On November 14 2009, Grace Association Pakistan began the first implementation phase of the Astana Skardu Water Supply project. The project costs of Rs.7.23 Millions (ca. US$85,000) are being by the Government of Japan through their Embassy in Pakistan.
The project, which is also a major source of social empowerment for women, will provide safe drinking water to 1275 households of the local Astana Bala and Astana Paeen Communities. This figures includes 667 families, originally from the India-Pakistan border areas, who were displaced as a result of wars in 1965, 1971 and 1999.
A 2 day meeting was held at the Grace Programme Office in Skardu between November 15-16, 2009, and involving 26 village elders and clergy all 4 project villages and local political representatives. The aims of the meeting were to discuss roles and responsibilities, as well as sign a Memorandum of Understanding. The meeting also confirmed the status, remit and membership of a 9-member Village Water Committee (VWC) that had been constituted at an earlier date.
The Menorandum of Understanding was signed by all village elders, including Syed Muhammad Abbas Rzivi (a former member of the Gilgit Baltistan Assembly), Mr. Ghulam Nabi Advocate (and former Technocrat Member of GBLA, District Skardu) and Wazir Ghulam Abbas, a member of Skardu District Council. In the signed Memorandum, the Village Water Committee and Village Elders agreed to provide as their community contribution all unskilled labour for the project, permanent water supply connections and pipe stands for dislocated populations - Brolmo and Gultary colonies. The Elders also agreed to the establishment of women water committees in each project village. It has also been agreed that after project phase-out, the women water committees would impose a collection and management of tariff fee of Rs.20/- per household per month to sustain the service. Capacities of the women water committees would be built by Grace Association through a 7-day capacity-building workshop to be held in near future.
Grace Association also carried out a series of separate men's and women's social mobilization meetings in all 4 villages. A Village Water Committee has been established in Brolmo to manage the particular work and needs of the Colony. Membership for Women Water Committees in each project village were also selected in the meeting.
The communities all decided to start excavation and pipe-laying work as soon as materials have been delivered to project sites.
Grace Association intends to complete 50% of the project work during the winter season to maximise the availability of poorer members of the male labourer community who need to work in the market in the spring and summer seasons.
GRACE endeavours to empower and improve the quality of life of the marginalized and vulnerable communities in the least developed parts of Pakistan through welfare, participatory research and development, capacity building, promotion of best practices and partnership building, advocacy, and by launching sustainable and replicable innovative projects.