It is difficult to perceive — the thought of walking for miles each day to search for a source of fresh drinking water. It’s an eerie contrast to how an average person residing in an urban centre would spend a typical day. This is a way of life for many rural dwellers across the developing world. This practice, sporadically, also extends to certain urban settlements where water shortages are acute.
Baldia Town is one such locality in Pakistan’s largest metropolitan city — Karachi. Lacking access to several essential amenities and bearing a high headcount of poverty, the town faces several challenges in providing safe drinking water to its residents. Out of the town’s eight Union Councils, Ittehad Town is one of the most densely populated neighbourhoods, with its population predominantly consisting of Pashtun and Hazara communities from the neighbouring Balochistan province and Temporarily Displaced Families from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas. For years, communities residing in Ittehad Town have lacked access to health care services, water and sanitation services and other necessary provisions rendered to most other parts of Karachi city. Immunization is an unpalatable concept to most within the locality— owing mainly to the strict confines that the migrant population has kept themselves to — exposing a vast majority of the people to water-borne diseases, especially during hot and humid summer months.
Within the confines of Ittehad Town, most people choose to send their children to the local Madrassa, Abu Huraira. With around 1200 children currently enrolled at the institute, Abu Huraira is one of the biggest madrassas in the neighbourhood.
The madrassa clerics have over the years gained the respect of the townspeople. Maulana Abdul Karim Imam, a senior cleric at Masjid Abu Huraira, devoted twenty-five years of his life to the Grand Mosque. He was determined to provide the best of knowledge and education to his students, while also advocating for the well-being of community members. It often troubled him to see young children walk for miles in search of water. The community members mostly drank unfiltered water, which would typically not be considered safe for drinking.
“The pumping station installed in the mosque has not been functional for almost ten years now,” said Maulana Abdul Karim Imam gesturing towards the old hand pump. “Community members cannot afford bottled water. Getting safe drinking water is an everyday struggle for the locals.”
A Solar Powered Water Filtration Plant recently installed by Rotary International with support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) will provide fresh drinking water to the local community members.
“We expect school attendance to increase now that there is a water filtration plant nearby,” said Maulana Abdul Karim Imam. “Clean drinking water will reduce the risk of disease,” he added.