Mohmand: The thirsty district between two rivers

Murad Khan

GHALANAI: Around 40-50 years ago there were springs of water in Mohmand District (Mohmand Agency before FATA Merger-2018), which was sufficient for drinking as well as irrigation purpose, but with the passage of time the water shortage created a crisis and in summer seasons per tanker of water price has been raised up to 4500 rupees in some areas of Mohmand district.

The irrigation of fields became a dream here, because the people don’t get water for even drinking purposes. Once the elders belonging to this area were giving examples of the beauty and greenery of district Mohmand, but now more than 70% of the population is facing water scarcity and the depletion of water table/level is becoming the most sever issue and according to a report submitted to the standing committee of the National Assembly, Mohmand Tribal District is among those five districts of Pakistan where the water table/level is lowering day by day.

A 70 years old retired teacher Mr. Ghareb Ullah said “I have been transferred to Haji Yar Jan school on 16th November 1970, there were just two buses for transport from Shabqadar to Mohmand who used to take just 1 rupee, but this area was very much green, as there were springs of water and the people were used to grow wreaths, puppy plants and vegetables. Due to springs and more rainfall the whole Mohmand Agency (Before FATA merger) was looking very beautiful in the spring season, the springs water was so pure, clean and clear that the people were using these water for drinking purposes.

Mr. Ghareeb Ullah shared his life experience about the water level in Mohmand district and said that once a man was drowned in a water well in Doorba-Khel area of Halimzai Tehsil, in spite of three days continuous pouring of water through special water pumping machines, the water well couldn’t make empty, so they decided to take help of special swimmer from Warsak dam, who brought out the dead body of that man.” He added that this was the quantity of underground water in this district.

About the springs of water in this district he said that, there was a spring of water in Ghwanda Khel and the other one was in Round area, 3-4 kilometers away from district headquarter Ghallani, the third one was in Kaankar area of Chanda, three of them used to flew into Halki Gandahab area. He said that in these springs the people were swimming and used these water for irrigation purposes as well.

About the lowering of water table in Mohmand district he said that the very much decrease in the intensity of rains, excessive extraction of groundwater in the form of water wells and dug wells and rise in population are the main three causes of water shortage.

Ijaz-Ul-iHaq, Executive Engineer PHE (Public Health Engineering) Department Mohmand says “Water depletion is a big issue in Mohmand, as the water table in Mohmand ranges from 300 to 500 feets depending upon area.” About the lowering of water level/table he said that the reasons of lowering water table in this district includes the excessive extraction of ground water for irrigation purpose, climate change, very little quantity of rains, lack of water recharge planning and excessive use of pressure pumps through solar panels.

“To overcome this issue the govt. is planning different projects, which includes Srookalay to Ghallani water scheme, Left Bank Canal from Mohmand Dam to Ghallani and Pandialai, Right Bank Canal from Mohmand Dame to Prangghaar.” He added. About the future planning the Executive Engineer Mohmand said that we are planning to do sub-surface water extraction in Mohmand Dam, Jay Dam, and Warsak Dam in Khwaizai Baizai tehsil, for this purpose we are planning to have floating solar panels on the surface of water in Mohmand dam, which will be a unique project of its nature. Apart from this the govt. have a huge special drinking project from Mohmand Dam to Peshawar district.

For permanent solution of the issue he suggested that the govt. should have a ban on excessive use of water pumps, to maintain the ground water recharge the govt. should make small dams. Besides this, we should save rain water and the govt. should have proper policy in order to take ban on extraction of ground water for irrigation purpose.

Prof. Dr. Mohammad Nafees, Chairman Department of environmental sciences at University of Peshawar says “it has been revealed by environmental scientist in 2015 that there will be severe water shortage in 2025 in the whole country, the water shortage issue will be more severe in cities as compared to villages or rural areas.”About the reasons for water table lowering he said that Mohmand tribal district is a dried mountainous area, which has been badly affected due to deforestation and heavy grazing on a large scale, secondly the quantity of rains has been decreased very much, which is directly related to climate change.
About the third reason he said that the Forest department has started a program by the name “Social Forestry” in Malakand, dir, Swat, Bajure and Mohmand Tribal District, which has been criticized very much, because they have planted Eucalyptus plant. 1st of all, this plant is not the native species of these areas, secondly this plant decreases the underground water level.

Dr M. Nafees added that the lack of proper plantation and increase in population are the other reasons for the decrease of water table/level. Besides this the underground water was extracted badly, as the dug wells have been changed into water pumps, water pumps have been transferred into heavy tube wells and solar machines, we have no such kind of criteria and have no any restrictions for the extraction of underground water.

About the solution of this issue he suggested that we should plant the indigenous plants like Phulai, Sanatha, Ber, Kikar, Chir, Gurgura (Reptonia Buxifolia), Karkanrha (Zizyphus Nummularia) and Palosa (Aesias Modesta) of the same area in huge quantities, for rare water harvesting and storage of rainwater, Check Dams or small dams should be made, which will be a great source for ground water recharge. Secondly for groundwater recharging and irrigation purposes the grey water harvesting should be ensured.

Nabi, G., Ali, M., Khan, S. et al. writes different suggestions for the conservation of water in their article named (The crisis of water shortage and pollution in Pakistan: risk to public health, biodiversity, and ecosystem. Environ SciPollut Res 26, 10443–10445 (2019). To overcome the water scarcity in Pakistan they have suggested the following ways: Sound National Water Policy; Building dams; Reforestation; Steam-based car washing; Artificial rain; Glaciers conservation; Restoring lakes; Regulating tube-wells drilling and awareness.

According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Pakistan ranked third among the countries facing severe water shortage. In May 2018, the Pakistan Council of Research in Water Resources (PCRWR) announced that by 2025, there will be very little or no clean water available in the country (Shukla 2018). It must be noted that while per capita availability in the 1950s was approximately 5000 m3 per annum, it has now declined to below 1000 m3, which is an internationally recognized threshold of water scarcity (Aziz et al. 2018). Currently, only 20% of the country’s population has access to clean drinking water. The remaining 80% populations depends on polluted water primarily contaminated by sewage (fecal, total coliforms, E. coli colonies), and secondarily by fertilizer, pesticides, and industrial effluents (Daud et al. 2017; Sahoutara 2017).

Zafar Khan, who is working as Sub Divisional Officer in irrigation department Mohmand says “Mohmand Tribal district has two dams (Mohmand and Warsak Dam) and five small dams, (these are Pindiali Small Dam, Jay Dam, Motoshah Small Dam, Khurshid Dam and Abdul Shakoor Small Dam at Ghandahab Ghallani).

Similarly the FRD (FATA Rural Development) and so many other NGO’s have also made more than 30 check dams in different tehsil of Mohmand District.”

About the benefits of these small dams and check dams he said that the Jay and Ghallani small dam have do not actively take part in ground water recharge, but it does not mean that both are waste. He added that after filtration, the rain water of Abdul Shakoorsmall dam will be provided to Halki Ghandahab and Babi Khel areas for drinking purpose, similarly the water of Jay dam will also be used for drinking purpose as sub-surface water recharge.

SDO Mohmand said that at this time our district is facing through water scarcity, but after the completion of Mohmand dam and other small dames, we are hopeful that the water issues will be solved.

“By making Mohmand Dam, small dams, check dams and the special water scheme from Mohmand’s lower sub division to Ghallani, the local administration is hopeful that it will help in going up the water table in Mohmand Tribal district, apart from this a survey has been done by irrigation and PHE Department with the help of EX-MNA Sajid Mohmand for the establishment of a special canal from river Kabul in Khwaizo Tehsil, which will fulfill the basic water necessities of the people living in tehsil Khwaizi and Baizi.” Said Iftikhar Khan, planning officer with ADC (Additional Deputy Commissioner-Finance). He added that a special canal is being made from the mega project of Mohmand Dam for the people of Burhankhel tehsil, so we are hopeful that the basic necessities of drinking water will be fulfilled by these activities.

Environmental scientists believe that for ground water recharge and for solving the water table issue, if proper precautionary measures were not adopted on time, this will create a complete scarcity, that’s why all the stakeholders including Govt. institutions, NGO’s, civil society and media should play their role for the solution of the water issues in Mohmand district.

The Writer is Radio producer and freelance Environmental Journalist, who tweets on @Muradonline123