Thursday, September 21, 2017

Dry zone water program completed

FEELING THE HEAT: Participants close in on the finish line in Yangon’s outer Shwe Pyi Thar township on October 31 during a running (and walking) excursion held as part of the Mekong Indochina Hash arranged by the Yangon Hash House Harriers. More than 250 people, including 180 from overseas, converged on Yangon for running and walking outings during the October 31-November 1 weekend. The Yangon Hash House Harriers, an informal group, has been holding regular running and walking excursions in and around Yangon since June 1980, according to organisers. Photo: Hein Latt AungFEELING THE HEAT: Participants close in on the finish line in Yangon’s outer Shwe Pyi Thar township on October 31 during a running (and walking) excursion held as part of the Mekong Indochina Hash arranged by the Yangon Hash House Harriers. More than 250 people, including 180 from overseas, converged on Yangon for running and walking outings during the October 31-November 1 weekend. The Yangon Hash House Harriers, an informal group, has been holding regular running and walking excursions in and around Yangon since June 1980, according to organisers. Photo: Hein Latt Aung

“It's like we are now in heaven,” says 62-year-old U Chit San from Wah Khin Gyi village, as he gazes at a new tube well. Behind him, a queue of young women in fine clothes and wearing traditional thanaka paste stand holding clay water pots, waiting to fetch water from the well.

Wah Khin Gyi village is in Mandalay Division’s Nyaung U township, which is part of Myanmar’s Central Dry Zone. Access to clean water has always been a problem in this semi-arid region, which also covers sections of Magway and Sagaing divisions. Locals customarily earn their living from palm farming and beans and pulses crops but also spend much of their day acquiring water.

“Previously, we had to walk about 4 miles (6.5 kilometres) to the west of our village to get water – it took nearly the whole day,” U Chit San says. “As water was so scarce, we used to hide the pot of drinking water when guests came to our home. And when we took a bath, we used only the small pot and while we were washing we would sit one of our children on our head so they got a bath too, that would help us save water.”

With a big smile on his face, U Chit San, in the strong accent of upper Myanmar, declares he no longer has to worry about water shortages because of the new well.

“Because we have a reliable and convenient water supply, we can now spend more time on working and making money,” said Daw Gyan, a middle-aged women waiting to fill her water pot. “Not only people from our village, but also residents of nearby villages come here to buy water.”

In addition to its severe climate – the average annual rainfall is just 750mm (29.5 inches) and temperatures can reach 42 Celsius in the hot season – the Central Dry Zone has a high population density and significant poverty.

Over the past three years, the Department of Development Affairs (DDA), under the Ministry of Progress of Border Areas and National Races and Development Affairs, in collaboration with the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), has been conducting a Rural Water Supply Technology Project in the dry zone.

On October 27, the project was formally completed with a technical transfer seminar. During the three-year project, JICA sent 10 experts to train and work with 76 DDA staff on surveying, tube well drilling, the rehabilitation of existing wells and monitoring and maintenance of water supply facilities.

The result of the project was the construction of 20 new tube wells and rehabilitation of 34 existing wells that will provide drinking water for 60 villages in the region.

Two DDA drilling rigs were also upgraded with the assistance of JICA, while other necessary equipment was provided such as pipes, screens, boring rod, air compressor, mono pumps and a borehole camera.

According to a JICA statement, 54,471 people gained access to safe drinking water as a result of the program.

Existing wells in six villages were unable to be rehabilitated, so the DDA organised for a different method of water supply in these villages, an official said.

Under the program, the tube wells are operated by a Village Water Management Committee that sells water to residents at a rate that covers the cost of maintenance and running the water pump. In Wah Khin Gyi, the committee runs the pump twice a day and this provides about 2000 to 2400 gallons (9090 to 10,900 litres) per hour.

A 227-litre barrel of water drawn by bullock cart costs K150 to fill and two water pots or buckets, usually of about 20 litres each, K25.

Ma Than Nwe, a housewife living in Thae Dwin village, also in Nyaung U township, said her family can get a day’s supply of water for about K100.

“Water from this well is good enough to drink and people from nearby villages sometimes come here to get their water as well,” Ma Than Nwe said.

For the maintenance of the wells, the management committees participate in workshops run by the DDA and Japanese NGO Bridge Asia Japan.

Over the next six months, the DDA also expects to complete a 10-year nationwide water supply project that, to September 2009, has seen 22,671 villages receive water supply upgrades. By March 2010, the DDA expects to have drilled or rehabilitated 23,225 wells under the program.

The deputy director general of the DDA, U Soe Ko Ko, said the department would then look to improve supply in other villages not included in the first program.

“We have been able to establish at least one kind of water supply in each of our targeted villages in the 10-year project. After the project is completed, we will go on to try to provide every village with water, probably by digging more wells,” U Soe Ko Ko said.