Many families in Kabul do not have access to clean water. The state water authority supplies only about 16 per cent of households. Now awareness is being raised about the water supply in the Afghan capital and access to clean water is being expanded.
Video: In Kabul awareness is being raised about the water supply in the Afghan capital and access to clean water is being expanded (KfW Bankengruppe/Breuer).
At 8.30 am, it’s already the tenth door that Zeban Nikzada and Halima Sadat have knocked on this morning. “Can we talk to you for a moment about your water supply?” asks Halima Sadat as a man opens the gate to his courtyard in the Kabul neighbourhood of Taimani. The man invites the women in. They are carrying brochures and a clipboard where they write down all of the important information: who lives here? Where does the household get its water from? And is the family registered with the state water utility?
Zeban Nikzada and Halima Sadat work for an awareness-raising campaign being run by the state-owned Afghanistan Urban Water Supply and Sewerage Company (AUWSSC) and implemented by the globally active engineering firm Fichtner Water & Transportation. With funding from KfW, USAID and the French development agency AFD, AUWSSC is working to expand the water supply in the Afghan capital.
This is urgently needed. Access to clean water is a human right. And although the supply situation in Afghanistan has steadily improved since the Taliban was overthrown in 2001, the water authority in Kabul currently supplies only 16 per cent of households. Most of the population uses private providers or their owns wells. Other families have no water supply at all. The roughly four million inhabitants of the capital also have to contend with the fact that the groundwater level has been steadily falling for years. Many families have to dig deeper and deeper wells to get any water at all. Another problem is water quality: it is often contaminated by bacteria. Many people drink it anyway because they are accustomed to the poor quality or cannot afford clean water.
Clean drinking water for 90,000 residents
The water authority is now addressing these problems as KfW’s partner. In a project supported by KfW Development Bank on behalf of the German government with funding of EUR 67.9 million – KfW, USAID and AFD are contributing a total of around EUR 94 million – nearly 90,000 more inhabitants of Kabul are to be provided with access to clean drinking water. To achieve this goal, the cooperation partners are working on a three-phase plan. In the southeast of Kabul along the border of Logar province, eleven wells were drilled in the first two phases. The water is pumped from the wells via an intermediate pumping station to one of the main reservoirs in the centre of Kabul, where it is distributed via primary and secondary lines and ultimately house connections.
The awareness-raising work being carried out by Fichtner’s staff is focused on this project: six days a week they survey households in Kabul’s districts. They go from door to door in teams of two and talk to people about the possibility of being connected to the new drinking water line. They explain what needs to be considered where hygiene is concerned, record where new connections need to be made, answer questions and listen to specific concerns about water supply. Every team visits 15 households per day. Since the project started in 2016, the teams have reached around 9,000 households.
One of the main people responsible who is supervising construction of the large-scale project is the engineer Hamid Abdul Tapand. Tapand works for AUWSSC and ensures, as he says, “that everything goes according to plan”. The pumping stations and reservoir are still under construction. Tapand visits the construction sites at least twice a week to check the progress of work and to ensure compliance with quality standards. The road to the pumping station in southeast Kabul passes mud huts and green fields where pumpkin, corn, carrots and courgettes are grown. “The advantage of the wells in this location is that the groundwater is partially replenished via the river and is therefore more stable,” says Tapand explaining why the location was chosen. Seven of the wells already drilled in the surrounding area will be equipped with pumps and electromechanical equipment in the current phase. The average groundwater level is 40 to 60 metres deep. The pipes have also already been laid: from the wells to the pumping station and from the pumping station into the city to the reservoir – “11,962 meters to be exact,” says Tapand. The engineer loves numbers and data. He writes them down meticulously in his notebook, which he always keeps with him.
“When people have clean water, their lives become easier, their health better.”
Security situation makes projects more difficult
Around 40 men work on the construction site of the pumping station in dusty air at temperatures of 30 degrees. Tapand supervises the work and talks to the foreman of the construction company. It is important to him to be involved in every step. “If a construction company says it has laid 60 metres of pipe so far, I verify it,” he says. Progress is often overstated, which leads to complications in further planning. The plan so far has been to complete the project by 2021. Tapand estimates that the completion date could be delayed to 2022. This is not uncommon in a country like Afghanistan. Political upheavals, coordinating different companies and, above all, the precarious security situation make large-scale projects like this one a major challenge.
The construction of the reservoir in the centre of Kabul has also been delayed due to political differences over the exact location. But in the meantime, the construction of the two reservoirs, which will hold more than 5,000 cubic metres of water, is making progress. They are located on the hill of Wazir Akbar Khan, in the centre of Kabul. From here you can look out over the entire city. This is exactly what Tapand does in the afternoon. He points to the houses in the distance, which will soon be supplied with clean water. “In Afghanistan we always have problems,” he says, “but once people have clean water, their lives will be easier and their health better. And our work contributes to improving people’s lives on a daily basis.”
The described project contributes to the following United Nationsʼ Sustainable Development Goals
Goal 3: Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages
Health is the goal, prerequisite and result of sustainable development. Supporting health is a humanitarian requirement – both in developed and developing countries. Around 39 per cent of the worldʼs population lives without health insurance. In poor countries, this amount even exceeds 90 per cent. Many people still die from diseases that are not necessarily fatal with the right treatment, or that could easily be prevented with vaccinations. Strengthening health systems, particularly by making vaccines widely available, can make it possible for us to drive these diseases back and even eradicate them by 2030.
All United Nations member states adopted the 2030 Agenda in 2015. At its heart is a list of 17 goals for sustainable development, known as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Our world should become a place where people are able to live in peace with each other in ways that are ecologically compatible, socially just, and economically effective.
Published on KfW Stories: 13 February 2020