Lake House, The Associated Newspaper of Cylon Ltd.
By Hiran H. Senewiratne
Published Wednesday, August, 10 2005
Safe drinking water is going to be scarce not only in urban areas but also in remote villages due to pollution. As part of the daily routine of women in the plantation areas, they spend a lot of time to carry water from wells or rivers to their homes. They do not have access to safe water for drinking and cooking in those areas. The water that they carry to their homes is used sparingly for cooking and drinking while for other purposes including bathing, washing clothes or pots and pans, it is used regardless of how contaminated the water may be. This exposes the people, including small children, to many diseases. Yet life goes on.
However, this was the reality for some of the people who live and work in the Mahawella Estate of the Balangoda Plantations Ltd in the Ratnapura district. This community is on a tea and rubber plantation with hilly terrain. According to the estate’s superintendent Jinendra Ratnayake, the run-off water and surface water in the area has been declared “contaminated” by local health officials and some of the wells in use were not always well protected from the elements.
The solution for this came through the joining of Moving Water Industries (MWI) , a US based manufacturing company and Energy Management Services (EMS), a local company. Together they decided to utilise MWI’s innovative and patented Solar PedalFlo™ to provide the safe drinking and cooking water for the community. This was opened by the Commercial Attache and Economic Officer of the Embassy of the United States in Sri Lanka Richard C.Merrin. He said that access to drinking water is the first step towards poverty reduction in Sri Lanka. USAID assisted to bring the machine to the estate. He said that this water project is a service to the community. Ratnayake said this was a pilot project started six months ago. It was successful in preventing water borne diseases in the estate. According to statistics the estate has recorded fewer water related cases after setting up the project.
The SolarPedalFlo™ is a solar powered water pump with a back-up ”pedal” power supply for times when solar power is not available. The pedal apparatus is similar to an exercise machine or bicycle. The solar panels produce 350 watts of energy and can be manually adjusted to catch maximum sunlight. This gadget can lift up to 300 gallons per hour from a depth of 40- 45m that can be pumped to an elevated storage tank. It has a built-in and automated chlorinator to purify the water. The total investment for the whole project is around Rs 2 million. This is a community-managed effort with an elected committee chosen to handle the affairs of the pump. The committee is made up of men and women from among the beneficiaries and issues are discussed in an open forum.
The estate management is supportive of this initiative and they work very closely with the community to ensure that the operations are carried out successfully. The committee members have been trained in the operation and maintenance. They share the tasks of pedaling , cleaning the filter and maintaining the system. This will benefit more than 75 families in the estate , Ratnayake said.
The estate Superintendent heads the Committee. Each person will get 20 litres of water per day. General Manager Balangoda Plantations Ltd Anil De Mel said they intend to popularize this among other estates in the company. The Plantation Human Development Trust came out with this concept and they are the first company to set up this water project in the country.