Photo: UNDP Uzbekistan

"Now the food is tastier, and we drink tea with pleasure. After all, it is known that not a day goes by in the east without acup of tea. Especially in the cold weather. And when the water is clean, you don't have to worry about your health anymore" - says Maria from the "Taza Konys" inviting us to have a cup of hot tea with milk, famous tradition in Karakalpakstan.

The Taza Konys community of the Beltau Rural Citizens' Assembly is located in the North of Karakalpakstan - Takhtakupir. Here people know firsthand how important is every drop of water. After all, the disappearance of the Aral Sea has led to a whole range of social, economic and environmental problems, negatively reflected on the well-being and health of the inhabitants of the entire region. The COVID-19 outbreak has also made changes in daily life, underlining the importance of consistent access to clean water for health.

Maria Konysbaeva, 43, is a housewife. Together with her husband Kurban Kasimov, they are raising three children. Olzhas is a student of the 10th grade, Albina is in the 9th and the youngest Elzhas finishes the 3rd grade. Together they run the household, help the children with their studies, dream of giving them access to good education. Recently, they received access to drinking water.

"Usually, we went to the well every day to fetch water. The filter cleaningthe water got broken several years, so we had to use what we received from the pot. It became harder during the coronavirus quarantine period. Now every house has its water supply" - says Kurban.

Kurban and Maria are activists in their community. Kurban worked all his life as an operator at the water plant and understands well all aspects of the current situation. In November 2019, within the framework of the first project funded by the UN Multi-Partner Trust Fund for Human Security for the Aral Sea region, “Addressing the urgent human insecurities in the Aral Sea region through promoting sustainable rural development”, the UN Development Programme initiated a series of community mobilization workshops in the Takhtakupir district. During the meeting, residents raised the issue of access to drinking water. In the community, the water distribution system has been out of order for several years. In agreement with the Water Supply Management authorities, the District Water Supply Department, the Khokimiyat of the Takhtakupir district and members of the community initiative group, it was decided to reconstruct the existing systems and establish water supply in all houses.

"I am glad that now I can devote more time to my children, their studies and other activities. I don't worry about health either. Due to the outbreak of the coronavirus, all have to wash their hands often. My children also have been taught to do this. But in the cold weather, it was difficult to fetch water. So,now the water comes itself. We'reextremely delighted! We also have meters installed at our houses. It became easier to keep track of the consumed water. For us, every drop is priceless"-said Maria.

In December 2020, the commissioning ceremony of the water supply network took place. Besides, the work on the reconstruction of water supply systems in three communities of the Takhtakupir district, we also installed equipment for water purification with a capacity of filtering up to 8 cubic meters per hour for the Marzhankol VCC and up to 10 cubic meters/h for the Zhanadarya VCC. This initiative has provided clean drinking water to about 3,500 residents of remote communities.

With the support of UNDP personnel, a series of trainings were hold to raise awareness among local population on sanitation and hygiene issues to prevent waterborne diseases, as well as the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

It is clear that access to water for the population, as well as adherence to sanitation and hygiene practices, are critical to maintaining sustainable rural development. 

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