In May 2009, a truck rolled through the Sheikh Yasin camp in Mardan, Pakistan’s “city of hospitality,” where thousands of people had fled following one of the country’s military offensives against the Taliban.
If water was a scarce commodity to this refugee community, ice was a luxury. And it was worth fighting for: A single block could refrigerate whatever perishables the displaced had secured for their families.
A fire in Male’s desalination plant left roughly 130,000 residents without water in the capital of the Maldives.
Over the past decade desalinated water replaced stinky and salty well water and harvested rainwater so when Male Water & Sewage Company was suddenly unable to produce and distribute drinking water neighboring countries had to deliver hundreds of tons of bottled water emergency aid to ease the crisis.
The two countries also have specific disputes, notably over water, illicit narcotics trade, and refugees. Water flows to Iran are likely to be reduced when major hydropower dams are completed in Afghanistan, and water sharing is becoming a more acute source of friction between the two states.
Perween Rahman, an architect and urban planner by trade and one of Pakistan’s most prominent social workers, was brutally murdered in Karachi on March 13. Although some believe she was most likely shot dead by hit men contracted by the city’s powerful land mafia, when I met her, we talked about another equally dangerous and influential group that formed to benefit from Karachi’s stolen waters.
Unable to provide for his family, this man tried to hang himself after his wife left him, taking his children. He survived because his sister found and saved him in time. Drought in India, and competition with industry over scarce water resources, has driven thousands of farmers facing debt to commit suicide in recent years.
More than 2,200 farmers in India committed suicide in the past four years, as water loss and drought drove them deeper into debt.
Zulfquar (42) and Atique (25) are two of five brothers who make their living by selling water. They take turns transporting it from a public well 30 kilometers away by donkey cart and selling it to their neighbors in the slum. Since the water’s quality is not suitable for human consumption their customers can only use it for bathing and washing.
Amar Guriro, a Karachi-based environmental journalist and a WaterAid Fellow, has named Machar Colony ‘the town of miracles’. After we walked through piles of rubbish surrounding children using the streets as a playground, he explained that surviving here is only possible by the appearance of small miracles.
Amar Guriro, a Karachi-based environmental journalist, and a WaterAid Fellow, has named Machar Colony “The town of miracles.” As we walk through piles of rubbish surrounding children using the streets as a playground, he explains that surviving here is only possible by the appearance of small miracles.
Machar Colony is built on land reclaimed from the sea. Where mangroves once grew, migrant workers settled down slowly and filled the swamp with literally any materials they found.
A few days after George W. Bush was reelected as President of the United States I stood on a ridgeline surrounded by a hundred US Marines near the Pakistani border in eastern Afghanistan, waiting for the Chinooks to come pick us up. We’ve been in the wilderness chasing insurgents and looking for information about Osama bin Laden. We started the mission with only two days worth of water and food with a scheduled resupply, which hit a snag and only came a day prior to our departure.