I want to talk about some of the pressing issues faced on a daily basis by people that live on the disappearing Aral Sea.
So when thinking of, let’s say, the issue of water scarcity and supply, I realize that such facilities are basic and a “must-have,” but thousands of communities all over the world still lack such a crucial piece of social infrastructure.
Some of the conditions I saw left me feeling deeply sad and triggered a strong empathy for those going through such difficulties.
Try for one day: not showering, or doing the laundry outside your home in the only spot available in your community – right under the baking sun. This is what people in Shumanay, Kanlikul, and Muynak districts in Karakalpakstan experience every day. Absence of consistent water supply and related facilities puts extreme pressure on the most vulnerable, including women and children, affecting their well-being.
Water supply versus water quality
With a total population of 130,000 people, the above districts are the closest to the Aral Sea shore, and thus the most heavily affected by the environmental crisis. In the past, water from Amudarya was diverted for irrigation purposes causing the drying up the Aral Sea, resulting in overall water scarcity in the area for both the public use and agriculture.
“65 percent of the piped water does not meet chemical standards and 35 percent of water does not clear bacteriological standard.”
Dr. Oral A. Ataniyazova, Chairperson of the Karakalpak Center for Reproductive Health.
(Source: Study on Regional Development in Karakalpakstan, JICA, 2010)
Water quality and safety is yet another issue, with an estimated 150,000 tons of toxic chemicals flowing into the Amudarya River in the past decade (Source: JICA, 2010). In addition, the existing water supply system is not always efficient, causing leakages and it doesn’t reach the entire population. Only 40 percent of the population was served by central water supply system in Shumanay, 73.6 percent in Muynak, and 76.7 percent in Kanlikul (Source: Living Conditions in Karakalpakstan, 2004, JICA).
Community development projects
In order to better address the water supply issue, the United Nations is working closely with communities and local authorities on social infrastructure projects in at least 50 communities. This includes installing water pipelines, and implementing at least 50 community development plans. The United Nations worked with the communities in Kazakhdarya district to identify their infrastructure needs, and developed plans to install water pipelines in selected communities.
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