IRC Restores Water Supply and Rebuilds Sanitation Facilities in Pakistan’s Quake-ravaged Region
Two months after a devastating 7.6 intensity earthquake hit Pakistan’s North-West Frontier Province, the International Rescue Committee is restoring water supplies and rebuilding sanitation facilities in the quake-ravaged region.
IRC environmental health teams have been working steadily in the towns of Balakot and Battagram to construct water tanks and latrines for earthquake survivors who are currently living in tents and unable to return to homes destroyed by the quake.
Near Balakot, the town closest to the quake’s epicenter, the IRC has built 31 latrines for the villages of Mangli and Ismail Shah Shaheed. The latrines serve roughly 1,500 people whose homes have been leveled. IRC teams have also set up emergency water tanks in several villages.
The IRC’s technical adviser for environmental health, Christophe Nouvet, says the IRC is focusing on providing water and sanitation access to “spontaneous settlements”--small tent communities set up by people who want to stay close to their damaged homes.
“As a strategy we have decided not to be involved in the big camps managed by the United Nations and the Pakistani government and instead focus on the forgotten areas,” he says.
Although the Pakistani countryside has ample water sources, Nouvet says the challenge lies in restoring distribution lines damaged by the quake. “It is impossible to restore the connection to each of the houses,” he explains, “so we rehabilitated the connection from the spring to the reservoir and set up some emergency water supply systems from there.”
The IRC has also installed water tanks in nearby Boli-I to restore water to three schools, including a temporary high school hosting some 1,000 students unable to return to their destroyed homes in nearby towns.
In the mountainous area around Battagram Valley, the IRC has repaired three water systems and started constructing some 30 latrine pits due to be completed in the next few weeks. The IRC also replaced damaged pipes and fixed leaking water lines to restore water supplies to some 140 families.
Women in the area say they are thankful that they can now access clean water without fear for their safety. Nouvet explains that, because these women are not used to traveling several kilometers from their homes to fetch water and do household chores, they worry that they might be subject to harassment along the way.
After restoring water and sanitation facilities in Battagram and Balakot, the IRC will send some of its environmental health staff to Muzzaffrabad and the remote town of Shangla in the coming weeks.
”Shangla is a very difficult town to access so we are trying to get some local people who can work with us,” Nouvet says. The IRC is devising a way to provide training and equipment to enable remote communities to repair their own water systems.
The IRC is also tapping into deep, underground water sources to help UNICEF provide water to large resettlement camps in several areas across the earthquake-hit region. “We are the only ones in Pakistan who have the equipment to drill boreholes so we are coordinating with UNICEF on this project,” Nouvet says.
Nouvet says each borehole – a deep hole from which water can be pumped – provides water for as many as 500 people depending on the quality of the water source.