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Kabul faces water crisis as drought, population strain supply

  • Published at 08:48 pm January 11th, 2019
Afghan-water crisis
An Afghan man removes snow next to his handcart after the first snow in winter on the snow-covered ground in Kabul, Afghanistan, January 5, 2019 Reuters

Every year 80 million cubic meters of water are extracted from Kabul's aquifers

A shortage of rain and snow, a booming population and wasteful consumption have drained the Afghan capital's water basin and sparked a race to the bottom as households and businesses bore deeper and deeper wells in search of the precious resource.

"The water level has dropped so much that it is now necessary to reach other underground basins 100 meters, even 120 meters" deep, says well digger Mohammad Aman as his dilapidated machine pierces the ochre earth in Kochi's yard.

Every year 80 million cubic meters of water are extracted from Kabul's aquifers - nearly double the natural recharge rate through precipitation, according to utility Afghanistan Urban Water Supply and Sewerage Corporation.

As a result Kabul's water table has fallen at least 30 meters in recent years, says Asian Development Bank deputy country director Shanny Campbell.

Snow has fallen in the city this month but it is not nearly enough to solve the water shortage -- in some areas the level has dropped 20 meters in the past year.

"The problem we have in Kabul is the massive increase in population, impact of climate change and overall less precipitation and snowfall," Campbell explains.

Only around 20% of Kabul is connected to the city's piped water system, leaving many residents to ensure their own supply by digging wells that are often shared by several neighbors.

Others buy water from private companies, or, like Mohammad Nazir, fill up jerry cans at mosques or more than 400 public taps scattered around the city.

"There is no point turning on the taps - there is no water here," says Nazir, 50, who lives on a hill where the ground is too hard to dig a well and the city's pipes do not reach.

"It's the worst year we've ever lived."

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