From Contaminated to Clean
by Moses Hategeka, Planet Changer’s Project Coordinator in Uganda
Planet Changer has done and is continuing to do a phenomenal and amazing work of protecting community water wells, in various communities in Uganda. These projects are enabling hundreds and thousands of residents, to get clean water for the first time in their lives, making them to overcome water borne diseases and saving them from spending many hours scooping water from unprotected well. This is enabling them to get more time for agriculture and for caring for their families , as with piped water, a bucket or jerrycan, which most residents use to collect water, is filled in a minute or less.
This picture shows a woman in Kajarau central, Mukuju Sub County, Tororo district, Eastern Uganda, fetching dirty water from unprotected spring, Kajarau Central Spring, before Planet Changer protected it.
While the two pictures below, shows women in the same community fetching clean water from the now Planet Changer protected Kajarau central spring, expressing joy for getting clean water for the first time in their lives.
The process of identifying community wells that needs protection, is done by me, Planet Changer’s project coordinator in collaboration with community leaders, water technocrats, and some health staff, to ascertain the viability of the said spring(s). It is important to note that, not all community springs are viable for protection, on our visits, we do assessment, to determine whether the visited spring is viable for protection or not,. At the spring, we ask the community residents to tell us the history of that spring, whether it has history of some times drying especially during dry season or not,. We then assess its water flow and its original ground water sources,. When we are satisfied that the spring ground water source(s) which is/are viable, which is visible through its water flow, and pressure coming from underground, and that it doesn’t dry, we approve it for protection.
This is then followed with I tasking the community chairperson, to mobilize the community residents, to turn up in large numbers, and clear the way, where vehicles bringing in materials to the site will pass, community residents always turns up in large numbers for this task. Owners of gardens, that leads the way to the springs, always agree, to have their crops, temporarily destroyed, when clearing the way and do replanting of their crops after the vehicles have brought all the materials to the site.
After that, the next task, is bringing in materials to the site. Always, I always bring in hard cores first (big rocky stones) to the site, we buy these hard cores from Osukuru hills, and near Kenyan boarder. These places are the closest source yet very far from grass root communities, where Planet Changer does spring protection, and these raises transportation costs to the spring sites. The picture below shows some community members loading hard cores in a Tipa lorry in Osukuru hills, to be taken to the site.
Below, the first trip of hard cores, arrives at the site, and lorry goes back for more other trips.
After the hard cores, we go for aggregates still in Osukuru hills or Kenyan boarder (small crushed rock stones that we use to mix with cement for making a ground cover slab for a well, where people stand and places their buckets and jerrycans, when fetching piped water from the protected spring)
That is followed with buying of river sand that we get from Malaba, swamp, at the Uganda- Kenya boarder. And then plastering sand.
We then go and purchase bricks from owners. We don’t simply buy any bricks available, we always buy good quality bricks only. This at times, makes us to move around communities looking for good quality bricks, which luckily we always get.
That is followed with purchasing of cement, metallic and plastic water pipes and other materials.
When we are done with purchasing of all the materials required, the community chairperson is informed and calls for a community meeting, where community members are informed to get ready for next day to clear the site to pave way for construction work to begin.
The following day, the community members, turns up in large numbers, with hoes, pangas, slashers, hard stone breakers and other tools and begin clearing the site. Under the direction of project coordinator, masons, and some technical staff, the community is directed how to divert water by digging (creating) water diversion channel and leave a water free area, where people will be drawing water from, as construction is going on.
When the diversion channel is done, they are directed to work on creating a good drainage channel, where water from the pipe falls on concrete slab and then move through and in case there is a near by swamp area, drain through that swamp, and where there is no swamp area, drains up to a very long distance and disappear underground or gets collected at certain point and with time expand and develop into a large pond, water from this/these pond(s) is used by animals especially, pigs, goats, and cows, for drinking.
Community members working on creating a water diversion and drainage channel, as they leave a water free area, to be meanwhile used, as they wait for spring protection to get completed in Kajarau Central, Tororo district
The community involvement also extends to being helpers to the masons and looking for clay that is used for channeling and making the water not to sneak outside the pipe, the clay is also used for covering the hard cores from the soil used back filling the hole of a protected site to level.
Community members ferrying the clay to the site.
When the community members are done with, with the clearing of site, and creating water diversion and drainage channels, some members are directed to mix river sand and cement and then after mixing, put aggregates (small rock stones) and put water and then again mix, this time with aggregates inclusive, the mixture is then put on a wheel barrow and ferried to the exact location where residents will be drawing water from, from a protected source. It is then poured on the ground, and further worked on by the masons, to make a ground concrete cover slab. This is done in the morning, and it is then left the whole day to dry and in the next day, the masons moves in, and embarks on the construction process.
When the construction is done, the structure is left to dry for 72 hours, and some times, it may take slightly more than that.
Construction work is complete and it is now drying. The purpose of the rock pieces around the boarder of the walls, you are seeing in the picture, is to prevent people from sitting and put their water containers on it, this makes it to remain very firm and lasts for very very many years.
When it is fully dry, the local leaders mobilize residents again, to turn up in large numbers and assist the masons. Residents ferries in clay and sand from a near by gardens
NOTE: it is very important to note that, spring/well water, is ground water and once the well is protected, it is free of germs because it is filtered when it seeps through clay, sand, and soil
What then follows is water channeling process that begins with careful piling of clay and hard cores on the pipe area, we cover the pipe below and above areas making sure water moving in between hard cores from the spring water source/s will directly flow through the pipe. There after wards, attention is turned to the spring ground water source(s) (spring eyes); hard cores are then brought in and carefully used to cover these spring water source(s), ensuring that they are not blocked. We do these by surrounding these source(s) with hard cores both sides and place others on top, and medium sized hard cores in the middle, up to a point where water flows directly through the pipe, in a shade like format. We then use clay, to cover small spaces in between hard cores, at this point in time, we block water diversion channel and make it, to now move in between hard cores, as it moves between hard cores, it is filtered by the sand and soil, and by the time, it flows through the pipe, it is now very clean and free of germs. When clean water flows through the pipe, we then, go on and cover a very big place, with hard cores, followed with, covering these hard cores with clay sand and other soils and level the entire place well, storm waters and animals cannot now in any way negatively affect the spring and people cannot wash their legs in it, since it is now fully protected, and people now draw clean protected water flowing through the pipe.
Masons being assisted by community residents in channeling the water,
Masons covering spaces in between hard cores with clay, before sand and other soil, is powered on top. This is done to make the water from spring source(s) freely move in between hard cores without any blockage. There after, sand and other soils is poured on the top.
Clean water is now free flowing through the pipe.
Community residents with much joy and excitement begins having a taste and fetching clean water for the first time in their lives.
After fully completing the spring, a village committee comprising of eight people are chosen, by their fellow residents, to be responsible for general good of the well, like the periodical cleaning of the drainage channel and surrounding areas, which the entire community participates in. During this time, the residents are also taught how best to make their spring/s stay in very good conditions, like how to practice sustainable farming, in areas surrounding the spring(s), and told never to settle too close or build toilets, in these surrounding areas. We also during this time, do community hygiene and sanitation workshop, where we educate and urge residents, to, always wash hands before collecting and carrying the water, regularly clean water containers where water is stored in the house, clean all the cups that are used for drinking, never to store water in containers that have been used for pesticides or toxic chemicals, among others.
Then the following day, the projects coordinator hands over the spring to the community, that is followed with residents celebrating having clean water for the first time in their lives.
Planet changer projects coordinator receiving a certificate of appreciation on behalf of Planet changer, from joyful area residents of Kasaya East village, in appreciation of an incredible work, planet changer did in their community of protecting their water spring, Kasaya East spring, they now have clean water.
Water is life, people, animals, and plants need water to live and to grow, in most parts of Africa, Uganda inclusive, accessing clean water, is a mirage. Grass root people live in extremely poor conditions depending on dirty water from unprotected springs, that they share with animals, as thus, they are always suffering from water diseases, that put their lives in danger. By protecting their springs, and in the process making them get clean water free of germs, Planet Changer is doing a life transformational work, that is sustainably contributing to improving of health lives of grass root people.
“Before the protection of this spring (Mukuju central spring) I and my children used to get sick very often because of using dirty water from unprotected spring, when planet changer came and protected our spring, we got clean water, which we now joyfully enjoy, my children and I, no longer get sick as we now take clean water from a protected spring, thank you very much planet changer for protecting our spring. May you be abundantly blessed as you and your supporters, continue to positively transform grass root people’s lives” -Akello Miriam, mother of six children
for centuries and decades, we have been depending on dirty water from unprotected spring, which have always made us suffer from water borne diseases like malaria, dysentery, and many others, with incredible work you have done in our community of protecting our spring, Mukuju central spring, this is no more, we now have clean water, we are indeed very happy for the help PLANET CHANGER, has accorded to us”. – Owino Dismas, the chairperson, Mukuju central.
Moses Hategeka is Planet Changer’s Project Coordinator in Uganda, and is an independent governance researcher, farmer, public affairs analyst, and writer.