PESHAWAR (APP): Nature-based solutions for tackling the growing and serious threats posed by environmental degradations and climatic change are proving to be highly cost-effective and sustainable approaches to overcoming these challenges.

The emerging procedures of overcoming water scarcity in arid regions through rainwater harvesting are helping in recharging ground water tables besides the availability of free water for irrigation and domestic use at very nominal expenses.

An exposure trip to a hamlet in the Salt Range of Pakistan revealed how a simple and cost-effective approach to rainwater harvesting helped within a couple of months in recharging the groundwater reservoir, benefiting more than 350 families in getting water both for drinking and irrigation purposes from four almost dry wells located within the vicinity of their homes.

The exposure trip was arranged by the Institute of Urbanization (IoU) for awareness of members of its Eco-Journalists Cohort to explore the transformative potential of sustainable solutions to growing challenges of environmental degradation.

“Earlier we used to travel around three kilometres long distance on foot for fetching water only for drinking purposes and now after a sudden increase in the water table of our dry wells, we are getting the very basic need of life at our doorsteps”, comments Nadeem Akhter, a farmer in Siral hamlet in Khoshab district.”

Talking to newsmen, Nadeem said our female family members had to carry heavy water-filled pitches over their heads which was not only much burdening for them but also affecting their health.

“However, now we are very happy over getting water from a facility about which we had become hopeless,” Nadeem added.

“The rainwater recharge system has been installed by WWF-Pakistan under its ‘Water Stewardship and Replenishment Strategy’ in water-stressed Soon Valley which has two famous lakes including Khabeki and Uchali but both are lifeless due to their water being saline,” informs Umer Bin Khalid, Senior Environmental Expert WWF-Pakistan.

WWF-Pakistan had set up its office at the Uchali lake, a Ramsher-declared wetland site, in mid 90’s for the protection of migratory birds and other aquatic species found in the lake, Umer apprised journalists.

“After recent rains, the water level in our well increased drastically, providing us great relief in obtaining drinking water in the locality of around 2000 population,” shared Tasleem, another villager.

“We have installed two recharge well systems at a cost of Rs. 1.5 million each and that will work for years, depending on rain which is received twice in a month on average,” Umar Bin Khalid told media men.

Apart from installing groundwater recharge wells, WWF-Pakistan also worked on the introduction of rainwater harvesting techniques used to collect and store rainwater for future use from relatively clean surfaces such as roofs.

“We have provided tanks with a storage capacity of 1000 to 2000 litres of water to around 40 houses for utilization of rainwater for gardening and for provision of drinking water to livestock,” WWF official added.

“Another technology of floating platform of vegetation introduced by WWF-Pakistan in Mard Wal village of Soon valley is proving beneficial in the treatment of waste water, converting it as useful for drinking for livestock and irrigation in the area.”

“The technology involves placing a mat or raft of buoyant materials such a foam on the water surface and planting it with wetland plants.”

“As the plants grow and roots extend into the water, they take on nutrients, pollutants and other contaminants, making the water consumable for meeting the needs of plants, fields and livestock.”

“We have released around 150 mats carrying plants of wetland and each mat has been arranged at a cost of Rs 8000.
This technology is not only nature-based solution but also a very low-cost approach to treating waste water,” Umar told newsmen.

“The technology has been introduced by Dr Muhammad Afzal of the National Institute for Biotechnology and Genetic Engineering (NIBGE) and has proved beneficial even in the treatment of lubricant carrying wastewater of OGDCL (Oil and Gas Development Company) plant in Dakanni in Attock district.”

“If this concept of treating wastewater through such low-cost nature-based solutions is promoted, a large amount of wastewater of the country can be reused for non-potable purposes like irrigation and can relieve the immense pressure on water bodies, lower pollution levels and provide water security in the face of the climate crisis,” observed Dr Ejaz Ahmad, Senior Fellow IoU.

“These efforts are aimed at encouraging public participation and behavioural change towards sustainable management practices of utilizing natural resources,” Dr Ejaz added.

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