Post-flood hardships: Walking your feet sore to fetch a pail of water

Post-flood hardships: Walking your feet sore to fetch a pail of water

Children fetch water for daily chores as Shangla’s supply of water continues to suffer at the hands of the 2010 floods. PHOTO: FAZAL KHALIQ


Posted 11 September 2011, by Fazal Khaliq, The Express Tribune with The International Herald Tribune (Express Tribune News Network),



SHANGLA: The July 2010 floods wreaked havoc in Shangla District, exposing people to all sorts of hardships, particularly regarding clean drinking water. Children and women have to travel several miles to meet their daily requirements. Eventually, after several unsuccessful pleas, locals pooled in money to complete a water supply scheme that was on hiatus due to a funding shortage.

According to official data, the estimated total losses in the floods here were Rs2.44 billion. Apart from the main link road that connected Shangla District with the rest of the country, the fixed phone line network, hundreds of micro-hydel power stations, water mills, agricultural land, irrigation channels, public and private houses and shops, and 130 clean drinking water supply schemes were completely washed away, leaving the local people without basis of all life.

Olander, a village in Peer Khana Union Council, is the worst affected. At least 22 houses were completely destroyed in Sobidar colony when lightning struck it on July 29, 2010. “There was nothing but destruction everywhere. Our houses, goods, agriculture lands, irrigation and water supply schemes, our livestock, everything. It was all wiped out in a split second,” said Alam Zeb, 61, a village elder who was still grief-stricken by the natural catastrophe.

Zeb felt that a drinking water supply scheme was the most urgent need of the entire area, “Our women and children start bringing water at 11am and continue the morning till 4pm. They have to walk one kilometre to fetch water.” he added.

The majority of water carriers are women, and are heavily fatigued by the tiresome job, “All I can say is that carrying water on a daily basis for a woman my age with high blood pressure and diabetes is constant torture,” said an old woman angrily, while adding that the floods took away their only source of livelihoods.

Village elders had appealed to non-government organisations to help install and restore drinking water supply schemes for them. These locals, after their pleas and requests to higher-ups, have collected money for a small water scheme that would transfer water from across the hill. However the project’s completion seems next to impossible with the meagre amounts of funds collected as the majority of the population is poor.

Zaitoon, a 12-year-old girl carrying a water pot on her head, told the Express Tribune, “This is my second turn climbing uphill with this heavy pot. My mother is very old and ill, and my father is out all day at work, I am the only one left to fetch water for my family.”

“Clean drinking water may seem like a minute issue, but in reality it is a major issue , especially in hilly areas like Shangla, which have already been neglected for years, and where water has become a rare and expensive commodity,” said Mohammad Khalid, a local journalist.

Locals are even seriously thinking of migrating from their village as they believe neither the government, nor elected bodies have time to address their miseries. “We are now tired of imploring our politicians and government officials, who give all sorts of promises only to forget about them”, said Zeb.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 11th, 2011.


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