For Gul Bibi and the other residents of Chittabatta and Gulhatra Villages in Mansehra District, clean water has always been a luxury. All her life, Gul Bibi had to walk for hours to reach the mountain top spring far from her village, just to get a pitcher of drinking water. Now, she gazes contentedly at the many containers sitting in her courtyard, filled with clean water. The rehabilitation of two water supply schemes, has meant that about 2,800 people in these villages now receive clean water at their doorsteps.
The rehabilitated water supply schemes are a micro-mitigation project undertaken by the Pakistan Red Crescent (PRC) as part of its Integrated Community Based Risk Reduction (ICBRR) programme. The programme has been piloted in five districts in Pakistan with the aim of developing the resilience of local communities in the face of disasters and other hazards. Mansehra is one of the five pilot districts in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province along with Sanghar and Tharparkar Districts in Sindh province and Bagh and Neelum Districts in the state of Pakistan-Administered Jammu and Kashmir.
Pakistan frequently experiences large-scale natural disasters that have a high humanitarian impact. The impact on local communities can be severe when coupled with rapid population growth, inadequate health care facilities, the burden of diseases, unsustainable environmental practices and limited natural fresh water resources.
The Red Crescent’s ICBRR initiative, supported by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and the Norwegian Red Cross, involves a community-based approach that incorporates disaster risk management alongside health and first aid, while also developing the capacity of the National Society’s local branches.
Local communities highlighted the rehabilitation of the water supply schemes as a local development priority. At the inauguration of one of the schemes in in Gulhatra Village, Nawab Khan, Chairman of the local community based organisation said, “We are very thankful to the Pakistan Red Crescent who involved the community every step of the way. They did not force ideas on us and we feel ownership of this water supply scheme as our own community asset”.
The four kilometre long water supply schemes were established more than 30 years ago but had fallen in to disrepair which resulted in contamination of the water supply. Once they had been rehabilitated, the Red Crescent provided trainings to community members on how to maintain the supply lines and ensure the cleanliness of the water storage tanks. They also organised hygiene promotion sessions for men, women and children to ensure good hygiene practices in their daily lives.
At the inauguration ceremony, Gorkhmaz Huseynov, Head of Country Office for IFRC Pakistan, expressed his pleasure at the community’s involvement in the project by contributing manpower and construction material for the rehabilitation process.
“I am very happy to see the enthusiasm and commitment with which the community came forward and put the effort into making this initiative a success.”
Mr. Mohammed Hamid Khan, Chairman of the Pakistan Red Crescent’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Branch, commented on the positive change the water supply schemes have brought to the lives of local women.
“The time these women save due to easy access to water can now be spent on more productive activities with their children.”
The Red Crescent has also served as a bridge between communities and the local authorities. As a result of the advocacy role they have played as part of the ICBRR approach, local communities are now aware of their rights and are in direct contact with the local authorities to claim and utilise the 20% community share of government development funds.
Article By Majda Shabbir, published at IFRC Pakistan