Rainwater harvesting, the alternative to pipe-borne water - Dr.
Human life, as with all animal and plant life on the planet, is
dependant on water. Not only do we need water to grow food, generate
power and run industries, but we need it as a basic part of our daily
lives - our bodies need to ingest water everyday to continue
Communities and individuals can exist without many things if they
have to - they can be deprived of comfort, of shelter, even of food for
a period, but they cannot be deprived of water and survive for more than
a few days.
Because of the intimate relationship between water and life, water is
woven into the fabric of all cultures, religions and societies in myriad
"Our children are reluctant to go to school most of the time and
often they go to their relatives' homes in the town. For this whole
area, only Vakarai has a proper water supply," villagers of Hijra Nagar
and Koolavady, which are two villages situated in Valaichchenai
"There were so many INGOs in these areas but nobody bothered about
"They assumed that Vakarai had all the problems. We were isolated and
had to trek more than three kilometres everyday to collect water. Life
was not easy till UN Habitat identified the problem and came up with a
concrete solution", said Kaanthammai who is a beneficiary of the rain
water harvesting project.
"The tsunami of December 2004 caused undue loss of life,
infrastructure and economic assets. The tsunami destroyed most of the
communal infrastructure including structures of water supply and waste
The most vulnerable segments of the population, children, the aged
and sick people were the most affected. However, water resources are
limited in the Northern, Eastern, North Central and North Western parts
of Sri Lanka. In most of these areas ground water is the only source of
However, groundwater in these areas is subject to deterioration due
to excessive use of agro-chemicals and lack of environmentally safe
Many diseases in these regions are suspected to be water related,"
Dr. Fahmy Ismail, National Technical Advisor, UN Habitat said.
The tsunami destroyed and polluted a large number of water supplies
and in particular badly affected the main sources of water. Household
water supply was affected. In addition some areas in the East have a
poor groundwater supply. Long periods of drought affects households
where the water supply is low," he said.
"Identifying the situation, UN Habitat took the first step by
introducing rainwater harvesting system to the Northern and the Eastern
provinces," Dr. Fahmy said.
The project, Water and Sanitation for Settlements in the Eastern
Region, Sri Lanka (WASSER), and NGO -EMAS International to provide
support to the urban poor and the tsunami-affected by rehabilitating and
expanding basic infrastructure in the water and sanitation fields in the
tsunami-hit areas of the East Coast of Sri Lanka.
"EMAS provided training to a few officials from the National Water
Supply and Drainage Board (NWSDB) and the Batticaloa Municipal Council
and trained 20 local (community) representatives in the drilling of tube
wells, construction of ferro cement tanks, manual pumps and more - based
on a variety of simple technologies. EMAS also established a Well
Drilling School where a large number has been trained, thus creating job
opportunities in the field of well drilling and construction of RWH
tanks," he said.
Under the WASSER project, a large number of RWH tanks were
constructed in the city of Batticaloa.
Many of the beneficiaries have stated that they were satisfied with
the process and that they collect water during the rainy season from
September to January, and use the water during the drought period of 6
The project proposes rainwater harvesting as an effective and
expedient support option to meet the needs of water supply to low-income
households in areas where they have no access to pipe-borne drinking
water. "The project will be implemented in Batticaloa covering two areas
of Tamils and Muslims.
The criteria for selection will be, low income settlements,
settlements where there is scarcity of water, settlements where there
are Displaced Persons, settlements which do not come under projects
which will be provided pipe-borne water, settlements will be selected in
consultation with the National Water Supply and Drainage Board and the
respective local authority., lack of water supply and poor sanitation
making these areas as risky areas for the spread of diseases.
The target groups are people affected by terrorism, tsunami or
poverty. Special attention would be given to gender and ethnic/religious
issues," Dr. Fahmy said. Identifying poor settlements for construction
of RWH tanks, identify or establish community-based organisations/rural
development societies (RDS) in the settlements, introduce and create
awareness on the use and benefits of RWH to meet their needs are the
main activities included.Introduce technology for constructions, using
the EMAS technique, to potential beneficiary families (who will be
selected by the local authority and the RDS) through trained personnel.
The trainers will be contracted by the RDS, 5 days hands-on training
will be given to members selected from beneficiary families by the
selected EMAS trainers.
"The beneficiary will participate through provision of their labour,
learning the skills during the construction process, which usually would
take about 5 days. During the construction period UN Habitat Project
Officer will closely supervise the steps to ensure standard" material
All construction material will be purchased and supplied by the RDS
under the contract.Training householders - after construction, all
householders will receive training on how to operate and maintain the
system", he said.