For Afghans, drought puts peace still farther away
In early June, I am standing outside of a home in Kabul, Afghanistan, watching a large drilling machine parked on what was once a lovely garden, now a muddy patch.
Soon workers arrive for another noisy, dusty day of digging for water.
The well dried up a week ago.
As of today, the household, home to several members of the group Afghan Peace Volunteers, has no water.
The current population, estimated around 4.5 million, is expected to reach 9 million by 2050.
The estimated groundwater potential is enough to supply only 2 million inhabitants with water.
Alarming reports say that drought now afflicts 20 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces.
It’s difficult to imagine that Afghanistan, already burdened by 40 years of war, will escape eventual water wars.
Despite spending hundreds of billions of dollars on non-military aid to Afghanistan, the United States has done little to improve Afghanistan’s infrastructure or alleviate its alarming water crisis.
On May 13, a single-file procession of Pashto men started off on a 400-mile trek along dusty roads from Helmand to Kabul, to call for the Afghan government and the warring parties to end the war.
As Kabul Grows, Clean Water a Step Toward State Legitimacy in Afghanistan
In 2050, Kabul’s population is expected to reach 9 million, making it one of the fastest growing cities in the world.
As demand for water increases, excess pumping has caused a sharp decline in the groundwater level in recent years.
According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the groundwater level in Kabul declined by an average of 1.5 meters per year between 2004 and 2012.
Oxfam research shows that competition for water in both rural and urban Afghan communities is increasing, leading to heightened tensions and violence.
The Asia Foundation’s recent Survey of the Afghan People reveals rising concerns over water shortages in Kabul province.
Each year, the survey asks Afghans about their biggest problems in their local areas, and in 2017, significantly more (26%) Afghans in Kabul province reported access to drinking water as a biggest problem compared to the previous year (19%).
The survey also shows that over time, at the national level access to drinking water is consistently one of the most cited problem Afghans report in their local area.
The survey reveals a correlation between awareness of public services like a new drinking water project and perceptions toward issues like confidence in the National Unity Government (NUG), optimism about the direction of country, and willingness to leave the country.
Among the respondents who report that they know about a drinking water project, 41.7 percent say that the country is moving in the right direction, compared to 29.9 percent of those who don’t know about the project.
Since the NUG formed in 2014, President Ashraf Ghani has made water management and building dams a priority for economic growth and development.
Factbox: From Cape Town to Kabul: taps run dry in crisis cities
LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Drought-stricken Cape Town could run out of water as soon as April, but South Africa is not alone in its struggle as ever more world cities battle acute water shortages.
Water scarcity already affects more than 40 percent of the world’s population and is expected to rise due to global warming, with one in four people projected to face chronic or recurring shortages by 2050, according to the United Nations.
Following are some of the crisis cities:
The reservoir supplying Sao Paulo, Brazil’s largest city and a metropolitan region of 20 million people, nearly dried up in 2015, as the country faced its worst drought in 80 years, depriving many residents of water for 12 hours a day.
The city has been working to improve watersheds in the Andes mountains, while residents in hillside shantytowns overlooking the city have been using nets to condense thick fog from the Pacific Ocean into drainage pipes.
Amman, the capital city of Jordan, has no nearby source of water and regularly experiences drought, while its lower-lying parts are inundated when it rains heavily.
The government is moving ahead with new pipelines for groundwater and projects to desalinate water from the Red Sea.
Built on what was once a lake, it is also prone to flooding.
The Australian city suffered the so-called ‘Millennium drought’ between 1997 and 2009.
Originally planned to support about 1 million people, the Afghan capital is now home to more than 4.6 million, according to U.S. government estimates.
Factbox: From Cape Town to Kabul: taps run dry in crisis cities
LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Drought-stricken Cape Town could run out of water as soon as April, but South Africa is not alone in its struggle as ever more world cities battle acute water shortages. Water scarcity already affects more than 40 percent of the world’s population and is expected to rise due to global warming, with one in four people projected to face chronic or recurring shortages by 2050, according to the United Nations. Already hosting more than half the world’s people, cities are at the forefront of the problem, as population growth increases pressure on reserves, which are already stretched by too little rain and too much waste. Following are some of the crisis cities: SAO PAULO The reservoir supplying Sao Paulo, Brazil’s largest city and a metropolitan region of 20 million people, nearly dried up in 2015, as the country faced its worst drought in 80 years, depriving many residents of water for 12 hours a day. The city was criticized by U.N. experts for losing 31 percent of its treated water to leaks and theft, compared to an average of…
Finland contributes €2 million to UNICEF’s Water Sanitation and Hygiene programme in Afghanistan
Funds will enable children and families in Afghanistan to access safe drinking water, sanitation, healthy environments and improved hygiene practices.
The flexible grant is part of Finland’s continued commitment to Afghanistan and follows a previous grant of similar size that provided gender-separated toilets, handwashing facilities and menstrual hygiene management that benefited almost 55,000 students in 102 schools.
Improvements in water and sanitation facilities in schools have a positive impact on attendance, quality of learning and well-being of students, especially girls.
The new funding will further reinforce this area of work, and support deprived communities to reach open defecation-free status, to access and use safely managed drinking water, and to disseminate information on the importance of hygiene practices.
Ambassador of Finland in Afghanistan, Hannu Ripatti, said, “We are happy to continue supporting the UNICEF water, sanitation and hygiene programme that provides concrete results for women and children in line with National Priorities.” Acknowledging Finland’s partnership and generous contribution, UNICEF Representative in Afghanistan, Adele Khodr, highlighted the importance of clean water, sanitation and hygiene practices on health outcomes.
“Through encouraging handwashing with soap in schools, and the use of clean water and sanitary environments, we can help to prevent diarrhea and the subsequent onset or worsening of stunting and malnutrition.
Washing hands with soap can reduce diarrhea by up to 42 per cent and is one of the most cost effective ways to prevent cases,” said Ms. Khodr.
About UNICEF UNICEF works in some of the world’s toughest places, to reach the world’s most disadvantaged children.
Across 190 countries and territories, we work for every child, everywhere, to build a better world for everyone.
For more information about UNICEF and its work for children visit www.unicef.org.
Details sought of action taken to check air pollution
Details sought of action taken to check air pollution.
Kathmandu, April 11 The Ministry of Federal Affairs and Local Development has directed district coordination committees, metropolitan cities and municipalities of Kathmandu Valley to provide it with details of activities being undertaken to guarantee people’s right to live in a clean environment.
“All local levels are requested to explain in writing to the ministry as soon as possible what they have been doing to control pollution and protect human rights in accordance with the constitution and other laws in force while carrying out development activities in their jurisdiction,” read a letter written by Environment Management Section of the ministry yesterday.
Kathmandu has been dubbed as the seventh most polluted city in the world, thanks to environmental pollution.
Numbeo recently made public the pollution levels ranking of 290 cities around the world.
With pollution index 97.73, Kathmandu featured among the top ten along with Kabul, Afghanistan (103.92); Accra, Ghana (102.61); Tetovo, Macedonia (98.09); Faridabad, India (96.58); Cairo, Egypt (96.28) and Dhaka, Bangladesh (95.91); Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia (95.34); Karachi, Pakistan (95.29) and Ghaziabad, India (95.27).
The cities were listed on the basis of air pollution and water pollution/accessibility followed by other pollution types.
PM 2.5 indicates the matter present in the air that are 2.5 microns or below.
These particles include dust, coal particles exited from power plants and home heating, car exhaust, and pollen from plants among others.
A version of this article appears in print on April 12, 2017 of The Himalayan Times.