This year’s World Water Day has been met with great enthusiasm following on from discussions at the World Water Forum which took place in Marseille this week, and the announcement from the UN that the millennium development goal to halve the number of people without access to safe drinking water has been met. According to the UN, 89% of the population now having access to safe drinking water, five years ahead of the 2015 deadline.
This is by all means a great achievement, however if you look beyond the rhetoric some 783 million people still lack access to drinking water, or to put it more simply 11% of the world’s population (more than 1 in 10 people) remain without access to what should be a basic human right.
If you look closely at the figures a great disparity exists amongst countries, with the challenge being the greatest in Sub Saharan Africa – more than 40% of all people globally who lack access to drinking water live in this part of the world. There is also a stark contrast between urban and rural areas, with 653 million people in rural areas lacking access to improved water sources.
So what are the barriers which are preventing the remaining 11% of the population from receiving access to water and how can they be overcome?
Energy – the missing link?
The irony is that communities most vulnerable to water shortages very often live in close proximity to water (whether it be the sea, rivers or underground waterholes) but are unable to tap into these resources due to contamination, or because there is no access to electricity needed to operate conventional piping or purification systems.
Lack of access to clean water poses major problems on a daily basis to people living in Africa, Asia and Central America. In the world’s worst affected areas, where the price of fuel and lack of infrastructure make traditional solutions impractical and unrealistic, water shortages threaten economic development, damage the environment and constitute a major risk of widespread disease. For these populations water pumping systems powered by solar, wind or gravity could provide a new life-line.
Em-powering access to water
In Nepal where two thirds of the country’s population live in hilly or mountainous regions that are remote and sparsely populated, traditional piping systems cannot easily be installed. Alternative systems using diesel engines are also too expensive for most rural communities to install, fuel and maintain. Therefore many communities still rely on collecting water from distant sources.
The burden of water collection mainly falls on women and children, preventing them from spending time on other activities such as attending school or earning a living. The great lengths women go to collect water in Nepal, as in many parts of the world, often pose a risk to their health and safety. Added to this many water sources are overused and contaminated increasing the incidence of water born diseases.
Renewable World has been working with local partner Centre for Rural Technology in Nepal to try and overcome some of these challenges by using hydraulic ram pumps to provide clean water to hillside communities. Ram pump technology is centuries old but with a few modifications in the design it can provide a sustainable and low cost option for pumping water by using only the power of falling water to pump a percentage of it to a greater height. Renewable World has assisted CRT/N in installing ram pumps in the community of Sunaula Bazaar and at a school for 600 pupils in Mahadevestran in the District of Dhading.
The newly installed hydram in Sunaula Bazaar is pumping 5500 litres of water a day to two tap stands which provide almost 300 people with constant access to safe water from a protected source which can be used for both domestic use and cattle rearing. This means that women and children no longer have to make the one hour round trip down the valley to collect water. This has made a major difference to the quality of their lives as Ms Sita Dawadi, Treasurer of the Water Users Comitte explains:
“We do not have to worry any more that the road to fetch the water will be slippery, or about falling down and breaking hands and legs on the path to the spring during the monsoon. We also feel much safer while going to get water at night. The pump saves us time so now we can send our daughters to school’” Sita Dawadi.
The benefits of access to clean water cannot be underestimated and if we are to reach the remaining 11% of the population who still lack access then we will need a mixture of progressive policies and technical solutions and it’s clear that renewable energy has a role to play in this.
Donate now and support Renewable World in bring clean water to more communities in Nepal.