Boreholes have been largely an unreliable technology in the supply of potable water across the country. But they can be used to power a tap water system and save communities from unsafe water impacts. BRENDA NKOSI reports
Every rainy season, many people in Namaela Village in Traditional Authority Nsomba in Blantyre get excited.
This is the time of plenty. This is the time when their farms have green vegetables for relish, when trees give them fruits which they can sell in the city and make money.
But Lustar Lameck has often had that bad feeling about rains. For her, they have meant sickness in her household. If it is not cholera, then it is diarrhoea for her two under-five children.
“Each year, my children got admitted. When one was getting better, the other one would come in,” says Lameck.
This year alone, Blantyre registered up to 64 cases of cholera between March and June. Health officials have attributed this largely to water shortages.
But this was a peaceful year for Lameck and many people in her village, thanks to Water Missions International which has provided them with tap water.
“Since we started using water from the tap, my children have been spared from cholera and diarrhoea,” says Lameck.
And it is no longer strenuous for her to draw water. That’s because the taps are on their door steps.
“We live like modern people do in towns. It takes a minute to have safe water in our homes,” she boasts.
The excitement in Namaele and in neighbouring Chamba and Khuyu villages can be understandable.
They have never had a borehole in the area all this long such that they have been relying on unsafe streams.
District Water Officer Tamala Zembeni says her office knew the need of these communities. However, they were challenged by the geographical problem of the area.
“Contractors could not find a suitable spot for a probable wet hole at the school or near households. The contractor hit dry holes. There were several contactors assigned to drill boreholes here but the ground was dry,” says Zembeni.
Nixon Sinyiza, Country Director for Water Mission International, says since the organisation’s establishment in Malawi in 2011, they have implemented 60 safe water installations which cater for about 150,000 people including children and women across Malawi.
According to Sinyiza, with funding from Unicef, the organisation is currently implementing 15 community managed safe water projects in Karonga, Dowa, Kasungu, Lilongwe and Blantyre.
The Namaela system which has a life span of 30 years took a maximum three months to be completed and cost K27 million.
In the project, water is sourced from a borehole where a submersible pump draws water through pipes.
These then transport the water from the source to the water treatment house.
The pump uses solar energy generated by panels that are fitted on top of the treatment house.
And District Commissioner, Charles Kalemba, is impressed.
“That’s the way to go. We need to move away from drilling boreholes in every village. As you can see here, you drill one borehole anywhere you find water and supply a number of villages through pipes by using solar power,” says Kalemba.
He recommends that government should make it a policy to move towards this type of technology in water supply.
“By not using batteries and using direct pumping by using solar panels, the cost of maintenance and running this system is almost zero after the initial commissioning. Therefore, it’s sustainable for a villager as you are able to minimise maintenance.
“With boreholes, you do a lot of maintenance while with this system, you use one borehole which has a submersible pump rather than the rods which get worn out frequently,” says Kalemba.
The system operator is a 19- year old who is in form four at Mpemba Community Day Secondary School. Peter Zilumba says people pay K5 per 20 litres.
“The beneficiaries pay so that we should be able to maintain and manage the system since Water Missions International will only be able to assist us in six months,” Zilumba says.
Unicef district focal person on Water, Sanitation and Hygiene, Blessius Tauzie says this is a pilot project for Unicef.
“We started this approach last year and are going to draw lessons from it and recommend to government,” Tauzie says.
He says the technology ensures supply of safe water to community at a low cost and it also covers a wider area than a borehole would.
“The cost of a single borehole is K3.5 million but it serves people within a radius of 500 metres; that’s an estimated 250 people only. This system reaches a wider area as you just extend the pipes,” says Tauzie.
Now as the rainy season approaches, Lameck says she has nothing to dread anymore.
“I look forward to the rains in December. Perhaps I will join traders to town to sell mangoes and green vegetables with them,” smiles Lameck. — Mana
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