Improving Access to Clean Water: the WASEP model
One in three people globally do not have access to safe drinking water (UNICEF, WHO).
Pakistan still ranks among the top 10 countries with the greatest number of people living without access to safe water (Water Aid, 2016). The problem is even more severe in the high mountainous rural settlements of Pakistan where more than 90% of households lack access to safe drinking water.
The villages around the Wakhan corridor – some of which lie at an altitude of over 3,000 m – remain cut off from safe drinking water for up to four months every year due to snowfall in winter and landslides and floods in summer.
These border areas, although blessed with natural beauty and tremendous tourism potential, face many challenges.
Safe drinking water, which is one of the basic needs, had largely been unattended due to high cost, lack of capacity of locals to resources to develop a water supply infrastructure. In addition, the population is confronted with poor health and hygiene, lack of energy, scarce roads and overall connectivity. As a result, most communities are living below poverty line in these areas.
The issue of safe drinking water also reinforces gender disparity. It has been primarily the responsibility of women and girls to fetch water for their households from rivers or springs, an extremely risky business in a very difficult terraine and especially challenging during winters. On top of this, water quality had been an issue, which in many instances was unfit for human consumption according to WHO guidelines.
Financed by: German Federal Foreign Office (FFO) through KfW and PATRIP Foundation
Implemented by: Aga Khan Rural Support Programme (AKRSP), established by Aga Khan Foundation in 1982
Duration: January 2017 – August 2020
Budget: 600,000 EUR
Direct Beneficiaries: 3,547
Indirect Beneficiaries: 4,575
Key Outputs: Improved quality of life for people living in 30 villages in Pakistan and Afghanistan through the provision of safe drinking based on behavioral change communication and the Water and Sanitation Extension Program (WASEP) model.
The main objective of the project was to provide safe drinking water to at least 7,400 people living in 29 villages in the remote, high-mountain, border areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan, using the Water and Sanitation Extension Program (WASEP) model that was initiated in 1997 by the Aga Khan Planning and Building Service (AKPBS).
Overall, this should lead to an improvement of the quality of life of the people living in border areas. Specifically, project goals included reducing the incidence of waterborne diseases through providing safe drinking water, as well as contributing towards gender equity by saving women’s time and hard labour related to fetching water. The latter, combined with hygiene trainings, should then also have a positive effect on the health and hygiene practices of their entire families. Additionally, behavioural change communication interventions were to be implemented in neighbouring villages, which will contribute towards improved health and hygiene practices in the region.
The project built 15 water supply schemes, which included the acclaimed water supply model WASEP from 1997. WASEP employs an approach to developing water supply infrastructure by building local capacities to implement and manage water supply schemes in a sustainable manner. WASEP initiates behavioral change communication by capacitating communities in health and hygiene practices through the Community Health Improvement Program (CHIP) and School Health Improvement Program (SHIP). Its vision is to provide sustained access to water in the isolated rural communities while reducing waterborne diseases. To ensure that its interventions are owned by local communities, have a long-term sustainable impact on rural communities, are environmentally-friendly and cost-effective, WASEP employs a six-step methodology, which combines the delivery of potable water supply infrastructure with community mobilisation and participation, water quality management, health and hygiene education, and setting up a household sanitation infrastructure.
During the implementation period, unanticipated weather conditions remained a major challenge to timely completion of activities. On the Afghan side, a poor and unpredictable security situation proved to be an obstacle in developing the scheme at originally selected site of Zebak village in Istekol District of Badakhshan. Through consultation with PATRIP, Ners village in Wakhan was selected for implementation as it has a similar socio-cultural and physical settings to that of Zebak, and faced similar challenges. Extension in project time in an additional work season was sought from PATRIP and approved accordingly to complete the schemes per desired quality.
The project successfully achieved the development of clean drinking water infrastructure in 14 villages in Pakistan and one in Afghanistan. All 433 households in the target villages now have access to running water with an individual tap-stand. The construction of 15 water supply schemes was standardized per WASEP approach of AKPBSP, a tested and successful model of safe drinking water supply. These 15 villages also received behavioural change communication through standard School Health Improvement Program (SHIP) and Community Health Improvement Program (CHIP) packages of WASEP. An additional 15 villages close to the targeted beneficiary villages in Pakistan’s border area also received the same behavior change communication.
Overall, 8121 people were reached in 30 villages with either the infrastructure and/or accompanying trainings and dialogue-measures. It’s also worth noting that the savings utilised for the COVID-19 response in the region has also positively impacted 120 families through the provision of food package and hygiene items; and the wider community through the awareness-raising activities on the pandemic.
It is still too early to judge the project’s overall impact on a socio-economic level. However, beneficiaries have started to report a reduction in instances of water borne diseases. Another immediately visible effect is that women and girls now have more free time available. Girls have more time to dedicate to their education and women in general have less household chores and can start thinking about engaging in livelihood activities such as local handicrafts or livestock products.
CHIP and SHIP (see above) have provided locals with increased sense of hygiene reflected through practices at individual and household level. The established Water and Sanitation Committee provides a platform to resolve some of the community level conflicts. AKDN agencies will continue follow up with local communities through the organisation’s ongoing work in the area, so that the impact of development work in socio-economic terms will be captured through periodic surveys such as quality of life survey.
This project provided an opportunity to share and replicate the acclaimed WASEP model, thus providing a remote community in the border area between Pakistan and Afghanistan access to safe drinking water by WHO standards at doorstep.
Following the same WASEP approach, AKAH Afghanistan will develop a WASEP scheme on the Afghan side in identified village with technical support from AKAH Pakistan. A multi-stakeholder project advisory committee will be formed with representatives from AKAH Afghanistan, AKAH Pakistan, AKFP, communities and relevant local government departments to guide implementation.
The project complements other PATRIP investments in the region such as the “Tapping tourism potential in Broghil Valley” project to boost local trade and tourism.
PATRIP Foundation supports the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. In 2015, all member states of the United Nations adopted the 2030 Agenda, whose main purpose was the introduction of 17 goals for sustainable development (SDGs). The goals aim at the joint creation of a world in which people are able to live together peacefully, as well as in ecologically compatible, socially just, and economically effective ways.
The described project contributes to the following Sustainable Development Goals: