Access to Clean Water in Remote Parts of Sindh Province

Pakistan 10.10.2015 Ecosystem: Arid

Poverty alleviation, drought mitigation through rain-water harvesting in the Arid Region of Sindh Kohistan (Sindh Province of Pakistan)


Pakistan – Water Resource Management Programme Sindh Province – Category: soil and water conservation

Background Story


Summary of the Practice

This case study is about a long term programme of Society for Conservation and Protection of Environment (SCOPE) which initiated in 1991, with advocacy efforts against commercial sand mining in Malir valley and gradually converted into a development project and spread in Sindh Kohistan.

The Water Resource Management Program from 1994 addresses low quality and insufficient quantity of water available in this region. A variety of mesures are taken for better access to water, such as rain-water harvesting. An improved quality of water is part of scope´s campaign against water borne deseases. Strong local contribution made the efforts a success in many respects.

Keywords: Rainwater harvesting, water resource management, water borne deseases, drought mitigation, combating desertification, dryland,

Country: Pakistan

Province: Sindh

Area: Sindh Kohistan (hilly area in the western Sindh Province), lying in Districts of Malir and Jamshoro

Sectoral Issues: Water Resource Management

Cross-sectoral Issues: Poverty alleviation, combating desertification, community capacity building

Implementation Level: local

Organisation (+ key partners)

  1. Pakistan Poverty Alleviation Fund (PPAF)
  2. SCOPE: (through fundraising campaign, private donations):
  3. Local farmers and local community:
  4. Local District Government (For Khar Dam only):
  5. Premier Oil Pakistan:
  6. Pakistan State Oil:
  7. Oxfam Pakistan: For technical study on sand mining:

Actors Involved:


a Society for Conservation and Protection of Environment (SCOPE)

b- Oxfam (Sindh-Pakistan)

Local community groups:

Kissan Committee, local community based organizations


Pakistan Poverty Alleviation Fund (PPAF)

Local Government:

District Malir Government

Private sector:

Premier Oil, Pakistan State Oil


Sindh Kohistan is an arid hilly region in the South West of Sindh Province of Pakistan. This is surrounded by limits of Hyderabad, Karachi and Thatta Districts. The area covered by Sindh Kohistan is about 23,000 and population is about 600,000. Only 3.3% females in the area have acquired primary level education as against 25.5 % males. Poverty level in the area is very high due to lack of natural resources and persistent drought spells. Only 30% of the houses have access to properly constructed infrastructure where as rest 71.7% of the population live in temporary straw made huts without latrines, piped water, electircity, cooking gas etc. There are no metalled roads in the area.


Water being a valuable treasure here, is being embraced in whatever form. Most of the water available here is contaminated variously and people are compelled to drink it in any form.

There are many water-related problems from which the local Kohistani people especially the women and children suffer and 80% of the drinking water from the deep dug wells is brackish and contaminated. Drinking this water on regular basis gives rise to many diseases such as gastro-enteritis, typhoid, diarrhea, vomiting and hepatitis etc. Families spend substantial amount on treatment of water borne diseases. Many poor families cannot afford the cost of treatment. Women have to suffer more, as they have to fetch water. Women also suffer if any of the family members get ill due to water borne diseases. She has to take care of the sick family member, which puts additional burden on women.

Women are mostly unaware of the water borne diseases and means of precaution or treatment of diseases.

There were a need to make women aware of these diseases and how they can take precautions. Also women should be made aware of the treatment of the water borne diseases.

Farmers cultivate fields during the monsoon rainy season in some areas. The households derive their income from raising and selling of livestock (goats, sheep, chickens) and selling handicraft, which is widely made by women folks. Subsistence agriculture also provides a minor income plus food, fuel and fodder to the community.

Water is single most important governing factor for the livelihood of people. The main sources of drinking water are the dug wells, whose depth ranges from 120 to 400 feet. The other temporary source is traditional rainwater collection ponds which are made by digging ground. These ponds get filled during the rainy season and provide water for 2-6 months. They also help in recharging of groundwater aquifer and dug wells.


The women folks use to fetch water from an average distance ranging from 3 to 4 km from the village. During this they have to face the threat of wild animals, snakes and hooligans. Druing the drought time these wells get dried down with further decreasing of water level and deterioration of water quality. By consuming this bad quality water, particularly during the summer season, outbreaks of water born deseases have been reported by the health department which have caused 7 to 10 death annually and hopistilization of hundreds of people, majority of which are childern under the age of five. Since the population is thinly spread and terrain is very rough and also there is not much economic productivity value of the area, it is deprived of governments attention. There is no drought mitigation policy in place therefore community doesn’t get disaster support during drought. Recently a Drought Emergency Response Assistance (DERA) project was introduced by the Sindh Government, however the resources allocation was done on political basis and on wrong schemes such as water supply schemes with diesel operated deep hand pumps, however these schemes didn’t create much impact as lowering of water table and lack of community ownership in the planning and maintenance of the schemes and absence of maintenance money.


Malir valley is an adjacent to Sindh Kohistan in Malir District, stretches to the Arabian sea, which serves as watershed of Sindh Kohistan’s hilly region. Rainfed and well water agriculture is practiced in Malir valley, which was also known as greenbelt of Karachi. Government has been planning the construction of many small dams, but only one dam (Thaddo dam in Gadap) has been constructed so far. The Society for Conservation and Protection of Environment (SCOPE) is active in these areas for combating drought and desertification.

Objectives of the long term programme:

  1. To resist against drought, land degradation, out-migration and poverty in the area

  2. Improvement of hydrologialcal cycle by storage of maximum quantity of rain runoff water.

  3. To provide potable water to 5 Union Councils of Sindh Kohistan area by constructing new and improving existing rain water harvesting reservoirs, check dams ponds and repairing and remoddeling of community wells.

  4. Introduction of Bio Sand Filteration (BSF) technology to clean drinking water from harmful pathogenes

  5. To establish and strengthen local community organizations to participate in the water resources development programmes.

  6. Enhancement of ground water aquifer through water recharge process during the rainy season with the help of “delay action” dams, in Malir valley

  7. Enhancement of agricultural producation in Union Council Gadap (District Malir) area through enhanced ground water aquifer.

  8. Improvement in livestock conditions by making water available.



Outline of Practices/Actions:

Since 1988 the Society for Conservation and Protection of Environment (SCOPE) has been focusing on halting the land degradation and desertification process and combating drought in the dryland areas of Sindh Kohistan and Malir valley. Commercial sand and gravel mining has been a constant threat to the groundwater aquifer in the Malir valley. A study conducted by SCOPE revealed that Malir is rapidly decertified due to soil loss and lack of ground water.

SCOPE advocated and organized local people to resist against illegal sand and gravel excavation from the area. Later on, with the birth of UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), SCOPE converted this advocacy against desertification into a full fledge Water Resource Management programme in 1994 and initiated construction of a community water reservoir and a water reservoir at Khar torrent in 1995 to store rainwater and recharge aquifer of Gadap agricultural area, with the help of local farmers groups. Initially the funding was raised through SCOPE’s reserve funds and contribution by local farmers. Later on local Government provided some matching funds. However the main credit of this project goes to local farmers who contributed money and labour to build this small dam, which proved to be successful in improving groundwater table and reviving their agriculture (please look at the references). This project gave an important lesson to the farmers that groundwater is limited and they have to use water judiciously and conserve it through changed crop patterns and investing in lining water channels to check evaporation in these hot and dry climatic conditions.


Encouraged from the good results of Khar dam project SCOPE decided to expand the water harvesting programme in the remote villages of Sindh Kohistan and approached private sector and other donors.

Currently a rainwater harvesting project (which is integral part of overall water resources management and combating desertification programme) is underway with the support of Pakistan Poverty Alleviation Fund’s (PPAF). The project is characterized by the following activities;

  1. Survey and social mobilization of the local communities about sustainable management of resources in the drought affected area. The most important part of this mobilization process is to make them agree in financial and labour contribution in the projects. For the purpose of project planning, implementation, and maintenance local community organizations are strengthened with proper record and book keeping, with democratic decision making executing bodies.

  2. Technical designing worked is done by the qualified engineers with the consultation of community

  3. Improvement and expansion and remodelling of existing traditional community reservoir and construction of new rain water harvesting reservoirs, check dams, delay action dams

  4. Fund raising for those project component which are not funded by PPAF’s are raised by various resources including local government, philanthropists, and private sector

  5. Project implementation with the active involvement of local people at each step of the project.

  6. The monitoring of all activities is carried out by SCOPE.

  7. Post construction responsibilities are carried by the community.

The funding is allocated on staff training, community training, staff salaries, vehicle fuel and maintenance, 80% of the construction cost of the projects, and management support.



village level, local people



Following are the achievements of the project;

  1. More than 85 village organizations have been formed and trained in community organization and management of the project;
  2. About 40 large reservoirs, ponds, check dams, hand pumps constructed with additional 300,000 M3 capacity of runoff water collection;
  3. Community contributed about 25% of the capital cost of approximately $ 175,000;
  4. 1,550 bio sand water filters are functional in the area providing clean drinking water, free from harmful pathogens, to about 11,000 people;
  5. People have adopted habit of using filtered water, because it tastes better and it saves them from diseases caused by harmful pathogens;
  6. Programme is still continued toady and expanding.

Key of Success

The key success factors are following;

  1. Critical need of water in drought affected area for survival which led community to find a way out;
  2. proper utilization of opportunities (sloppy terrain, traditional water collection system);
  3. Participation and active involvement of local community in project perception, planning, implementation, financial contribution, and monitoring;
  4. Blending of local and scientific knowledge in developing rainwater harvesting systems;
  5. Sound technical designs of water reservoirs to achieve desired water capacity with minimal transpiration, chances of water contamination and damage during rainy flesh floods.

Critical Instruments

For implementation of this activities we have used different types of instruments which are giving blow;

Participation with of community in different activities such as construction of Bio sand water filter, dams, and community ponds.

  1. Impowerment of women and man on decision making;
  2. Awareness raising through advocacy campaign;
  3. Build their capacity to give them training on different issues, on record keeping, management skill, resources mobilization, health and hygiene etc.;
  4. Provide them Bio sand water filter technology;
  5. Design every project with the help of qualified Civil engineers;
  6. Partnership with the community on the understanding of 20% financial share.


  1. A replicable model for local and provincial governments to follow, as for example when Khar dam proved to be very successful, the farmers raised voice and a 10 pending project of similar kind of small dam (Thaddo dam) in the same area was completed within 3 years.
  2. Community got confidence against drought with their dependable water sources
  3. Water borne diseases decreased significantly

SCOPE, that is working in this area for more than seven years and have organized many consultation meetings here, recognized that water borne diseases are most common here and that no ordinary type practice of water purification could be feasible here on permanent basis. Further work on this subject by SCOPE, revealed that water contamination is the root cause of many grievances for the inhabitants of this area. Due to lack of access to medical facilities, lack of financial resources and impacts of other problems, people are not truly able to combat these diseases physically as well as mentally. This situation is making the already malnutrition people specially children more vulnerable. With the realization of this situation and successful experiences of BSF (Bio Sand Filter) for water purification in the rural areas of Pakistan, SCOPE had determined that a little effort towards water purification could be helpful to alleviate the vulnerabilities of the people to manifold and the impacts of the its benefits could be multiplied. This was the perspective when SCOPE, with the support of CAWST took the initiative to start a BSF (Bio Send Water Filter) at house hold level.

Kohistani People taking interest to make BSF, because its an appropriate and affordable technology to treat drinking water at household level.

After construction of BSF marked difference in the instances of diseases through the use of filter gave the community the feelings of empowerment that they are able to combat their water related diseases.

In the long run elimination of the diseases (water borne, and the ratio of those is more than any other diseases, moreover these diseases could lead to other diseases also) would add up to alleviate their poverty, as much of their (already limited) resources are consumed to combat the diseases and/or their impacts.

  1. Bio sand filter technology got transferred and replicated

In this perspective BSF is being anticipated to provide a feasible solution not only at household level but also on community level. The success of the BSF technology would further testify its viability in the rural settings of Pakistan like, Tharparkar (Thar Desert), Thatta, Cholastan and all over the world where similar condition exist and it could be applicable to other rural areas where usual water contaminations are a constant threat.
Poverty reduced as livestock increased

  1. Out migration during drought reduced
  2. Community mobilization to become an organized force
  3. The tangible impact of the all practice is an improved hydrological cycle, and availability of water through reservoirs and dug wells for more time than it was available before the project.
  4. Khar dam has revived agriculture in Gadap area and about 40 dry dug wells and bore holes which went out of service were revived to provide water to the farmers. Now these farmers have got back their livelihood. Farmers are cultivating their lands and earning. Number of livestock increased with the local economy.
  5. Moreover the village communities who participated in the project have their accounts and meeting records.
  6. The migrated people have come back who have earlier migrated from this area. Number of dried wells got recharged and become perennial. In the near by health centres the decline of daily out patient registration was noted after community started using bio sand filters.
  7. Migrated birds came to wet land and improved the environment. Access for poor rural communities in creating and preserving physical, economic and social assets has increased. Women take active participation in income generation activities and improved their skills.


 Lessons Learned

  1. Community organization is a difficult task, when we deal with different stakeholders having different interests, getting a consensus is great achievement.
  2. Community is a heterogeneous entity, usually having more concerned people with fewer resources and less concerned people with more resources.
  3. Local knowledge must be respected while planning a project; however, options should be open for improvement.
  4. Involvement of women is important in every decision making, particularly about developing water projects.
  5. Conflict of interests should be handled carefully, while negotiating a project among different stakeholders and NGOs can play this role with a better position.
  6. Government support is very useful to mobilize for community development projects.
  7. Project should be built on a very sound eng. Design in order to avoid any failure or mishap.
  8. Apart from engineering and science, local knowledge about the project planning particularly in small dams sites should be considered and a consensus between technical people in local people is always to be sought.
  9. Building of water resources in the village reduce women’s burden of fetching water saving about 50% time of women daily. Besides, it contributes towards reduction of water borne diseases. The saved time of women is productively be used in generating income to supplement household income. This in turn improves the status and image of women in family and society. The saved time also contribute positively in maintaining the health of women and girls. Women carrying water from near by distance and it is safe especially for those women who fetch water during pregnancy periods.


This projects is applicable in dryland areas where potential of large scale rainwater harvesting exists, particularly in dry hilly areas.



1- Local Action LA0248 Sustainable Management of Rainwater in Drought affected Areas of Sindh Province of Pakistan, Tanveer Arif, SCOPE, Pakistan- A presentation made at 4rth. World Water Forum, in March 2006 at Mexico

2- Combatting desertification through SCOPE’s water harvesting project, SCOPE, Malir, Pakistan, UNCCD community best practices stories’scope%20khar%20dam%20pakistan’

3- Combating Desertification Through Stakeholders Participation, With The Construction Of A Delay Action Check Dam At Khar – Gadap, Malir

4- Fresh Water Action

5- Drought Mitigation in Pakistan, IWMI

Get in touch with Drynet. Send us an email