Abdul Zuhoor Qayomi-KABUL: How unfortunate residents of Parwan province are, because they have no access to drinkable water despite inflow of three rivers, namely Panjshir, Salang, and Ghorband. Parwan is around 50km away from Kabul City, capital of the country.
Access to potable water is major demand and dream of Parwan residents. However, the government is not only unable to provide clean water despite the adequate water resources, but also privatized the sole water supply source which was once providing free of cost drinkable water to the locals. The potable water system was established by an international NGO. Now it is in the hands of profiteers.
Local people claimed that influential figures in the government privatized the system. They say that their children became ill as the water from streams was “not fit for drinking”. The water is supplied by tankers from a stream flowing through the center of Parwan province.
Chief of provincial jirga (unofficial council), Muhammad Yunus, told Afghanistan Times that in the start when the potable water supply network was established, locals were provided with sufficient water, free of cost, for three to four months.
Later on each family was charged Afs60 to 100 per cubic meter. After that it was privatized when some influential government officials decided so, he alleged.
“The Irrigation Department in Parwan also received Afs6,600 per house three years ago, and collected Afs360 million extra from locals in past three years. The price was reduced to Afs25, only for a short period of time, when the residents complained to the judicial organizations. However, it was again increased to Afs60 per cubic meter (m3). Poor people cannot pay the bills,” he said.
He further said that the irrigation department has cut off water supply to those in the past two months who could not afford to pay Afs60 Afghanis for per cubic meter.
He claimed that the governor was ready to reduce the price to Afs25 per cubic meter, but the influential people in the government are not ready to accept his orders, because he is acting governor. However, chief of the provincial jirga did not reveal names of the influential people.
The residents of 12 out of 23 jurisdictions pay Afs25 for m3 while inhabitants of 11 others are charged Afs60-100 for the same volume, he said, adding that a complaint letter signed by 14 imams of the grand mosques was not accepted by the government due to pressure from “water mafia”.
The locals become sick as they drink water from a stream full of garbage and plastics. People pay Afs200 for each tanker of water supplied from the Project Stream passing through Charikar, the center of Parwan, he said.
In an interview with Afghanistan Times, member of the Wolesi Jirga from Parwan province, Zakia Sangeen, confirmed that access to potable water was demand of the residents. She also confirmed that people are impelled to pay Afs60-100 for each cubic meter while the official rate is Afs25.
The potable water supply system, built by the Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT), was privatized. The system is now run by Bakhterian Water Supply Company.
Parwan PRT dug four wells and established proper irrigation network. Water was free of cost in 2011. However, the locals have to pay now for the water, she said.
“Now the citizens are using the water of two streams which are full of garbage. They are forced to accept the new price rate or use the polluted water. They do not have other choice, except to utilize the polluted water of streams,” said Ms Sangeen.
When asked that whether she took any step to resolve the problem being a public representative, she said that once the price was reduced to Afs25 from Afs100, but it was increased to Afs60 by the “water mafia”, because the relevant authorities were not ready to listen to her.
Secretariat Chief in Parwan, Muhammad Tahir Himmat, said that price of per cubic meter water was already Afs100, but it was reduced to Afs25 when complaints were received from residents of the Ahmad Shah Masood Township.
He said: “However, I do not know that who has increased the price to Afs60. I will look into the issue in order to ensure that potable water is supplied to everyone at minimum price. It is the private sector that was charging Afs60-100 per cubic meter water, though, the official price is Afs25.”
He said that drinkable water could not be supplied for free, because running the potable water supply system cost.
Chief of the Water Supply Department (WSD) in Parwan, Muhammad Qaseem, said that water supply was halted for three days as the pumps were inactivated. He assured that the supply would be resumed soon.
Regarding hike in rate of water, he said that every resident is charged according to the water supply law. The residential houses are charged only Afs25 and the governmental organizations Afs35 per cubic meter. He said the amount collected from residents and public departments are used to keep the supply system running.
“Water is cleaned from germs and pollutants. Only dwellers of the 11th jurisdiction get water from a private company which charge Afs50, though, the price fixed by the government is Afs25,” he said, claiming that the WSD has extended eight kilometer pipeline to area for water supply.
He said that water free of cost could not be provided to the locals because the supply system is run by generators. He claimed that locals still owe Afs16 million to the water supply department while the department has to pay Afs2 million to the government.
The chief of WSD further said that a water supply network project has been designed to supply water from Salang River. The project will cost $8 million.
Chief of the provincial health department, Khwaja Muhammad Qaseem Sayedi, told Afghanistan Times that people were deprived of drinkable water. He said that most of the open water supply sources were polluted.
He did not provide exact data, but said that many patients brought to the hospitals and clinics suffer from drinking polluted water. After drinking the polluted water, most of people had diarrhea, dysentery and dyspepsia.