The lower Sindh region, comprising several districts including Umerkot, Mirpur Khas, Thatta, Badin and Tharparker, is one of the most underdeveloped regions of Pakistan. Thari communities mostly belong to the Hindu minority and are devoid of basic necessities such as food, health facilities, education and drinking water.
During drought years, women and children have to walk longer for water fetching, and are deeply affected by malnutrition. Everything becomes more expensive and difficult to access, including seeds and medical treatment.
In 2011, Humanity First USA, UK and Canada, in collaboration with Humanity First Pakistan, launched a project to dig ten water wells in the Tharparker district for communities affected by drought. During successful implementation of the project, Humanity First developed a long-term strategy to support the region’s vulnerable populations by providing them with access to safe and clean drinking water. The project aimed to dig 300+ water wells in the Tharparker district.
Hand-dug wells offer a cheap and low-tech way to access groundwater in rural locations in developing countries. These wells have low operational and maintenance costs because water can be extracted by hand bailing, without a pump. Hand dug wells can be easily deepened, which may be necessary if the ground water level drops. Considering the maintenance and sustainability of this low tech solution, Humanity First decided to use hand-dug water wells instead of drilling boreholes.
In many locations water could not be found. After drilling several boreholes, water was found very deep, or under rock formations beneath the ground. In village Penalio, for example, the well reached over 180 feet below hard and rocky layers, taking nearly five months to complete. Similarly, a well in Kasbo took three months to complete due to extremely hard ground. Despite all the hardships and setbacks, Humanity First has been successfully delivering results phase by phase since 2011. By the end of July 2015, 102 hand dug water wells had been completed which now serve a population of more than 85,000. These wells are also the only means of survival for more than 135,000 cattle which are a primary source of livelihood for communities living in the Thar desert.
For 2015-2016, Humanity First has initiated next phase of the project to dig 100 additional water wells.