[Ongoing Project] Water for Laos

[Ongoing Project] Water for Laos


A collaboration with ADV Laos and Les Amis Lorrains du Laos


 

 

The project in nutshell


This project involves the development of water networks in three mountain villages. In each village, Ban Parpui, Ban Talolom and Ban Kok May Iai, works are divided into three stages:

  1. Water collection at the source and conveyance: the springs are located upstream from the villages in order to bring water by gravity. A collection basin with a natural filtering system is built at each location. Water is sometimes piped to villages for over several kilometres.
  2. Construction or expansion of the reservoir. In each village, a tank with a capacity of at least 300,000 litres is required, to make sure there is enough water for daily needs. Each tank comprises a settling basin and one or two filtration basin are built.
  3. Water supply for the different parts of the villages and the construction of several water fountains. (one standpipe for about ten houses).

 

Expenses and progress


Total cost: CHF 39,895 – the entire amount was raised!

The Ban Parpui construction work is completed! 

The Ban Talolom construction work is completed! 

The Kok Mai Yai construction work is in progress!

Donors: Fondation Croisier, profits from the U-Fest 2017, Région Grand-Est, Agence de l’eau Rhin-Meuse, Les amis lorrains du Laos, ADV-Laos funds.

 

Situation of the villages before the project


 

February 2018 assessment mission

General overview


The evaluation mission of the “Drinking water for Laos” project took place from 11 to 20 February (days spent on site excluding transport). Led by Bernard and Dala Ponton, ADV Laos project managers, and Roberta Alberico and Aurélien Maignant, UPAM project managers. All the people concerned have, in accordance with the volunteer values of UPAM and ADV-Laos, financed their own airline tickets.

 

The cost of housing, traffic permits and food amounts to 511.17 euros, about 1.3% of the project budget. Another final evaluation mission of the works will take place at the end of April 2018 under the direction of the Amis Lorrains du Laos. As a continuation of the very effective partnership between the UPAM and ADV-Laos, a visit to the North will be scheduled in the future for an evaluation of the sustainability of the facilities.

This mission constituted another opportunity to observe the degree of isolation of the villages from the runway at the start of Muang La, all three being concerned by the project. Parpui, Talolom and Kokmaiyai are rural areas, very poor and largely neglected by the government. More than 95% of the population lives on less than 2 dollars a day and infant mortality is estimated between 60 and 80/1000 (although these figures remain hard to verify).

The three ethnic groups (Khmu, Akkha and Hmong) regularly suffer from a more or less conscious discrimination which does not help the official support, already terribly lacking in the North of Laos. For example, the district has a yearly budget of 300,000,000 kips (just over CHF 30,000) for 10 villages (over 10,000 people).

Moreover, the mission also highlighted the Laotian administrative deadlock and a certain hostility on the part of the authorities towards minorities. Despite the official authorization of the Province, we had to struggle with the District’s sub-officials to gain access to the villages, doubly isolated by their geographical situation and the government lock. It is worth mentioning that our main technical partner, the Nam Saat (a division of the Ministry of Health), although governmental, is one of the most effective organisations made up of competent and underpaid local technicians who, even on the building sites, can only afford to eat one soup a day. We were able to meet and exchange at length with the technicians who supervised the work, always in an atmosphere of competence and good will.

The welcome of the villagers, who have all worked (or are still working) voluntarily, has been wonderful at all levels and neither their involvement nor their determination can be called in question.

We intentionally carried out the mission during the dry season in order to evaluate the degree of pressure and the filling rate of the tanks when the mountain sources are at their lowest flow. This allowed us to evaluate the efficiency of the infrastructures when the conditions are the most unfavourable. The final mission should nevertheless be carried out during the rainy season to ensure that the high water level in the spring does not lead to pressure problems in the pipes.

 

Ban Parpui


Overall situation

Parpui lies at the end of a rocky track that snakes between mountain ridges. It takes about 40 km of dirt track to get there. The trail is regularly impassable during the rainy season and must be restaured regularly, which the government does not always do. The village thus lives in considerable isolation for much of the year.

The village, unelectrified, is situated between the bends of two rivers, the Nam Pak and the Nam So, which are essential to the life of the inhabitants (crops, laundry, toilet, electricity by artisanal dynamo mills in the dry season), but polluted by chemical agriculture and unfit for consumption.

Most villagers consume rice and bamboo, two out of about 70 houses are solidly built and most of the poorer families have dry toilets. The poorest go into the jungle. The track and the village are connected by an essential but very precarious bamboo bridge that the government has promised to rebuild.

The villagers did not consume water from the river and had to take a path through the jungle (a 6 kilometres round trip) to reach a remote spring. The forest is very dense, several hostile plants are found on the path and, four years ago, a couple was killed by a wild boar a few hundred meters from the spring. The work therefore allowed the capture of a source in a much closer and especially a less dangerous area for the villagers.

 

Objectives

  • Identify the source
  • Define and prepare the path for work
  • Build diversion and catch basin
  • Lay the 2.1 km of pipeline and bury half of it
  • Enlarge the tank with 3 filter chambers
  • Connect the pipes
  • Rebuild the cement in the standpipes
  • Set up neighbourhood and family maintenance of the standpipes.

All objectives are achieved.

 

Work progress

The construction of the catch basin was to be completed in February 2018, which we also observed.

The catchment basin was designed according to the plans of Nam Saat and under the supervision of one of their technicians who took us to the site and with whom we were able to exchange at length. The catchment basin works thanks to a slight diversion of the current upstream which concentrates the water towards three concrete catchment chambers. The first chamber manages the first filtering stage (large stones), the second manages sediment decantation and the third protects the main valve from animals, children and wood scraps.

A second valve located on the lower part of the last chamber allows to evacuate the waste for the maintenance of the basin (twice a month). The water entry point is located on the side of the first chamber so that the leaves, carried by the current, do not block the entrance to the basin.

The spring flow during dry season (February 2018) is excellent and largely satisfactory.

The entire installation has a life span of approximately 20 years which can vary according to the evolution of the source. The Nam Saat graphs show a regular flow for the last 50 years.

The network of pipes connecting the basin to the tank is completed. The pipes stretch for about 2.1 kilometres. Half of the network descends the side of the mountain in the middle of the jungle. It was left overground (near the river) because of the moles who regularly damage the infrastructure. The second half, in the valley (outside the jungle), was buried to protect it from human passage (pedestrians, cattle, scooters etc…)

The existing reservoir (formerly used to collect water from the river) had a capacity of 20 cubic metres. There was often a lack of pressure and the extension (5 cubic metres) planned by the project was completed. This extension takes the form of three additional chambers directly connected to the catchment basin. The first completes the source filtering by medium stone filtering, the second by gravel filtering and the third by an additional sedimentation stage. It is equipped with a recess to manage the overflow of pressure, especially during the rainy season. During our mission, during the dry season, the recess was activated, which means an optimal water level all year round.

The 7 standpipes are now functional and the village has about one for 10 houses. We were able to observe a very satisfactory flow and their already continuous use by the inhabitants.

 

Ban Talolom


 

General overview

Ban Talolom is about 10 kilometres before Parpui on the same track from Muang La. As such, the inhabitants remain in a situation of considerable isolation, despite the recent electrification of the village (about 5 years ago).

Talolom is in constant demographic increase (+400% these last ten years) and is located at the top of a mountain ridge with houses mainly located around the track. This increase, due to electrification, is explained by the sedentarization of the predominantly Khmus populations who leave the nomadic life of the mountainsides. The family often plays a role in this settlement in the village because it is common for an older generation to join their grandchildren settled in Talolom.

Despite the mayor’s recommendations, a large proportion of the newcomers settle in the upper part of the village, which constantly expands the number of houses above the reservoir (see below).

As Talolom is located at the top of a ridge for practical and religious reasons, the situation is much more complex than in Parpui because the villagers have absolutely no healthy water within several kilometres of walking (including for toilet and laundry). The nearest source is 3 kilometres away and the task often fell to children (especially adolescent girls). We had the opportunity to take the trail, which is very dangerous, especially during the rainy season when the ground gets slippery. It seems that there have been several accidents but the villagers did not want to talk about them precisely. Before the beginning of the works, the village’s standpipes were not functioning properly, as the network of pipes was unable to manage the pressure and the reservoir was insufficient to ensure good gravity flow. Only one out of 14 standpipe was functional in the village.

 

 

Objectives

  • Define and prepare the path for work
  • Lay the 4.5 km of underground pipeline
  • Enlarge the tank with 3 filter chambers
  • Connect the pipes
  • Rebuild the cement in the standpipes
  • Set up neighbourhood and family maintenance of the standpipes.

 

All objectives are achieved.

 

New objectives

  • Build an additional fountain post at the southern tip of the village
  • Elaborate a satisfactory solution for the pressure problem of the northern tip

 

Work progress

The existing catchment area did not present major problems and we noted that it was frequently maintained. It also has a protective roof that increases its lifespan. As part of the construction of the new network, the collection pipe was changed and replaced with much stronger metal.

The spring’s water level is satisfactory in the dry season, which augurs well for the sustainability of the infrastructure and access to water at a very good flow during dry season.

The new network connects the reservoir to the catchment over 3 km and 1.5 km inside the village (between the reservoir and the standpipes).

As with Parpui, the existing reservoir, very often dry due to the lack of an efficient and technically relevant network, had a capacity of 20 cubic metres. There was still no pressure and the extension (5 cubic meters) planned by the project was completed. In the same scheme as in Parpui, this extension takes the form of three additional chambers directly connected to the catchment basin. The first one completes the source filtering by medium stone filtering, the second one by gravel filtering and the third one by a new sedimentation stage. It is equipped with a recess to manage the overflow of pressure, especially during the rainy season.

The village has one stanpipe for about 10 houses, with the exception of the northern part of the reservoir (see below). At the end of the works planned in the project, 12 of the 14 standpipes are fully functional, and the different women we asked in the village all confirmed that the flow was very good.

The two standpipes where the flow is not good enough are located in the elevated area South of the village (see below).

 

Continuation of the project

The assessment mission highlighted two specific problems, both of which can be resolved with the project’s budget surplus.

The southern tip of the village, the above-mentioned population growth zone, is located above the reservoir and it is therefore impossible to convey water by gravity. There are therefore about 15 houses forced to use the terminal closest to the reservoir, itself originally intended for only about 10 of them.

 

Ban Kok Mai Yai


General overview

Kok Mayiai (there is no official Latin spelling) is located further upwind of the trail from Muang La. Kok Mayiai is one of the main rural groupings in the district. These are actually six villages, mainly Akhas (but also Khmus and Hmongs) grouped on a perimeter of about one kilometer.

The area is very roughly electrified and has a dispensary with a delivery room in which three nurses and a doctor work permanently. The medical and health situation is very alarming. The dispensary was completely abandoned by the government, with namely no medicines or sterile conditions for deliveries. Before the project was set up, even water was not available.

Most women deliver at home, under the supervision of nurses on the move : this underlines the need for access to water in all areas of Kok Mayiai.

The village had a reservoir of 30 cubic meters, elaborated by Nam Saat on the same scheme as that of Parpui. But the tank is used by 5 times more people. Initially, there was a catch basin on an upstream source but at a very low flow. As a result, 70% of the houses had no access to water and neither the school nor the dispensary had functional terminals.

 

Objectives

Completed

  • Identify the second source
  • Define and prepare the path for work
  • Build diversion and catch basin
  • Lay the pipes from the tank to the medical dispensary

Ongoing (80%)

  • Lay the 2 km of pipeline to the first source
  • Connect the two sources

Ongoing (60%)

  • Construct a second reservoir next to the first one
  • Build 3 filter chambers

 

Coming soon (0%)

  • Connect the tank to the standpipes
  • Redo the cement of the standpipes

 

Work progress

Work in Kok May Iai, more substantial, is estimated to 4 months and we noted during the mission that 30 or 40% had been carried out. The mayor and the technician assured us that the villagers were working regularly. We hope that the network will be completed during the evaluation mission led by Les Amis Lorrains du Laos in early April 2018.

The construction of the second catchment basin for a source upstream of the first is entirely finished. The network of pipes which is 60% installed and the connection to the first source remains to be done.

We found that during the dry season, the first spring had a low flow and the project’s additional one had an average flow. The situation is not worrying for the rainy season, but it may be that at the height of the dry season (March-April), the flow, even with a second basin, remains too light to cover the whole village. On this point, we are waiting for the report from the ALL mission who will be present during that period.

The catchment basin built is similar to that of Parpui but contains two additional chambers for pressure management reasons inside the pipes. It therefore consists of two filter chambers, two decantation chambers and a valve protection chamber. We were able to visit the site accompanied by the technical superviser, and the structural work was indeed carried out in a very satisfactory manner.

The other technical informations are the same as for Parpui. It should be noted that the water inlet was correctly made on the ground level due to potential water flow problems.

At the time of the mission, work on the reservoir had progressed properly. All the concrete moulds for the two sites (extension of 30 cubic metres and addition of the 3 filter chambers) were assembled and the reinforcements ready. The filter chambers are the same as for Parpui and Talolom. Pressure tests with this 130% increase in capacity will still have to be carried out.

The rehabilitation of the first network having been completed, the priority was given to the dispensary and the network from the dispensary to the reservoir is finished. The standpipe is functional, at a very good flow rate.

Nevertheless the whole network is still to be installed in Kok Mayiai, the standpipes are to be built and it is therefore impossible to evaluate for the moment the pressure and flow issues.

 

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Posted on: 30/01/2017Roberta

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