Brining water, bringing life to people in the most remote areas of Turkmenistan
People in Turkmenistan equal water to something precious. “A drop of water is a grain of gold,” says the old Turkmen proverb. It is especially true for more than a million citizens of Dashoguz province in the north of the country which represents one fifth of Turkmenistan’s population. Dashoguz province is where people struggle ever day to have access to safe drinking water.
With the territory twice as big as Belgium, Dashoguz is located in the desert Kara Kum, which covers more than 80% of Turkmenistan’s territory. The shortage of water resources in this region is caused by the widespread desert landscapes and saline soils. The region is a big producer of wheat, rice, cotton and vegetables, thus, the situation with water resources is aggravated by high water intake for irrigation and soil leaching and low efficiency of irrigation systems.
An environment and people’s health in Dashoguz are also affected by the Aral Sea dry out. Once a glowing oasis, the Aral Sea territory is now occupied by vast amount of saline that is spread by the winds to the air and causes acute respiratory illnesses among children.
The only rescue is the Amu Darya river, the most vital water resource in the country. But Amu Darya is also saline because upstream countries discharge their drainage effluent into river systems. Water becomes successively more saline as it goes towards lower areas. And unfortunately, Turkmenistan is located much downstream.
Until 2000, families in Gurbansoltan Edje district (formerly Yylanly) in Dashoguz province had no choice but to drink saline, often bitter tasted unsafe water that served as a major cause of diarrhea and other waterborne diseases among children. Since UNICEF has established the desalinization plant in this district in 2000, people have better access to safe drinking water.
“The plant filters and chlorinates about 30-40 tonnes of water daily and that is enough for Gurbansoltan Edje district with population of more than 20,000. This year UNICEF has upgraded our plant and now the capacity has tripled, and we are able to produce up to 120-130 tonnes per day,” says Gochmuhammet Amanov, Director of the Desalinization Plant. “This will allow us to serve the drinking water needs and, thus, contribute to the improvement of health condition of thousands of people in our district as well inhabitants of neighbouring districts,” Mr. Amanov says in excitement.
Provision of safe water supply and sanitary facilities, particularly in schools, and promoting hygiene education in basic schools, health facilities and at the community level are the main focus of UNICEF’s Water and Sanitation programme in Turkmenistan.
In the sweaty summer season requirement for safe drinking water increases in many folds – exception is not in Dashoguz velayat. Citizens of Gurbansoltan Edje district have advantage of using the desalinized safe water, but many more in the region suffer from inadequate provision of safe water. The next available desalinization plant is 130 km away from Gurbansoltan Edje district making it difficult for many families to have access to safe drinking water.
“We wish people in our districts also had an access to safe water,” voiced their concern the representatives of the Drinking Water Association of other districts. “Establishment of desalinization plants in our districts could dramatically improve the health of our people and we wish UNICEF to come forward to help us as well.”