Saturday, November 28, 2009

Clean Water, Almost There

Being an engineer, I find it extremely satisfying to participate in construction projects. As foundations are laid or equipment installed, I can take pride in knowing that I'm part of the team that put the infrastructure up. This satisfaction was the best aspect of my previous job, and one of my favorite parts of the work I'm doing in Uganda and DR Congo.

My last day in Goma was a day for construction, and we set about the work with great vigor. All the material had arrived for the water filter, and now it was time to get about putting it all together. The first step was to dig out rock for the foundation of the metal stand which was to hold the filter (the purpose of which is to allow the water to travel by gravity from the roof, through the filter, and into the 250 liter storage tank). To my great surprise, one can actually bust up lava rock if you hit it enough with a pick axe. It's something they're quite used to doing in the lava fields of Goma.

Not surprisingly, the digging took most of the day. Once complete, we erected the metal stand and placed the 500 liter water tank (filter) on top. We then connected the gutters and began adding gravel at the bottom of the tank (click here for more detail on how a slow sand filter works). Unfortunately, it became clear that we were a little short on gravel. The day was also running short, so our work had to come to an end. We left the drain valve on the bottom of the tank open to allow the coming rains to wash the gravel. If all goes well (fingers crossed!) the filter will be finished in the coming weeks by the Heal Africa technical staff. I hope to return in February to evaluate the work and verify completion.

With the enormous support of donors from the US and the technical staff here, there is now a filter to allow women to collect drinking water from their homes instead of walking 2+ km to fetch their water. While it will only be available during the rainy season, it should be of tremendous help. Very satisfying work indeed!

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