Groundwater Contamination is Pushing Kabul towards Catastrophe:
Kabul- Afghanistan (PMG):
‘Safe, Clean and Affordable water Are Necessity of Life, and Contamination has skyrocketed Due to Negligence,’
By: Humayoon Babur
Kabul, Afghanistan (PMG) – Speaking at the conference, the Minister of State for Natural Disasters, Mr. Najib Aqa Fahim, warned and reported that “80 percent of Afghanistan’s water is contaminated.” Earlier this year, Kabul’s inhabitants and water experts voiced their concern for the projected the year of 2050, over a severe shortage of safe and healthy drinking water and low precipitation levels in Kabul, the capital city with a population of more than six million inhabitants; it is expected to reach 9 million according to United States geological survey. The report says Afghan city and region will need six times more water by 2050, as Oxfam warns of violence over a scarce resource (Vidal, 2010).
The ongoing conflict has destroyed canalization and sewerage systems all over the country. Additionally, a lack of hygiene and sanitation facilities, misuse and indulgence of water by inhabitants, unplanned urbanization, absence of proper waste management infrastructure and industries indiscriminately using water for commercial purposes (Dawi, 2008), have added to the contamination of groundwater and the crisis of a shortage of clean potable water in most parts of Kabul city. Kiramat Shah, 28, resides in the hills surrounding Kabul city, where accessing to safe water is inaccessible.
Three months ago Kiramat contracted a severely infectious disease and was hospitalized in private care for a month. When his situation further deteriorated, he traveled to a medical facility in India for better medical facilities and racked up thousands of dollars in debt to ensure his recovery. “I was in Turkey almost for two years to study and completed my course and returned to Kabul. On the second day of my arrival, I drank a cup of water from inside our yard-well, and as a result got sick because it was not clean and contaminated,” he added. “It’s very dangerous for everyone and as bad as a suicide bombing; the contamination could double shortly, and soon everyone must pay for clean water if they want to protect their health.” He says, “I know safe, clean, affordable water is as a basic human right, the country’s leadership must provide it, but they couldn’t these last 17 years.”
In some police districts of Kabul wells and water, some sampling has found high levels of arsenic, boron, fluoride, and nitrates which were harmful to health (Weir, 2018). Moreover, Afghanistan is on the frontline of climate change (Dyke, 2014). In recent years, climate change has caused a reduction in precipitation, resulting in a drop in water levels of between15-20 meters in different spots of Kabul (Yalani, 2018). Afghanistan Urban Water Supply and Sewerage (AUWSSC), currently is a leading water supply project for 3,500 families on the outskirt of Kabul city, the entity said around 6, 5000 people are already listed as regular beneficiaries of healthy water around the city of Kabul. This service would be continued into other remaining parts. Hamidullah Yalani, General Director of AUWSSC, says: “…water in the country, particularly in the capital, is used very unjustly. Water pumps, pools and car washing stations excessively use water.” He added. “Underground water level in Kabul has severely contaminated and plummeted by more than 20 meters over last few years. However, in cooperation with other relevant partners, we have developed programs to improve the water situation.”
Meanwhile, Syed Riaz Darmal, head of water supply and sanitation at the Ministry of Urban Development Affairs told Pasbanan Media Group that a quick solution would be to develop an artificial water supply mechanism, by using adjacent rivers and building dams to revive underground water in adjacent and neighboring provinces; he did not disclose more details of this mechanism. Afghan agriculture, the feeding driver of millions of people, has also contributed pesticides, nitrates and microbial into the underground water while irrigating the crops in many swathes of the country (Unlocking the Potential of Agriculture for Afghanistan’s Growth, 2018).
A survey carried out has recently revealed fecal coliform contamination in many sites, due to the majority of Afghans using open public latrines and defecation in urban and rural areas (Payendanek, 2018). Dr. Omid Khan, a resident of Dasht-e-Barchi, west of Kabul, believes that poorly constructed domestic septic tanks contribute nitrate, rival, and microbes into the underground water flow. “Most patients have not been of complaining respiratory illnesses but other kinds of diseases such as dehydration, diarrhea, cholera, and helminth, etc. most of them a result of contaminated water.”
The statistics are dismal. The UN Environment Program reported that “hundreds of millions” of people face health risks like cholera and typhoid from pathogens in water, particularly in developing countries (Rose, 2016). Dr. Khan expressed his concerns that weak security, limited monitoring capacity, and high levels of illiteracy will make the situation worse. Kabul receives a mere 362 mm (14 inches) of rainfall annually (Ritter, 2018). The total is even lower year to year, due to the impact of climate change, continuing droughts, early snow melting in Mountain Rivers, which are the primary source of reservoirs of water through a year for landlocked Afghanistan.
In 2014, a study estimated that Kabul’s groundwater potential is app 44 million cubic meters per year, enough to supply only 2 million inhabitants (Amin, 2017). Recently, excessive, irregular excavating efforts have exacerbated the contamination catastrophe. Dwellers are digging their own wells, so all are forced to dig even deeper to find clean water as the water table keeps plummeting. To tackle water contamination in Kabul city and other provinces, education, laws, and economic dimensions should be developed and polluters should pay fines. This is designed to deter people from polluting by making it less expensive for them to behave in an environmentally responsible way (Woodford, 2017).
Master-holder, Kiramat Shah says, if the government was able to put heavy punishment on the owner of five-star hotels and skyscrapers to warlords and rich-men, it could reduce the contamination of water. “Usually, rich people can afford to pay a huge amount for diggers of wells to dig deeper wells with clean and non-stopped water flow.” “Safe, Clean and Affordable water are Necessity of life, it became as skyrocket due to the negligence of us.”