Kabul Facing Severe Water Crisis

Kabul city and its surrounding region are suffering from harsh shortage of water at this time let alone when the population increases and expected temperature rises. Rapid population growth and predictable temperature raise due to climate change mean the area – which just manages to support 4.5 million people today – will need six times more water by 2050, according to a Geological Survey.
Thousands of wells already have been sunk in Kabul city while the number of population are increasing due to unemployment, security issues and forced systematic migration because of insecurity. The water table has dropped unprecedentedly, and thousands of settlements face sever water crisis.
In addition, most of the shared water points and wells are contaminated, leading to illness. The capital, with estimated population of 4.5 million people, 80% of them lack access to safe drinking water, and 95% lack access to improved sanitation facilities. Thus, other cities still do not have access to clean drinking water despite billions of dollars invested by the international community to supply the nation with a steady supply. As a result, waterborne diseases are common. The levels of diarrhea and dysentery, especially among children, are at epidemic proportions. As well, a large number of people suffer from cholera because of dirty drinking water. The lack of clean drinking water is one of major factors to highest death rate of children in Afghanistan. According to a survey conducted by the United Nations Children’s Fund, which found that 102 of every 1,000 children born in Afghanistan will die before reaching the age of five.
The underground water supplies in most large cities are under serious threat because of the lack of a canalization system, proper waste management and the random disposal of waste material. According to some reports, the medical and solid wastes are mixed together and then buried in the capital. Some is also thrown on the ground. The experts warn that over time the waste will seep into the underground water table poisoning the water. The medical waste also contains infectious viruses and is putting the entire population at risk. Experts blame the problem on the lack of a proper waste management system in most of the country’s hospitals. They also point out many industries’ lack of corporate ethics for their unwillingness to protect the environment from the increase in industrial waste.
According to  Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey, 43 percent of Afghanistan’s populations still do not have access to improved drinking water, and 71.5 per cent do not have access to improved sanitation. Meanwhile according to the Afghanistan Central Statistics Organization, overall 57 percent of Afghans are using surface water, which is an improved source of drinking water.
As Afghans have no access to sanitation facilities 20% of the population (mostly rural) practices open defecation, often in the rivers they drink out of.  The majority of the rest of the population use traditional latrines.  The latrines are a better option than open defecation, but still not very good.  Because they do not isolate excrement from human contact and do not dispose of the waste by moving it outside of the house they still lead to disease and infection.  Even if you could move it out of the house, Afghanistan has no wastewater management right now, and has not for a long time.  This is due to several factors including limited water supply (you need water to treat the wastewater), the facilities and equipment are very expensive, and the Afghans do not yet have the technical expertise to run a wastewater treatment facility.
The country’s water sources are heavily dependent on annual rainfall and snowfall. But poor government policy has severely hampered the use of the country’s river supplies. Climate change and drought are also severely affecting water supplies. Climate change is affected both shallow and groundwater levels.
To fight the crisis, the government needs to invest in water infrastructure throughout the country, and devise an efficient plan which should also include the control of medical waste and polluted water in urban areas that is contaminating water supplies. Water sources should be distributed through pipelines and needs clusters of water tanks should be constructed in different areas to provide drinking water. Additionally, a new research is needed to form a collective diagnosis of the strengths and weaknesses of current river basin management practices in Kabul city. This would help ensure future plans for action are rooted in a realistic assessment of the current situation and add practical value where it is.


To prevent the misuse of water, the government should step up efforts to promote public awareness through a lasting national campaign and taking necessary actions both in the rural and urban areas of the country including Kabul.

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Source: Daily Outlook Afghanistan. Date: July 10, 2016