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Sri Lanka

New water supply project in Sri Lanka brings health and hope to thousands

© UNICEF Sri Lanka/2008/de Silva
Apsara Gunaratne and her son, Kavin, are among those who will directly benefit from the UNICEF-supported Tangalle Water Supply Scheme in Sri Lanka.

By James Elder

TANGALLE, Sri Lanka, 4 September 2008 – Until the opening of the UNICEF-funded Tangalle Water Supply Scheme in southern Sri Lanka last week, Apsara Gunaratne’s problems were much like those of  the approximately 1 billion other people around the world who live without access to safe water.

Ms. Gunaratne, 30, had to walk long distances to fetch water, thus losing crucial hours where she needed to earn an income. Often, the water she retrieved was dirty or unsanitary, so she and her children fell ill.

When the Indian Ocean tsunami struck Sri Lanka in 2004, Ms. Gunaratne’s situation got even worse. The tsunami killed more than 30,000 people and displaced hundreds of thousands more. The massive displacement put enormous pressure on already strained social services, including water supply.

The project will more than triple the access to safe drinking water for those living in this area. The inauguration of the Tangalle Water Supply Scheme was conducted by Sri Lanka’s President, Mahinda Rajapaksa, and UNICEF’s Representative in Sri Lanka, Philippe Duamelle.

Increasing the supply of safe water

The increased water supply is tremendous news for people like Ms. Gunaratne.

“I can’t tell you how severe the water problem was when my child was one year old,” she said. “He had high fever and was hospitalized for 10 days. We are very, very pleased about this new plant. Our whole family came to see the opening of this water scheme and we are extremely happy.”

© UNICEF video
The Tangalle Water Supply Scheme will more than triple access to a safe drinking water supply for those living in southern Sri Lanka.

The Tangalle Water Supply Scheme will play a critical role in safeguarding the health of the region’s children. It will help reduce incidences of diarrhoea, hepatitis and other water-borne illnesses. It will also ensure that local residents, especially women and children, don’t have to spend hours each day fetching water.

The massive 42 kilometre pipeline will alllow the supply of water to swell from 2,500 cubic metres per day to 9,000 cubic metres.

Preventing water-borne illness

It is estimated that water-borne illnesses cause almost 5,000 deaths globally each day.

“Water-borne diseases are one of the most serious threats to child health in developing countries and affect mainly the poorest people,” said UNICEF’s Representative in Sri Lanka, Philippe Duamelle. “Here, through a strong partnership between Government and UNICEF, we give hope and health to so many women and children who would otherwise trudge great distances to fetch water and will no longer suffer from water-related diseases.”

The new pipeline has been built with an eye firmly on Sri Lanka’s ambition to meet the UN Millennium Development Goals. It has the capacity to provide enough water for approximately 5,000 additional families by 2015.




29 August 2008:
UNICEF’s James Elder reports on the new Tangalle Water Supply Scheme in southern Sri Lanka, which will provide clean, safe water to thousands of people.
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