Veena Kumari, a 45-year old lady must walk three to four kilometers on a regular basis to fetch water in a small village where the lack of availability of safe drinking water compels many to consume contaminated water. Sadly, thousands of other people in Sindh province like Veena Kumari stand at risk of consuming unsafe water.
In Veena Kumari’s own village Khanwa, Rajoo Khanani, district Badin Sindh, over 200 households comprising of minorities and marginalized communities have severely been affected by inadequate access to clean drinking water. Being populated in a rural and underprivileged region, the resources accessible to the residents to make a living are restricted to agricultural means only, which too are under the threat of losing productivity due to lack of irrigation owing to the prolonged water shortage.
What is more appalling is that nothing is spared from this unsafe water, be it households, hospitals or educational institutions. According to the latest report of Judicial Commission on water submitted to the Supreme Court of Pakistan, “Out of 336 potable water samples collected from various areas of Sindh, 251 were found unsafe and only 85 were safe for human consumption”. In Khanwa too, the killer water has exposed the residents to a risk of different communicable diseases such as Typhoid, Cholera, Jaundice, and Malaria to name a few.
Not only the shortage of water is a challenge, but poor, marginalized community in village Khanwa is often double hit by the demand of bribes from state authorities or water mafia who control the water supply. For instance, Manoj, a 30-year old villager, must pay Rs. 50 on a daily basis to buy water. Many villagers, however, find it extremely unaffordable to pay this amount which would cost PKR 300,000 (€ 1,882) per month and PKR 3,600,000 (€ 22,665) per year.
The locals of Khanwa were desperately in need of voicing their concerns on lack of clean and drinkable water in the village to the concerned government representatives. However, for years they were neither able to approach nor have been reached by any public official. That’s where Transparency International Pakistan played its part.
TI Pakistan had set up a Mobile Advocacy and Legal Advice Center (ALAC) Camp at Khanwa village in February 2018 to hear the concerns of the citizens who visited the camp and register their complaints regarding lack of basic facilities in their town. TI Pakistan received several complaints from the villagers regarding unavailability of water.
TI Pakistan highlighted the issue to Chief Minister Sindh and other concerned public authorities requesting them to intervene in the matter. TI Pakistan representatives followed up with the villagers and facilitated them individually to write letters to the Sindh government. Multiple public departments got involved in the matter including Public Health Engineering department, Water Commission, and Irrigation Department, Government of Sindh.
As a result of these consistent efforts, Sindh government responded in just over a month requesting the Public Health Engineering Department to build water pipeline and tanks in the village. By January 2019, a water pipeline, connected with water purification plant in Rajoo Khanani, and water tanks have been built in Khanwa.
Today, after ten months of struggle and TI Pakistan’s proactive advocacy with the government authorities; neither Veena Kumari walks three to four kilometers for a bucket of water nor Manoj has to pay a bribe to access clean water. As the public authorities have now ensured that the villagers have free access to drinkable water.