Preserving tradition by adapting to the modern in Pakistan
15 May 2017

by Ali Kamran, Masooma Hassan, Zeeshan Virk, Sultan Ishaq, Salar Saeed and Bashir Ahmad

Potential Out-scaling of Climate Smart Technology Packages for Dug-well Dependent Livelihoods in the Soan River Basin

HI-AWARE’s research in Pakistan spans the upstream, midstream and downstream regions of the Indus basin. One of these study areas is the Soan River Basin – the midstream sub-basin of the Indus River – which is home to a population of about 17.5 million people. Most of the inhabitants dwell in small hamlets and villages while the remaining population is settled in large cities such as Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Attock, Jehlum, and Chakwaal.  

HI-AWARE is evaluating the changing climate in the basin through modelling and monitoring and linking this to farmer’s perceptions of climate change. HI-AWARE’s initial findings have identified the Soan Basin as being highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. Farmers’ perceptions of climate change include seasonal shifts, temperature shocks and erratic rainfall; these changes interfere with crop growth patterns, affect crop productivity and ultimately induce stress on farmer’s livelihood. Due to a lack of awareness and poor water resource management, farmers are highly vulnerable to climate change.

In a previous blog ( the significance of dugwells in this region and HI-AWARE’s efforts to improve and revive these traditional systems, was explained. Since the installation of a Solar Pumping system on the dugwell at Mr. Ayub’s farm (HI-AWARE pilot site in Chakri, Soan Basin), other farmers had also expressed a strong interest in adopting these measures for their own dugwells. This motivated the HI-AWARE team to probe further into the matter and investigate the potential of out-scaling of such climate smart technologies in other areas of the basin.

Since the Soan Basin covers a large area (nearly 15,830 km2), smaller administrative units i.e. union councils were selected for this investigation. For the selection of representative union councils (UCs), a buffer zone (5 km) was applied along the Soan River and its tributaries and the UCs having more than 50% of their area lying in the buffer zone were selected.

Soan River Basin-Study Area: 4 districts, 10 Tehsils & 101 Union Councils of Potohar region in Pakistan. After setting criteria fo 5km buffer one, the total number of UCs will be 50, within 8 Tehsils of 3 districts of Potohar.

A farm level survey for collection of qualitative, quantitative and physical data was designed.  The field survey documented the extent and nature of dugwells existing in the region including information on design related parameters. These parameters covered areas such as type of construction, diameter, and depth of the well. For the estimation of dugwell water availability potential, data collection on parameters like existing current water depth, minimum water depth in summer and maximum depth in monsoons were also a part of this survey.
Lead researcher, Engr. Ali Kamran interviewing a dugwell owner -- Respondent reports significant change of water availability with changes in climate. (PC: Tariq Mustafa)
The survey also assessed the willingness of farmers for the uptake of climate smart technology packages, such as solar based pumping and high efficiency irrigation systems. Information on perceptions of farmers about climate change impacts on dugwells, along with current adaptation practices, and farmers’ opinions on how their traditional system can be upgraded, was collected. Along with primary data collection, the survey also achieved the secondary goals of creating awareness in the communities about judicious use of water from these dugwells, and the perils of over-exploitation of this valuable resource.

Traditional animal driven Persian wheel dugwell systems have been used for irrigation and drinking purposes for hundreds of years in this region - HI-AWARE team is collecting data on physical charactersitics of a dugwell. PC: Masooma Hassan

Indirect impacts of climate change such as reduced quality of water sources can have serious implications on human health. For monitoring the quality of water from these dugwells, water samples were collected and their physiochemical analysis is being performed in the Soil & Water Testing lab of CAEWRI, NARC. Results from these tests will help in deciding whether dugwell water is suitable for drinking and irrigation purposes. This exercise will also help in determining the ground water quality trend of the Soan Basin.

Technical officer Mr. Tariq Mustafa taking water sample from a manually operated Persian wheel dugwell for water quality analysis. PC: Ali Kamran

Farmers are willing to adopt alternate solutions to preserve their traditional systems. But the only hurdle is the capital cost of the system which affects their ability in adopting this new technology. The HI-AWARE team hopes to create awareness across both groups (researchers and community members) and soliciting a government policy for subsidized installation of Climate Smart Technology Packages on dugwells of the Soan Basin. Through effective outreach to relevant stakeholders, policy makers and decision makers HI-AWARE hopes to out scale and upscale this form of climate smart intervention.