These Villagers Walked Miles for Water. Then This NBA Player Came Along.


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Scorching temperatures, infrequent rainfall and crop failures are common in Tharparkar, Pakistan’s largest desert area. Photo: Sonny Khan / Paani Project

NBA superstar Kyrie Irving recently established a solar water center in a drought-ridden desert in Pakistan’s southern Sindh province. Irving’s charity, the KAI Family Foundation, partnered with water aid non-profit the Paani Project to provide clean drinking water, increased food sustainability and solar support to Rohal village in the semi-arid Tharparkar district. 

In an Instagram post, the organization praised the Brooklyn Nets player and his foundation for “providing over 1,000 villagers access to clean healthy water, facilitating farming for families and providing light to women and children.” Irving responded with a string of heart emojis.

Recent college graduate and Paani Project co-founder Sonny Khan is a die-hard NBA fan who reached out to the KAI Family Foundation seeking to collaborate. “The fact that Kyrie Irving, in the middle of [an NBA] season, was still able to take the time to listen to [the executive director] and sign off on everything is amazing,” said Khan. 

“[The beneficiaries] are in such a remote area that they don’t follow basketball or Kyrie Irving the way people in America do, so it’s very surreal to see somebody like that taking the time to impact them,” Khan told VICE World News.

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“While fetching water many women and children fall into the wells. Now they are safe and have clean drinking water near their houses.”

Scorching temperatures, infrequent rainfall and crop failures are common in Tharparkar, the country’s largest desert area. With a population of over 1.6 million of whom 87 percent are considered poor, the desert district suffers from overwhelming water scarcity, food insecurity and lagging infrastructural development. 

“Water is very critical in Pakistan. At this time, we are water-scarce but we are slowly moving into a water-stressed situation,” said Amanullah Khan, assistant resident representative on environment and climate change of the United Nations Development Programme in Pakistan. 

Pakistan’s 2012 national climate change policy prioritizes water and food security as a primary objective. 

In 2015, the provincial government in Sindh launched a water scheme for the creation of 750 reverse osmosis or desalination plants in Tharparkar. However, most of the plants built under the programme have reportedly been shut down due to insufficient funds. 

Welfare organizations like the Thar Foundation and, now, the Paani Project are stepping in to help. 

Speaking about the newly unveiled centre, Rohal village committee chairman Arjun Meghwar told VICE World News, “Before this solar well, our whole village was fetching water from open dug wells, and the water was contaminated and not clean.”

“Women’s lives were at risk. While fetching water many women and children fall into the wells. Now they are safe and have clean drinking water near their houses. Before, they were traveling around 2 to 3 kilometres for 10 litres of water in a bucket,” said Meghwar.

Besides giving access to enough clean water for daily consumption and farming, the centre also provides the community with solar-powered lighting and agricultural support such as tomato seeds to help people earn a living.

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