Imagine walking a mile to retrieve water for your everyday use. It may require several trips a day to complete ordinary tasks like cooking, cleaning, animal care, and watering garden plants. These treks were part of a daily routine for the people of Aung Le village in the Pi Laung Township.
Village leaders regularly organized residents to maintain the water source area, including cleaning, prohibiting logging, planting trees and extensions to the tank. The time spent by villagers protecting and transporting water kept them from many other activities such as school, crop expansion and other income growth activities. Relying on an unreliable and distant water source kept the village in a perpetual state of extreme poverty. Therefore, village leaders embarked on a 13-year quest to create a safe and sustainable water system for village residents.
In 2006, the village received support from the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) to create a better system of water distribution to reach houses through pipelines from the tank. Still, it only functioned in the rainy season. U Khan Chain, a village water committee member, explained:
“Working with UNDP seemed fine at first. In summer, there is less water in water reservoir so that water is not enough. Each household received only 10 gallons of water per day in summer for drinking though we need at least 35 gallons per day for drinking and basic use. We, village leaders, tried to build water reservoir in the new spring area which is around another one mile away. But water is not clean, so it cannot be used for drinking. We realized that it was not the long-term solution.”
In 2019, the Village Development Team (VDT), which Shanta helped them to establish, began looking for a more sustainable solution. Since Aung Le village has committed to a 6-year partnership with the Shanta Foundation, we provided resources for a project to create a deep well within the village. Muditar helped to acquire technical support from the water resource management department in Taunggyi. The VDT submitted a second proposal to Shanta, and digging the deep well was started again upon approval. After a month of drilling, their effort and hard work were rewarded with water found around 670 feet underground. The pressure was strong enough to provide water to the village year-round, providing households with 60 gallons of water a day. Each household contributes 500 kyats a month (less than 50 cents) for the water service, kept in a water fund for general maintenance. The community could even donate 1,500 gallons of water to a nearby village that had a water shortage.
Now Aung Le village can focus on income development within their community. They now have the skills and resources to maintain their well in the future without outside help.
“Good access to water is our village’s forever dream. We, villagers, also contributed cash two times so did Muditar/Shanta, but lives of all 73 families changed. We felt so honored that Muditar/Shanta trust us even the first attempt was not successful. We learned a lot from this process as well. Our never-ending journey of trying for proper water system is just ended successfully by the support of Muditar. We felt surprised and proud that we could do it.”, U Chain said proudly.
Daw Lwin, a 40-year-old woman with a family of three, shared her experiences and feelings:
“Every day in the past, we have to leave home at 5 in the morning to collect water in water spring. We spent around 2 hours and got only 20 gallons in one day. If we did not go early, we got only unclear water. As we got only 20 gallons of water each day, we have to use water very carefully not to be wasted. We went to stream for washing clothes and bathing. As water is not clean for bathing, some people in the village got skin infections and almost all people are infected with moths. I heard and saw that in some families, family members argue and fight each other to do collecting water as it takes time and energy. Every day, we have to use around 2 hours for collecting water from our farming time and or personal time.”
“Now, it is unbelievable. We just need to spend only 3 minutes to go to water tap and get 60 gallons of water per day. As it is more than our family use, we use some in pig farms. We also use in growing vegetables around our house for family consumption. It saves around 10,000 ks every month, which was used for buying before. More than that, we feel that it is better for our personal hygiene. We never imagined such a situation that we can take a bath and wash our clothes just in our compound. For all of these, we just need to pay only 500 kyats. It is really a miracle for us and for our village. I am very grateful to VDTs and Muditar/Shanta to make it happen,” she said happily.