Water channel reduces village tensions in Swat
For generations, the people of Manglawar village in Swat district, north-western Pakistan, had relied on agriculture for their income. The land was fertile and it was located only three kilometres from the river, guaranteeing an ample supply of water for the crops using a system of mud channels that brought water to each field. With hard work and dedication, the 7,000 people of Manglawar flourished.
Over time, however, the ancient mud channels became a source of discord. They leaked water, and wastage meant that not every family had sufficient water for their crops. At times, blows were exchanged over the precious resource.
Finally, the council of elders, or jirga, decreed that each farmer would be allocated a period of time in which he or she could use the irrigation water. The time slots would be announced in the mosque. Yet even this did not resolve the problem. With water wastage and sluggish flows, supply remained inadequate and not every farmer benefited equally. The powerful took over the slots of their weaker neighbours.
In 2017, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) came to Manglawar. With support from the Saudi Fund for Development and in partnership with the district government and the Provincial Disaster Management Authority, UNDP is working in Swat district to meet village representatives and identify places where small infrastructure projects can have significant benefits for local communities. Manglawar was identified as one of these places.
UNDP assigned a dedicated engineer to supervise and monitor day to day work on constructing the new water channel. A project oversight committee was established comprising village residents who were trained to understand the technical aspects of construction. One member of this committee, Khurshaid Ali, described this as an important means of empowering local people to oversee the work, check quality of materials, and when corrective measures were required, coordinate with UNDP staff.
The completed water channel now measures 1,200 metres and irrigates hundreds of hectares of land, benefiting 1,000 households. With careful engineering and high quality materials, water wastage is minimized.
“Previously it took us a long time to irrigate our land but now it can be done within a few hours,” said Raheem Zada, another member of the village oversight committee.
One of his colleagues, Khurshaid Ali, added: “It’s going to be our first rice crop after the construction of water channel. And now 100 percent of land has sufficient access to water, from 20 percent before the construction of the water channel.” The farmers of Manglawar are now looking forward to a three fold increase in production and income.
“The thing which I am happiest about is that conflicts related to land irrigation and water possession have diminished because all farmers get sufficient and equal access to water now.” Rahim Zada said with a smile.
In recent years, Swat district has experienced natural disasters including floods, as well as conflict, which have severely impacted on local livelihoods and infrastructure. Funded by the Saudi Fund for Development, UNDP supports the restoration and rehabilitation of small infrastructure projects such as link roads, bridges and water channels to improve livelihoods, economic integration and access to essential services such as hospitals and schools. Over 1 million residents of Swat have to date benefited from these projects since the project began in 2011.
- Over 1 million people have benefited from 761 community basic infrastructure schemes.
- In remote, mountainous region of Swat, 107 link roads and 284 street pavements reduced the time and cost of accessing schools, hospital, markets and other basic services.
- Seventy community organizations were formed or re-activated, including 16 comprising women.