Ice For Some, No Water For Others

There is a lot of demand for ice in Nangarhar in summer. The weather is very hot.

It is only natural, then, that people should set up ice-factories. But the ironic thing is that in some cases, the ice-factories that have been set up have deprived others of an even greater need than ice: water.

Ice, of course, needs water. A lot of it. In fact, so much water is required that the wells people dig to provide for their ice factories can end up deepening the water-table for others living around the ice-factory. In some cases, their wells can even become dry.

The Saba Story visited such an ice-factory which had sucked so much water from the earth that it had deprived other houses in the vicinity of water. It was a private ice-factory in the Nahr Shahi region of Behsud district. The problem for local residents is that the factory has been built by a powerful man – a well-known former commander. There is very little that anyone can do to address the problem.

I found 12 people working in this factory. One of the labourers told me that they were earning 10,000 Afghanis a month – a decent wage in Afghanistan. Quite apart from the problem caused to local residents by lack of water, an additional problem for local residents is that the ice-factory is located on a main road. Ice-vendors pitch up from the city with their carts and their vans and block the road. Despite being clearly inconvenienced by the ice-factory, very few local residents wanted to voice their concerns. Everything is plain enough, as person said, quoting a Pashto proverb, “Everyone knows that the cow is black and her milk is white.”

Still, some local residents did speak up. For instance Hashmatullah, who lives next to the factory, had this to say, “This factory has dried up our own water. All the wells in the vicinity have dried up because of this factory.”

He also pointed out that the road was often blocked, due to carts and cars coming to the factory to collect ice. As another local resident, Sharifullah puts it, “Only commanders and powerful people can do such a thing. Common people would not be able to do so.” Similar sentiments were voiced by other residents such as Ahmad, who pointed out that local residents had to bring water from a long way off.

There would seem to be two possible solutions. One would be for the ice-factory to provide the water to local residents which they have been denied because of it appropriating all the water in the neighbourhood. The other – more general – solution would be for such factories to be built, not in residential areas, but in specially designated industrial parks


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