GILGIT, 13 August: Representatives of the German Government and the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) today inaugurated three water schemes in Gilgit –Baltistan as part of grant of €9.4 million (PKR 1.25 billion) announced in 2010.
Demonstrating a unique public-private partnership between AKDN, the Government of Gilgit-Baltistan (GoGB) and the local communities, the schemes inaugurated in Faizabad and Dal Sandhi (Ghizer District) and Aliabad (Hunza-Nagar District) which will benefit almost 7,500 people.
The schemes will provide safe drinking water, sanitation and sewerage facilities in Faizabad and Dal Sandhi (Ghizer District) and Aliabad (Hunza-Nagar District) in northern Pakistan, through the implementation of the Water and Sanitation Extension Programme (WASEP), one of the Aga Khan Planning and Building Service’s award-winning, flagship programmes.
The facilities were inaugurated by His Excellency, Dr Cyrill Nunn, German Ambassador to Pakistan. Dr Nunn was accompanied by German First Secretary, Ms. Barbara Voss and officials from the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN).
Supported by the German Government through the Federal Foreign Office and funded by KfW German Development Bank, the project was administered and implemented by the Aga Khan Foundation Pakistan (AKF) and Aga Khan Planning and Building Service, Pakistan (AKPBS,P) respectively.
Speaking at the inauguration ceremony, Dr Nunn commended the AKDN and its affiliated agencies in the development of the region, noting that over 300 villages in Gilgit-Baltistan and Chitral now have access to safe drinking water and sanitation facilities due to the work done by AKPBS,P. He commended the participation of the communities who contributed in kind and cash during the implementation of the scheme. “German support and AKDN’s participatory development model has led to significant reduction in water borne diseases, and saved a lot of water-hauling labour and time for women and children in these difficult areas,” he said. “AKPBS,P’s projects have brought communities together in jointly safeguarding and using limited water resources, thus significantly enhancing social cohesion and ownership of the initiatives while further strengthening the community’s resilience”.
Hafiz Sherali, Chairman, AKPBS,P acknowledged the longstanding partnership between AKDN and the German Government. He also expressed his profound gratitude to the government of Gilgit-Baltistan and the community for the support, cooperation and collaboration for completion of the schemes. He urged the community members to “ensure proper maintenance of what is one of your most valuable assets” stating that “AKDN’s development work is based on engaging communities to invest in their own development and ensuring participation of women in decision making, which helps strengthen community institutional structures and ensures sustainable development”.
Prior to these schemes, the villagers had no access to reliable supply of safe drinking water in the area. Nearly half the population in GBC does not have access to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation facilities. Many households have no option but to collect water from open, contaminated channels thus falling victim to water-borne diseases. During harsh winters, women and children suffer the most as they are the principal collectors and bearers of water, and have to travel long distances to collect water for drinking, washing and cleaning.
Tasleem Bano, a WASEP beneficiary from Khanabad, Lower Hunza notes, “We have been saved from the curse of diarrhoeal diseases, and I no longer have to spend time and energy hauling water uphill from the well. I can use the additional time to help my children with their homework or stitch nice clothes for them – a luxury I couldn’t afford before we were blessed with WASEP.”
Aga Khan Planning and Building Services’ Water and Sanitation Extension Programme (WASEP) has benefitted more than 350,000 people in Gilgit-Baltistan and Chitral by providing them access to safe water and sanitation facilities. The projects have had positive impacts on health, education (improved school attendance), economic development (reduced time burden on women collecting water to instead engage in recreational/income generating activities), and gender empowerment (women are given a central role in all projects to raise awareness with regards to health and hygiene practices). The interventions also promote behavioural change, reduce burdens on income resulting from expenditures on health, and reduce burdens on women and children of collecting water from distant sources.