour change programming which has reached over 100,000 children in Pakistan.
  • Since 1997, AKAH’s Water and Sanitation Extension Programme has worked to improve access to safe drinking water in high mountain areas in Pakistan. It has built and improved water supply infrastructure in over 700 settlements to provide safe drinking water to more than 500,000 people in rural and peri-urban areas of Gilgit-Baltistan and Chitral.
  • AKAH engineers and community members excavate a water pipeline in Badakhshan, Afghanistan. We have implemented over 1,000 infrastructure projects to build safe water and sanitation systems serving more than 600,000 people.
  • A young girl in the remote Wakhan district of Badakhshan, Afghanistan now has access to safe, piped drinking water that meets WHO quality standards thanks to a tap installed by AKAH in her yard, with support from the PATRIP Foundation.
Water and sanitation

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.


A student presenting her group’s thoughts on hygiene protocols to be followed in her school during a WASH training session conducted by AKAH in Pakistan.

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 areas in northern Pakistan, we have expanded the model to urban and rural settings across our countries of operation including in Afghanistan with the support of PATRIP Foundation  and Tajikistan with the support of the SDC and USAID. WASEP provides water supply and sanitation infrastructure services to local communities and helps prevent water-borne diseases by promoting improved hygiene and sanitation practices. Our technical experts and engineers design the systems and are specialised in solutions to provide reliable access to services in remote mountain areas with harsh winters. We provide non-local materials, skilled labour, training, and health and hygiene education.

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 60,000 sanitation systems. School sanitation is another key focus area and we reach more than one million people through school and community hygiene programmes in India.


Children using a drinking water station constructed in their school by AKAH Pakistan with support from the European Union.

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 compendium of technical solutions for rural and urban sanitation to promote wider adoption of new technologies and efficient decentralised system solutions across India and beyond.

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.

In Syria, as part of our long-term humanitarian relief activities, we are undertaking an integrated water resource management study developing a groundwater modelling system for the Salamieh water basin to evaluate water resources and aquifer systems, model future scenarios and inform sustainable water management strategies to cope with water shortages and recharge water resources.

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 underground bunds. These recharge groundwater sources and retain more surface water in the soil, improving soil quality. Such systems require minimal maintenance and will improve water security sustainably over time as they promote natural groundwater recharge.