New borehole well provides safe water to Aceh schoolchildren and villagers
By Ivy Susanti
ACEH BESAR, Indonesia, 23 July 2008 – The scorching sun overhead does not deter cheerful students at SDN 1 Lampaseh elementary school from washing their hands at the public water taps nearby. These schoolchildren are the first in a generation to benefit from a supply of fresh, safe water from a borehole well in Kampung Baroeh village.
Completed two months ago, the borehole was jointly constructed by UNICEF and the non-governmental organization Muslim Aid.
SDN 1 Lampaseh is in a remote area, about a 45-minute drive from the provincial capital of Banda Aceh. The school is one of 14 sites in Aceh Besar district where UNICEF and Muslim Aid are working to provide safe water for schoolchildren and other local residents.
These sites include 11 elementary schools, two community health centres and one orphanage. The borehole wells are constructed mostly in areas where water sources from dug wells were infiltrated and damaged by seawater during the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.
Replacing shallow wells
The borehole well at SDN 1 Lampaseh, located in the schoolyard, is connected through pipes to the school toilets and to public water taps situated just outside the school grounds. Some 300 people from Kampung Baroeh village now have access to safe water from these public taps.
For years, the water in this village – including drinking water – came from shallow wells dug by hand in villagers’ backyards. But fresh water, which is located in deeper ground, was often beyond the reach of wells built by the villagers.
In the dry season, particularly in July and August, the wells dried up and the water was yellow because of its high iron content.
School routine disrupted
The village school, built in 1981, also obtained its water from a dug well that was only about 11 metres deep.
“During that time, we had to set up a temporary shed next to the dug well for girls to use as a toilet,” recalled Yuniar, a religion teacher. “On many occasions, the girls would ask the teacher’s permission to go home to answer nature’s calls. Boys usually urinated anywhere on the school grounds and defecated at the river behind the school.
“These activities alone disrupted the teaching and learning process,” she added. “Now that we have water, the schoolchildren can urinate and defecate in a safe and proper place.”
Operation and maintenance
SDN 1 Lampaseh was damaged by the earthquake that triggered the massive tsunami in December 2004. Even after UNICEF and its partners finished rebuilding the school in 2007, the toilets could hardly be used due to lack of water.
“With the water that we have now, we can maintain the toilet cleanliness,” said Suarni, the school principal.
UNICEF and Muslim Aid teams have presented the principal with a guidebook on operations and maintenance of the water and sanitation facility, so that the school can properly maintain the borehole well.