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The water market system in the context of severe flooding

Badin, Ghotki and Sanghar Districts, Sindh Province
August, 2015

The consecutive flood years of 2010 and 2011 were the worst floods Pakistan has experienced to date, affecting 20 million and 9.3 million people, respectively, throughout the country. In Sindh Province, the floods led to loss of life and also damaged standing crops, household and livestock food stocks, health, education and road infrastructure, houses, irrigation and drainage facilities and protected drinking water sources. Millions of people were displaced for several months or more while waiting for the flood waters to subside. Unless there are major changes to protective infrastructure, it is likely that a similar flood in the future will have a similar impact.

Pre-Crisis Market Mapping and Analysis (PCMMA) is a relatively new approach to conducting market assessments prior to emergencies in order to anticipate how markets will respond after a shock occurs. The PCMMA in Pakistan was an IRC-led effort intended to generate learning that could be used to refine the approach, while also providing information to humanitarian actors in Pakistan to feed into strategic and operational emergency planning efforts and building local capacity in market assessment. The analysis team followed the PCMMA guidance to apply an approach similar to that of the EMMA Toolkit in a pre-crisis context. It examined how the 2010/11 floods had impacted the function of four selected critical market systems in order to draw conclusions about the likely impact of future floods on the market systems and to propose appropriate market-based preparedness and response interventions. This report presents the findings and recommendations for the drinking water market system in Badin, Ghotki and Sanghar Districts.

The main underlying factors affecting the choice of water source for the local population are location (rural v. urban) as well as relative wealth of each household. Those who reside in urban and peri-urban areas have different options to access drinking water, including municipal water schemes, private or public water plants, and different water delivery options. In contrast, rural populations rely almost exclusively on springs, wells, hand pumps or open water sources. In normal years, the drinking water market provides sufficient volume of water for the focus population, although there are concerns about water quality stemming from consumer practices and the consumption of water from unprotected sources. Both the price of water and number of business actors involved in water supply suggest a competitive market environment, both for water filtration plants and for bottled water companies

During emergencies, despite the significant damage to the main sources of drinking water, alternative sources of water, including bottled water and newly growing water filtration services, can scale up the supply of water during crises. However, we can fairly conservatively estimate that the water sources in the local drinking water market system cannot realistically provide the total volume needed to meet the needs of the affected population. Additionally, with the anticipated limitations on road infrastructure, bridges and transport networks, it is even less likely that market actors or NGOs will be able to move the required volumes of water to those people in need. As a result, the markets are limited in their ability to provide adequate drinking water to make up for the 50% loss of clean water provided by wells and hand pumps during floods. As such, the only remaining source of water for the affected population remains unprotected sources, principally flood water.

To meet the drinking water needs of the affected population in the case of future severe flooding, this report recommends the provision of bottled water for the first month for both urban and peri-urban areas, to be replaced by the provision of water vouchers for bottled/filtered water. In rural areas, it is appropriate to distribute filtered/treated drinking water by jerry can or by water tankering. In addition, the following preparedness/DRR activities are recommended: installation of hand pumps in elevated areas where displaced communities take refuge during floods; pre-positioning of water tankering equipment near vulnerable areas and pre-establishing agreements with district-level water treatment plants or water sources to fill tankers; pre-positioning agreements with water treatment and bottled water retailers in urban or peri-urban areas to accept vouchers for drinking water during floods; the cleaning, treatment and repair of wells and hand pumps (using CFW) in rural areas; promoting household-level water treatment strategies; and supporting the growth of private-sector water filtration businesses.

Report authors: 
Gregory Matthews and Juergen Mika
Download Report (1.64 MB pdf)