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Country Water Actions

Country water actions are stories that showcase water reforms undertaken by individuals, communities, organizations, and governments in Asia-Pacific countries and elsewhere.

Pakistan: Project Brings Hope for Clean-up of Rawalpindis Shame

July 2006

Efforts are now underway to clean up the Nullah Lai stream, which has become an embarrassing dumping ground in Rawalpindi, Pakistan. Will Rawalpindi residents be successful in cleaning the stream and getting their dignity back? TRASH BINS BY THE STREAM'S BANKS

"The city generates about 810 tonnes of waste per day," says Naseer Chaudhry, director of sanitation at WASA. "The government and municipal bodies presently collect and dispose only about half of that." The city authorities had widened and deepened the Nullah Lai after the 2002 floods but local residents say the space that was created for water has already been filled by more garbage and siltation. Regular clean-up was also lacking. "Nullah Lai is no doubt the shame of Rawalpindi," says Rawalpindi trader Maqsood Nabi. He is, however, optimistic that things would change, because now there is a major project for rehabilitating the stream. PREVENTING A FLOOD OF GARBAGE The Nullah Lai flows through two cities Islamabad and Rawalpindi. This region receives about 500 millimeters of rain during the monsoon, and the Nullah Lai has flooded its neighborhood at least once every four years. Pakistan's meteorological office, which had been warning of an extended drought, has revised its forecast saying that the monsoon rains would be "normal" this year. Fears about possible flooding have spread. The Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA) provided 360 million Pakistani rupees (about US$5.9 million) for the installation of a state-of-the-art Flood Forecasting and Warning System after the last major flood in 2001. But the warning system will not be completed till June 2007. Preventive measures have also been planned by the REIP, including removing garbage and preventing dumping in the stream, and ending encroachments on the embankments. Also planned are the construction of an 11-kilometer road and fencing on both sides of the Nullah Lai. As a long-term flood prevention measure, JICA has also proposed diverting the Nullah Lai's waters, and the Capital Development Authority (CDA) has approved one of three possible routes it had proposed. The project would involve building a 9.8 kilometer channel to divert water from the Nullah Lai to another Nullahthe Nullah Korangthrough Islamabad.

Nullah Lai, a stream that passes though Rawalpindi, Pakistan, has been the city's dumping ground for many years. This could now finally change. "Containers would be set up alongside the Nullah for waste collection," says Syed Aslam Ali Sabzwari of the Water and Sanitation Agency (WASA). The WASA program, funded by donors and local and provincial governments, aims to improve the city's water and sanitation system. Garbage collection points are being set up by the Asian Development Bank-funded Rawalpindi Environment Improvement Project (REIP) alongside other measures for improving water supply, sanitation, and sewerage. "The project is our last chance to change the destiny of the city," says Raja Javed Ikhlas, District Nazim (mayor) of Rawalpindi. "The REIP will cater to the needs of the city for the next 50 years," he adds. RAWALPINDI RESIDENTS SHAME The Nullah Lai epitomizes Rawalpindi's poor water, sanitation, and sewerage management. Ilyas Khan, a resident who throws bagsful of household waste into the river, is burdened by shame over his deed. "I know its wrong but I am forced to do it," he utters hesitantly. "There is no proper place to throw waste." Solid waste has obstructed the water flow at several places, and ponds of rotting waste send foul smells into the surroundings. The problem is compounded during the rainy season when water overflows into the city's low-lying areas. In the past, the floods have been responsible for a number of deaths and widespread damage to property. Summer floods in July 2001 killed over 60 people and damaged property worth millions of rupees.

SEWAGE IMPROVEMENTS ALSO NEEDED The Nullah Lai has also the dumping grounds of Islamabad's untreated industrial and household wastes making it one of Pakistan's most polluted water bodies. The ground water near Nullah Lai is also highly polluted. ADB estimates that Rawalpindi alone produces about 141,000 cubic meters of sewage. This is expected to increase to 272,000 cubic meters by 2025. "Improvement of the sewage system, including treatment, will be the most important component of the REIP," says Sabzwari. The sewage treatment plant to be built by the REIP will be located at Adiala, some 25 kilometers outside the city. A tunnel is to be built to take sewage to Adiala for treatment and safe disposal. The project will be participatory, and will involve both elected representatives and community-members. Rawalpindi Mayor Raja Javed Ikhlas says, "All suggestions and data provided by people's representatives will be given priority while designing various schemes under the project." He adds, "It is a collective problem, so a collective effort is needed to resolve it."

_____________________________ Based on the article of Irfan Shahzad, Asia Water Wire journalist The views expressed in this article are the views of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Asian Development Bank (ADB), or its Board of Governors, or the governments they represent. ADB does not guarantee the accuracy of the data included in this paper and accepts no responsibility for any consequence of their use. Terminology used may not necessarily be consistent with ADB official terms.

*This article was first published online at ADB's Water for All website in July 2006: The Country Water Action series was developed to showcase reforms and good practices in the water sector undertaken by ADBs member countries. It offers a mix of experience and insights from projects funded by ADB and those undertaken directly by civil society, local governments, the private sector, media, and the academe. The Country Water Actions are regularly featured in ADBs Water for All News, which covers water sector developments in the Asia and Pacific region.