Friday, May 1, 2009

Drinking water scarcity needs long term solution

by Salai Pi Pi

New Delhi (Mizzima) – The acute scarcity of drinking water is one of the main challenges which need immediate attention in some of the Cyclone Nargis devastated areas in Irrawaddy delta in Burma, said relief workers.

“The shortage of drinking water in some areas close to the sea in Irrawaddy region is a major problem. This needs to be solved urgently,” a Burmese relief worker told Mizzima.

Several areas in Irrawaddy delta were covered by saline water when the deadly Cyclone Nargis struck Burma’s coastal area on May 2 and 3 last year. The cyclone reportedly killed about 140,000 people and severely affected 2.4 million people.

After the cyclone, drinking water sources like ponds and wells were not cleared of debris properly and got mixed with saline water.

“As a consequence the areas close to the sea in Irrawaddy division are facing acute shortage of drinking water,” a Burmese relief worker said.

The most vulnerable areas are the villages in Pyikhayine village tracts of Laputta town in southern Irrawaddy delta.

Meanwhile, James East, Regional Communications Advisor of World Vision Asia Pacific, said the challenge of lack of access to drinking water is getting worse in the dry season.

“Lack of access to water was a huge challenge immediately after the cyclone and was further exacerbated in the dry season,” James East told Mizzima.

James said International Government Organizations (INGOs) including World Vision had assisted vulnerable villagers in order to increase the availability of drinking in the cyclone affected areas.

“Drinking water ponds were cleared of debris, water purification machines were installed, sanitation facilities were provided and hygiene awareness training given by NGOs like World Vision,” James East said, “Together, these measures have increased access to water.”

Another local relief worker said that they also distributed bottles of drinking water and water storage facilities such as locally made earthen pots and plastic buckets to the villagers so they could keep drinking water in the coming monsoon.

“The distributed drinking water just lasted two or three days. Providing drinking water and other facilities so far could solve the problem just for the time being,” he added.

James East from World Vision also said that long term measures are necessary to prevent the scarcity of drinking water occurring in the dry season.

“Access to water remains a concern and long-term measures like providing families with water purification filters and drilling wells, where appropriate, will be crucial to avert water shortage during the dry season,” he added.

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