Drinking Water Crisis in Delta
Drinking Water Crisis in Delta
LAPUTTA — Burma’s Irrawaddy delta region faces an extreme shortage of drinking water this summer because lakes and ponds used for drinking water were destroyed by salty sea water after Cyclone Nargis hit in May 2007.
Local residents worry about an outbreak of infectious diseases because many people are forced to drink unclean water.
Villagers say emergency assistance is urgently needed to solve the problem.
The Laputta region, one of the hardest-hit areas, has 50 village tracks composed of about 500 villages. Currently, United Nations agencies, Save the Children, Merlin, and other international aid groups work to distribute clean drinking water in the area.A French INGO that distributes drinking water to 88 villages in Laputta Township uses 15 boats which can carry about 100 gallons of water each.
A staff member said governmental red tape is one of the factors that hamper distribution.
“There are many obstacles,” he said, requesting anonymity. “For example, before we can distribute water to a village, we need to get permission from the Township Peace and Development Council, a military command unit and other local government agencies. We must submit every step of our activities to them.”
“In fact, we can solve the local villagers’ problem if only the government authorities and the aid organizations could work together better,” he said.
Many outlying villages, at the far reaches of the aid groups, have an even harder time getting safe drinking water.
“Our village track has 24 villages,” one villager told The Irrawaddy. “All the villages are now facing a shortage of drinking water.”
The drinking water distribution network conducted by international aid agencies in Laputta doesn’t meet the needs of the outlying population, according to a villager in Michaung Ai village.“At the end of February, the aid agencies set up a fiber tank and started to provide drinking water in Michaung I village, where more than a 100 people are living in 48 households,” he said. “At the beginning, they carried drinking water with a boat and filled the tank every three days. Each villager got three liters of water. But now they haven’t come to fill the tank for 20 days.”
“Our lake was destroyed by salty water, and it now has such a low water level that we can see the ground because the people use it more and more as a water resource,” he said.
He said it’s difficult for many villagers to get to Laputta, and even then, some people can’t afford to buy drinking water
The situation at inland villages is worse because they are farther from rivers and streams, said a villager in Htin Su village in the Alagyaw village track. “They are also out of reach of the drinking water distribution by aid groups.”
Even villagers who live close to Laputta Township have difficulty obtaining clean water. When villagers go to Laputta to buy water, they pay 1,200 kyat (US $ 1.20) per barrel.
“To buy water from the town, we need to have access to a boat, fuel and money to buy water,” said one villager.
People have asked Laputta Township authorities to find a solution, according to a member of the village Red Cross in Michaung Ai village, but officials have not yet come up with a plan.
“We even participated in paramilitary training with the hope that the authorities will help solve our problem,” he said. “But nothing happened.”
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