A visit to the water project in Dahana one year after successful completion

By Cornelius Stiefenhofer, intern at Intelligentsia International, Inc.

May 20, 2009

 

Our driver says a short prayer before we start our journey. We leave Dushanbe with God’s blessing and breakneck speed to enter rural Tajikistan. It is spring, we pass green hills, red fields of blooming poppies and scattered clay houses while approaching majestic, snow-capped mountains on our way to Yavan district. The hardly developed countryside makes the trip feel like a travel back in time.

We get off the car shortly before entering Dahana village to overview the settlement from one of the surrounding hills. With more than 500 households, it is the largest conglomeration in a valley not far from the district’s capital. As we descend, many children follow us on the unpaved, washed out streets to the village square.
Dahana is growing fast due to Tajikistan’s high birthrates and the slightly recovering economy, which was in a deep crisis after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the following civil war. Besides, the region suffers from extremely hot and dry periods in summer; very limited resources of water along with a ruined infrastructure left over from the Soviet era. This forced citizens of Dahana to take long distances, with donkeys or afoot, to get water. Today, an elementary and an Islamic school, a small medical practice and one shop are the only public services in the village. And, for almost year now, a water distribution system is installed; visible at fourteen taps in the streets of Dahana.

How Rotary and Intelligentsia International helped Dahana

Several previously attempted projects to supply the village with drinking water failed, caused by poor engineering support, difficult technical conditions, and incomprehensive project management. Finally, after several years and attempts, citizens applied at the newly founded Rotary Club Dushanbe. Funds were granted for the implementation of a new water system in Dahana, and the educational organization Intelligentsia International Inc. was assigned to provide management and engineering expertise for the project. Intelligentsia International Inc. is specialized in research and internship programs for water management in developing countries; based in LaBelle, Florida with a local office in Dushanbe, Tajikistan.

Project details

Intelligentsia International implemented a simple, robust system design that villagers are able to maintain. Local products, supplies and workforce were used wherever possible to strengthen local economy. The long-term results one year after implementation are very satisfying; fourteen taps distribute clean water within the village, the distribution pipe network was carved properly by villagers and resisted the winter. Intelligentsia stayed flexible on the project scope in order to optimize water distribution; additional trenches were installed to reach newly evolved residential areas, as well as several small villages in immediate neighborhood to Dahana. Today, the system is maintained by one villager who runs the pump three hours in the morning and three hours in the evening. He collects the fees necessary to run and repair the system and coordinates maintenance and repairs.

Obstacles

One reason why we traveled to Dahana was to get feedback from the villagers about implementation and ongoing operation of the water service. Overall, villagers are very content with the installation but struggle with a weak community as some fellow citizens, beneficiaries of the water supply, do not pay the small fee necessary to run and maintain the system. They tell us that it is less a problem of poverty; also rich people refuse to pay for the new public service. And they tell us about a recent break down of the pump. Paying for the repair was only possible thanks to a few villagers who shared costs.

Profits

Nonetheless, the villagers improved their situation significantly. They consume clean and drinkable water in proximity to their homes which improved overall hygiene and sanitation standards. A decrease in cases of water-borne diseases, and maternal and child mortality rates is an important, positive development as medical care is very limited in rural Tajikistan. Economical improvements are another positive effect of the supply system. The availability of water for home gardens allows small scale agricultural production within the village limits; helping to fund households’ incomes. It also helps improving women’s conditions in the community as they are enabled to earn additional funds for their families. Another important goal of development assistance was reached with Intelligentsia International conducting the project; their internship program trained young local professionals and students in project management, engineering design, and construction supervision. Although it is a very complex installation, the total cost per capita is very low with $10.

Outlook

The region still faces problems with water supply. Villagers report water shortages for irrigation and cattle during summer. They blame villages living higher in the mountains to consume too much of the salty, not drinkable water for agriculture. We are also told about villages around Dahana that have not yet access to potable water. These people from smaller localities have to take long distances with their donkeys to reach the water source in Dahana. The community of Dahana solved difficult problems in their village. Nonetheless, the village has still along way to go. One example is the newly erected medical practice which has no access to water. Even worse, no sanitary installation was set up at a place where hygiene decides about life and death.

Contributors

The support of Dahana village would not have been possible without The Rotary Foundation and the Rotary Clubs of LaBelle, Harbor Heights/Peace River, Murdock, Venice-Nokomis, Seminole, Lehigh Acres, Dade City, Bonita Springs, Naples Bay, South Venice, Englewood Lemon Bay Sunrise, Placida, Immokalee, Rockville, Sanibel-Captiva, Cape Coral Goldcoast, Lake Worth, Gulf Beaches and Dushanbe.