70pc of Jawzjan residents lack clean drinking water


SHIBERGHAN (PAN): Baba Murad lines a barrel with cloth and pours buckets of water into the container. After he empties four buckets, small frogs and worms can be seen clinging to the cloth.

Muard gets his water from the local pond, and like everyone else in Se Shanbi village, 14 kilometres from Sheberghan City, he must filter his water before drinking it.

“There is one pond for 10 villages and it is polluted and dirty,” he says.

Sometimes, the villagers use the well at the mosque, but the water there too is salty and undrinkable, he says.  

About 70 percent of Jawzjan province does not have access to clean drinking water. Most people in the rural areas rely on natural sources of water, such as streams, rivers, ponds and kundas, underground water tanks that collect melting snow and rain water.  

Jawzjan authorities say only Khumab and Qarqen districts located on the banks of the Amo River have clean water, while in six districts -- Magjak, Aqcha, Mardeyan, Faizabad, Khanaqa and Khwaja Doko – the water is salty, and bitter tasting.  

In the Qosh Tapa and Darzab districts, the water is polluted with oil, gas and silver.

In Darzab district, villagers need to dig deeper than 500 metres to get fresh water while in Qosh Tapa they must dig 463 metres down.

The villagers say that if they want fresh and clean water, they have to travel quite far. So instead, they take it from local sources and run the risk of health problems.

Paighamber Qul, 52, and a resident of Qanjogha district in Shiberghan City, says his village only has sour water. If he wants clean water, he has to travel 11 kilometres.

"It isn't just our problem, many people of Deh Shar don't have clean and fresh drinking water," he says.

Abdullah Sarar Behzad from the Water Management office says only three percent of the population of Jawzjan have access to clean drinking water.

Behzad says his department plans to provide clean drinking water to 650 families in Shirberghan City by the end of the year by extending water pipes.

However, he acknowledged that this would not solve the problem of the salty water.

Behzad says septic wells drilled by residents throughout the city are contributing to underground water pollution.

Maheyar Sediqi, head of the Rural Rehabilitation and Development Department, says clean drinking water will be supplied to residents in 41 villages of Jawzjan within the next year.

In Qosh Tapa and Darzab districts, 100 kundas will be set up and 1,500 wells (each serving up to 20 families), drilled in a project costing 20 million afghanis, he says, but acknowledges that this will still not fulfill the people’s  needs.

"Our hope is to start a water supply project from the Amo River to Aqcha, Mangjak, Mardeyan, Khanaqa and Faizabad districts,” he says.

However, he was not able to give a time for the start for the project.

Mohammad Whan, an expert in water, geology and mines, says Afghanistan loses about 50 billion cubic metres of water a year to neighbouring countries. Due to the lack of dams and clear boundaries, other countries were using Afghanistan’s natural resources.        

If one cubic meter of water is worth $1.5, then Afghanistan loses $75 billion a year in natural resources, he said.

Dr. Mirwais Amini, the deputy of the provincial health department, says drinking dirty water can cause many health problems. He said putting chlorine in wells does help to kill some of the diseases and microbial viruses, but that the directorate of health is unable to filter all drinking water.

"Water polluted with minerals can cause digestive problems and pancreatic illnesses," he said.

He says up to 120 patients a day are visiting district hospitals with problems associated with drinking dirty water.


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