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New water supply system transforms lives in Lao PDR

new water system in Lao PDR
© UNICEF Lao PDR/2011/Tattersall
Sinsai, See Chan, Chanlee and Putsady wash their hands at the newly-installed water point at Meesai Public School in Lao PDR.

KEUNG VILLAGE, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, 15 June 2011 – It is 4 a.m. and Sinsai, 12, is beginning his day. He starts by collecting water and then helps his mother wash the dishes and clean the house.

But these days, Sinsai only has to walk to a water point mere steps from his home to fetch water. It wasn’t long ago that he was scrambling down hills and across rice paddies to reach the nearest fresh spring, a water supply shared between 32 households.

Making life easier

Although the distance wasn’t too far, the journey was not easy. “It took a long time to collect the water,” he says. He had to make two or three trips each morning and carry two full buckets of water back each time.

By the time Sinsai had reached school at 8 a.m., his tasks had only just begun. “At school, every student has to go collect the spring water for use in the toilet and for the school gardens,” he says.

new water system in Lao PDR
© UNICEF Lao PDR/2011/Tattersall
Sinsai washes his hands at newly-installed water point at Meesai Public School in Xieng Khouang province. Funding from the Japan National Committee and Japanese company, AEON, has improve access to water and sanitation across three provinces in Lao PDR.

By the time Sinsai had reached school at 8 a.m., his tasks had only just begun. “At school, every student has to go collect the spring water for use in the toilet and for the school gardens,” he says.

At this school, one of UNICEF’s Schools of Quality, children plant flowers and vegetables as part of their lessons. It meant he would have to walk back to the fresh water spring three times each morning, and again in the afternoon.

Such a task was difficult for everyone in the communities, not just children. “It was very heavy carrying the water,” recalls Mrs. Chan, 62, from nearby Keung Village.

Collecting water typically falls to women or children and the distance and inconvenience of walking to the river or freshwater spring has meant families were spending more time collecting water than on any other tasks.

Now, thanks to funding from the Japan National Committee for UNICEF and Japanese company AEON, improved access to water and sanitation has been provided to communities across three provinces in Lao PDR – including Ban Meesai and Keung village.

Improved access

In Keung village, a new water system installed last October carries clean water directly from the nearby mountain. The Gravity-Fed System brings water through a water reservoir tank before the piped system distributes it to water taps in the village.

It has provided safe water to more than 30 households. It has also improved sanitation, health and productivity in the region. In the case of Keung village, it is the villagers themselves who have ownership of this programme.

“It starts off with a meeting with the villagers to discuss where a good water source is and how the team will reach it,” says the Village Chief, Mr. Somphan. “This village is particularly spread out so the location of the water points is selected based on how it will best serve the community and reach the most number of people.”

The villagers contributed the labour, sand, stone and wood, while UNICEF provided technical support and materials, such as concrete high-density polyethylene piping.

Chance to study

“Starting from the first village community dialogue, the process takes about a month and a half,” says Mr. Somphan. “The physical labour and construction took 28 days.”

The new system is having immediate benefits for the women and children in the area. For children like Sinsai, they can finally spend less time collecting water and more on studying and helping their parents with other tasks.

 

 

 
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