I grew up in the two most developed cities in the world, Abu Dhabi in UAE and New Delhi in India, each with its own water related story. The water in New Delhi is profusely polluted and copious amount of money has been spent on the water treatment. Meanwhile in Abu Dhabi, water is obtained from seawater, which is concentrated with salt. Desalination plants were the only way to obtain purified potable water. Evidently, these two cities have spent a huge amount of money to achieve the goal of clean drinking water. But unfortunately, Naluja, Zambia doesn’t have those funds.
I joined EWB last fall during my first semester of freshman year. The passion of this club towards a holistic approach to obtain clean water and maintain hygiene in the Nalujan community drew me into their activities. With further involvement in this club as a secretary, I learnt more about the novel approaches taken up by each tech team. From the solar pump and Bio-Sand filter to the hand washing stations and latrines, all of these individual projects have paved technical paths to attain the objectives. But it is the Water Transportation and Collection that combines them under a single hood.
The Water Transportation and Collection technical team is dedicated to devising methods that cater to water collection and storage solutions. Recently, they started designing a rainwater harvesting catchment that will support a supply of clean water during the rainy season. Teachers in the community have expressed interest in a rainwater catchment system. The current sources of water in Naluja are limited to distant boreholes, rivers, and small pools of water that collect in the ground. In times of water shortage, collecting water from boreholes and transporting them become difficult for community members that live further away in the outer zones. During those times they often resort to unhygienic sources like rivers, shallow wells and smaller pools of stagnant water, which result in numerous water- borne diseases. This affects the social, mental and economic well-being of the community. For prosperity to sustain in this community, it is essential to keep the foundation strong, that is, to ensure good health. Retrospectively, all the EWB projects, with their focus on clean water supply have ultimately shaped the health of the community.
Although the Water Transportation and Collection project may seem straightforward, it is actually coupled with many traditional challenges. While this team tried to devise methods to prevent people from carrying heavy loads of water, the community members were not open to practising some of the new strategies. According to teachers, students who fetch water from stagnant and shallow pools of water for the rest of the school during the day learn valuable household skills that help them to grow into productive community members. The silhouette that the community members are not able to see is that by collecting water from these small pools during the rainy season students are exposed to waterborne pathogens and they formulate the impression that these are safe sources of drinking water. Hence, it becomes important to not only design the rainwater catchment according to their cultural needs but also to educate them on the importance of sanitation and hygiene.
Since the project of rainwater catchment is still blooming, the members of this team can play a major role. Being the design and assessment stage, members can implement their own ideas and test them in the Tinker lab.In the words of one of the tech leads, Sally Wu, ‘No idea is a bad idea. Every idea really matters.’ This project is expected to expedite after the trip to Naluja in summer. During this trip, travel members will collect data regarding precipitation and other determining factors, which will greatly facilitate the design of this project. Until then, a lot of brainstorming is going to take place and the success of these ideas will depend on its members, old and new.