Due to snowfall in winter and landslides and floods in summer, the villages around the Wakhan corridor (some of which lie at an altitude of over 3,000 metres) remain cut off for up to four months every year. Many villages along the Afghan-Pakistan border lack access to safe water supplies. Residents, most often women, have to travel long distances over harsh mountain terrain to fetch water from rivers or unprotected sources. Often the water is unclean, leading to sickness and disease in places with little or no access to health services.
In response, the Aga Khan Agency for Habitat (AKAH), with the support of the PATRIP Foundation, is constructing 15 climate resilient drinking water schemes. In Ners, a village in the Wakhan district of Badakhshan along the Chinese-Afghan-Pakistan border, AKAH constructed a water supply system that provides every home, as well as public facilities in the village, with a water tap. Safe piped drinking water that meets WHO quality standards is provided year-round. AKAH began by designing and installing a protected, piped system that covered 6.5km from the water source to the village. The scheme includes a drainage system designed to properly and safely drain water in the winter months and meet the particular geographic and climatic conditions of the village.
Given the remoteness of the village, transporting construction supplies and materials was particularly complex, drawing on AKAH’s logistics and supply chain capabilities that were developed during the delivery of humanitarian aid in emergencies. Recognising the challenges of accessibility for repair and maintenance going forward, the project promotes local ownership and the skills needed to maintain the system. AKAH also formed and trained a WASH Committee in the community to be responsible for maintenance and promote good hygiene and sanitation practices.
The project, which was praised by the District Governor, was considered unique in the region. The Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development’s Provincial Coordinator concluded that “ultimately the water supply served to protect people of the village”.
Providing water in settings like Ners clearly has benefits that extend far beyond clean water. They extend to preventing sickness and disease, reducing the time residents spend fetching water -- even bringing international water quality standards to remote villages.