Access to clean water has always been a challenge in Thet Kal Kan, a village in Myaing Township, which houses almost 1,000 residents. Although the village is next to a large dam, the dam is fed by runoff from nearby fields, making the water visibly dirty as it is contaminated with agricultural chemicals, and has a pungent smell. Residents though, have few alternatives, and use the water in their homes while drinking rainwater harvested during the monsoon season. At Thet Kal Kan’s school, the only water source is untreated water from a dug well. To make matters worse, there’s no systematic rubbish disposal, and waste often ends up in creeks if it is not burned. Only few households use improved toilets, and some are still practicing open defecation.
Thet Kal Kan has been selected as one of the 13 villages in Myaing Township of Magway Region in Myanmar, participating in WaterAid’s Community Led-Integrated WASH project, which aims to significantly reduce waterborne diseases for vulnerable populations in rural communities. The project, which is running from July 2019 – June 2023, targets a range of interventions, including building new water supply systems and distribution networks, applying water treatment and safe storage to existing systems, and improving basic sanitation and hygiene practices within households. The project emphasizes behaviour change and open defecation free communities in line with Sustainable Development Goal 6, which targets clean water and sanitation for all.
Like Thet Kal Kan, the other 12 villages mostly rely on unprotected surface water and few rainwater collection tanks. According to a baseline survey carried out by WaterAid Myanmar in these 13 villages, only 17% of water supply is safe, as E. coli contamination is highly prevalent – mostly derived from poor design of the water systems, which include a lack of water treatment (such as chlorination) before distribution, and mixing of unprotected surface water with groundwater and no water treatment before distribution.
Water collection from a newly connected tap, at Thet Kal Kan village, in Myaing Township, Magway Region, Myanmar, on 26 January 2021. Photo Credit: WaterAid/Htay Ei Kywel
After Thet Kal Kan was selected through a rigorous process, WAMM organized a four-day meeting for community mobilization, during which it formed a “Village Water Committee” and trained the members on how to monitor, operate and maintain the slow sand filter tank and water distribution system which WAMM is contributing towards with support from TCF. Under the supervision of WAMM and the Department of Rural Development (DRD), the Committee began working on constructing the slow sand filter tank and water distribution system with support from Myaing Youth Development Organization, the locally rooted partner organization for this undertaking.
As the project is community-led, the community Committee oversaw the financial management, procurement, mobilization of labour, material quality control and construction supervision. The Committee has been conscious of financial management and has been able to successfully establish a new door-to-door water supply system. As funds are raised among community members themselves, this system can be maintained sustainably in the long run. Further, community members now understand how the slow sand filter works and can take effective action on maintenance in the future as well.
On April 2020, the committee completed work on the slow sand filter tank and has since installed a pipeline network system to distribute water through the whole village, with every house in the village getting its own tap. Thet Kal Kan village now has direct water supply in their homes, which is safe and without contamination, thanks to the water treatment system. “We’re so happy to finally have convenient access to safe water,” said U Thein Oo, a resident of Thet Kal Kan. “It has completely changed our lives compared to before.”