Biggest rural water supply project in Vanuatu

Solar pumps in Aute to deliver water supply.
Solar pumps in Aute, North Pentecost to deliver water supply.

MORE than 8000 people from Middlebush in Tanna and 4000 people from Aute in North Pentecost will benefit from the largest rural water supply system in Vanuatu.

The project was funded by the New Zealand (NZ) government and the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) in NZ.

Speaking to the Independent Online this week, Thomas Belden, Project Manager for the ADRA said in Middlebush, Tanna, they constructed 865 latrines – one per household – for which ADRA supplied NZ timber, iron roofing, nails, PVC pipes with community build walls and door.

“We ran training in the communities on Participatory Hygiene and Sanitation Transformation (PHAST), Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) and Water Management with basic village plumbing,” he said.

“We constructed six ferro 22,500 litre cement tanks, meaning the project would have included six ferro cement tanks. ‘Ferro cement’ is just the type of water tank that was constructed (ie: instead of a poly tank) – this type of tank is common in water systems and rain harvesting.

“Ferro cement consists of a thin sheet of cement mortar which is reinforced with a cage made of wire mesh and steel bars.

“Because ferro cement is structurally more efficient than masonry, the thickness of the walls of the container is as low as 10 to 15 mm.

“Ferro cement components can be cast in any shape using suitable moulds. “

Mr Belden said this technology is extremely simple to implement, and even semi-skilled people can learn it with ease.

“Ferro cement requires only a few easily available materials – cement, sand, galvanized iron (GI) wire mesh, and mild steel (MS) bars – in small amounts compared to masonry and RC,” he said.

“We also installed three rump pumps, which use flowing water to pump water at a high pressure, constructed 645 standpipes where three household share one standpipe, ran 32 kilometres of poly pipes in the communities and we then handed over the project to the Provincial government.”

Minister Ralph Regenvanu officially opening the water at Middlebush, Tanna.
Minister Ralph Regenvanu officially opening the water at Middlebush, Tanna.

Just recently a delegation including the Minister of Lands Ralph Regenvanu, Tanna MPs Johnny Koanapo and Andrew Napuat and New Zealand High Commission representative Simon Donard travelled to Tanna to officially hand over the water supply system.

The project was delivered by ADRA as part of a $2 million New Zealand Government WASH program on Tanna and Pentecost.

At 32km, this gravity fed water system is currently the largest in Vanuatu, reticulating potable water to 345 tap-stands across 19 communities, three schools and a health clinic.

Middle Bush residents are also benefiting from 843 improved latrines and handwashing facilities.

Mr Belden said the challenges faced when implementing this project in Tanna was the lack of support from the community members.

“More men are attending the training than women and they were also stealing material from the storage,” he said.

“TC Pam damaged all the latrines which we had to repair and supply more materials, a storm wave at Lenakel Wharf washed away 15 rolls of 125mm poly pipes.”

He said for the WASH project at Aute District in North Pentecost, they constructed 546 latrines which ADRA supplied New Zealand timbers for post, iron roofing, nails, PVC pipes with community build walls and door only.

“We also ran training on Participatory Hygiene and Sanitation Transformation (PHAST), Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) and Water Management with Basic Village Plumbing,” he said.

“We constructed 5 ferro cement 22,500 litre tanks and 225 standpipes where three household share one standpipe.

“We installed four solar pumps, laid 18 kilometre of poly pipes in the communities and we handed over the project to the provincial government officer and the water community.”

Mr Belden said they face similar challenges when in Pentecost, including a lack of support from community members, more men attending the training than women, stealing project materials from the storage and Cyclone Pam damaged all the latrines which they had to repair and supply more materials.

“Cyclone Bessi damaged 20 solar panels, broke 125 mm poly pipes near the road by PWD road works, and there was cutting of pipes by furious community members, burning of pipes by community members and members carrying pipes, sand beach and coral long distance,” he said.

“Despite all the challenges, there are improvements in both communities.”

He said mothers will now have more time in the house to do extra gardening to gain more money for the family instead of spending time to walking long distance to get water for the family.

“It reduces the high water born diseases in both communities and the students in the community are more healthy and awake in the schools, with imroved grades,” he said.

“Also, mothers and their children are more healthy because they can shower three times a day instead of walking long distances to have their showers.

“This project should be only a year project but due to the challenges faced, it was extended to a three-year project.”

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