Rainwater Harvesting in Tharparkar
ADP is funding its first Rainwater Harvesting (RWH) project in Dhabi Bheel, a small rural village in Sindh’s Tharparkar desert. RWH structures collect and store rainwater for later usage with ponds being one of the most effective and commonly used RWH structures in the area. ADP is supporting the construction of one village level and 70 household level ponds. The larger village-level pond can store approximately 1 million liters of water while the smaller household-level pond has a storage capacity of 8,000 liters water each.
Dhabi Bheel is a small village consisting of 160 households (951 individuals) and is 22 kilometers away from the nearest city in Mithi, Tharparkar. The village receives rainfall for only 3-4 months annually and for the remaining 8-9 dry months, villagers have to walk 4-5 kilometers (a 90 minute walk) to the nearest source of water. The existing village wells have a high concentration of salts and minerals, making the water unsuitable for drinking.
Through this project ADP aims to provide a clean and nearby source of drinking water for the villagers and the construction of ponds will commence right away so that villagers can start using them during the 2013 summer monsoon season.
Sukaar Foundation (SF) was established in 2003 and is headquartered in the Mithi city of Tharparkar, Sindh. The Foundation focuses on addressing water, sanitation and health/hygiene education issues in Sindh, primarily focusing onTharparkar, Umerkot, Badin, Thattu & Daddu, Jamshoro and Jacobabad districts. Sukaar Foundation has worked with Water Aid-Pakistan, the World Bank, and UNICEF on a number of hygiene education and water projects in Sindh.
ADP will monitor the progress via the following key metrics:
Water quality: The water presently available to the villagers is salty and brackish. After the construction of the RWH ponds, a water quality test will be conducted on the pond water that has passed through the bio sand filters installed as part of the project. These tests along with one conducted before the project will be sent to a lab and will be compared with international standards for clean water.
Regular Reports on Rainwater Collected: Sukaar Foundation will share regular reports with ADP regarding the amount of rainwater collected (during the monsoon season) and the amount used by the villagers (during the dry season). These reports will provide details about the quantity of clean drinking water provided by the ponds throughout the year.
Social Impact on Villagers (Qualitative metric): The final metric will be the social impact of the project on the villagers. This includes the time saved from fetching water, fewer water-borne illnesses in the village and increased time children can spend in schools (as children participate in fetching water, many of them have been forfeiting school time to procure water). This information will be collected from the villagers and from Sukaar Foundation.
The proposal satisfies all of ADP’s criteria. Most importantly, it addresses a critical need of providing clean drinking water to 951 people in a rural desert village. Without the ponds, the villagers have to depend either on a water source that is 4-5 kilometers away or on a few highly contaminated groundwater wells in their village. It is noteworthy that since this is ADP’s first project RWH project, ADP will treat this as a pilot project. ADP will closely monitor the project and its impact on the lives of the villagers for the next year. Regular site visits will be conducted and any issues that may arise will be documented.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q 1: What is Rainwater Harvesting?
RWH structures collect and store rainwater for later usage (for drinking water, cooking, etc). These are particularly important in dry, desert climates that receive little to no rainfall except for a few months during the year. One of the most effective and commonly used RWH structures in deserts, including in Pakistan’s deserts, are large ponds. Depending on the size, these large ponds store water for up to 8-9 months of the year, thus providing desert residents with drinking water for the dry months of the year.
Q 2: ADP has never funded a RWH project before. What did the team’s evaluation need to focus on to ensure that RWH is an effective and sustainable solution for the people of the Thar desert?
ADP conducted an academic review of different RWH options/techniques in the developing world and found We were pleased to find studies pointing to their success in other desert regions like Ethiopia and India. Secondly, a number of local Water and Development experts including PCRWR, Water Aid Pakistan, UNESCO and the Earthquake Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Authority (ERRA) were consulted regarding the efficacy of RWH in Pakistan. These experts unanimously supported RWH ponds as the best and most sustainable solution for drinking water in Tharparkar. Thirdly, ADP project teams visited several villages in which Sukaar Foundation had already built RWH ponds. We were pleased to find these ponds had an extremely positive impact on the lives of the villagers. Finally, as per the usual ADP Evaluation Process, we conducted a site visit to the village and the villagers were overwhelmingly enthusiastic about the project.
Q 3: Can you describe the ponds in more detail? What are the ponds made of? How big are they?
Both pond types are circular and bowl-shaped. The larger village-level pond will be 12 feet deep, and the diameter of its upper rim will be 80 feet and the bottom, 16 feet. It has a storage 1 million liters of water. It is constructed in an excavated pit which will be pressed and lined with a water-proof geo-membrane. Brick masonry will be added on the geo-membrane before the entire structure is covered with concrete. Two hand pumps will be installed to pump water from the pond. The smaller household-level ponds will be built in the backyard of each household. They will be constructed using a very thin lining of cement and sand mortar as well as a concrete-mud mix. They will be up to 3.5 meters deep and have a diameter of 2 meters. These smaller ponds will be able to hold 8,000 liters of water each.
Q 4: How do we know the water from the ponds will be clean enough for drinking?
Both pond types will be lined with geo-membrane, which substantially reduces the amount of groundwater seeping into the ponds. Groundwater is dangerous as it contains high levels of minerals and fluoride that are not safe for drinking. Also, both pond types will be covered with concrete to ensure no groundwater seepage.
As it is not entirely possible to prevent contamination resulting from the environment (e.g. bird droppings, dust etc), Sukaar Foundation will, as part of this project, install 27 bio-sand filters in the village. Bio-sand filters are simple devices that filter water for drinking. It is a simple concrete/pitcher box that is filled with concrete and sands and can remove 100% of parasites, 98% of harmful bacteria, and other pollutants. It also reduces the turbidity of the water.
The bio-sand filter is simple, cheap and is incredibly easy to maintain. Sukaar Foundation will conduct regular community training sessions on the importance and usage of bio-sand filters.
Q 5: What is the cost of maintaining the ponds? How will they be maintained?
Maintenance of the ponds occurs once a year, usually consists of cleaning and de-silting the pond and is not labor intensive. Sukaar Foundation plans to form a village maintenance committee, which will monitor the ponds and implement any necessary maintenance work. If necessary, the committee will also collect a nominal fee from each household to fund the maintenance. In the past, this has amounted to about 10-15 Rupees per household each year. These maintenance committees have previously worked quite well in the villages Sukaar Foundation has already built ponds in.
Q 6: How long can these ponds last?
If maintained well, the ponds can last indefinitely.
Q 7: What happens if there is no rainfall during a given year?
It is true that during some years there are droughts and little to no rainfall in the Tharparkar desert. During such years, it is also true that the RWH ponds will not be able to provide much water for the villagers. However, when weighing the long-term overall benefits of the ponds against the potential inefficacy of the ponds during drought years, the Project Team decided to approve the project anyhow. Our logic was simple. For one, during the drought years, the ponds will not be damaged by the drought season and will simply need to be cleaned in order to be put back into commission. In other words, it can be used during the years immediately following drought years. Thus, the long-term impact of constructing the ponds—which will provide desperately needed drinking water to the villagers most years—will still have substantially greater positive impact on the lives of the villagers.
Q 8: Will there be evaporation from the ponds?
Yes. As Tharparkar is a hot desert with high temperatures throughout most of the year, complete avoidance of evaporation is impossible. However, evaporation from traditional rainwater structures in the region is 60%-70%, while these ponds have an average annual evaporation rate of no more than 20%. Sukaar’s RWH ponds have built-in structures that substantially reduce evaporation. Firstly, the circular shape of the pond reduces evaporation (Square or rectangular ponds have higher evaporation rates.) Secondly, shrubs and bushes will be planted outside the pond’s wall, and this too will help reduce evaporation. Finally, evaporation occurs at a faster rate if the water in the ponds remains unused for the first couple of months following the rain season. Sukaar helps the villages use the ponds immediately after the rains, thereby reducing evaporation rates. Again, the overall average evaporation rate each year is no more than 20%.
Q 9: Will cattle graze or rest near the ponds? If so, would this not affect the quality of the pond water?
It will be very difficult for cattle to get near the ponds. The village pond will be surrounded by a four-foot brick wall. The top of the wall will have barbed wire to ensure that animals do not jump over the wall. In addition, the wall is surrounded by thorny bushes and trees to keep animals away.
Q 10: What do we know about Sukaar Foundation? Why did we decide to partner with Sukaar Foundation for the RWH project?
Sukaar Foundation is one of only two organizations working on bringing sustainable drinking water for desert villages in rural Sindh. The Foundation already has vast experience constructing RWH structures in a number of villages in Tharparkar and has been constructing RWH structures since 2008. Furthermore, the ADP Project Team took vigorous steps to ensure the NGO’s credibility and checked with third party sources from UNICEF and Water Aid Pakistan, both of which have worked with Sukaar Foundation and had overwhelmingly positive experiences doing so. Finally, Sukaar Foundation has previous experience working with the Dhabi Bheel villagers themselves, as it provided much-needed humanitarian aid to the village during the monsoons of October, 2012. During ADP’s site visit, the villagers responded enthusiastically to the prospect of working with Sukaar Foundation again.
The construction of the village level pond and 63 household level ponds has been completed. During the current monsoon spell, rain water has been harvested in the village level pond.
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