Fighting leprosy with light from the skies

In Indonesia, solar powered pumps are providing drinking water and contributing to a public hygiene programme

The village of Nusa ('island' in Indonesian) is situated in the highlands of Timor, eastern Indonesia. The climate is dry, and typical rural conditions include very low average incomes and a high child mortality rate, as Dr Claus Dauselt of Lahmeyer AG reports.

Providing drinking water for the village is laborious, since it is situated on a hilly outcrop. Clean drinking water has to be carried from a spring up a long flight of steps from the valley floor, 70 metres below. Water can also be obtained from traditional deep wells, but which often run dry during the long dry season.

Most households are situated up to 2kms from the main road. Lighting is by kerosene lamps, the fumes from which have been proved to be harmful to the eyes and the respiratory tract. The lamps also represent a certain fire hazard.

Sanitary conditions, caused by a lack of drinking water and poor hygiene, frequently lead to respiratory, skin and intestinal
diseases and malaria is common. Children are particularly at risk.

However, solar energy is proving to be vital in terms of providing safe drinking water. A photovoltaic powered pumping installation (PVP) has made it possible to pump clean drinking water directly to the village and has had significant benefits in terms of promoting public hygiene. The solar energy generated is also a possible alternative to the risky kerosene lamps in the houses.

When Lahmeyer AG donated a PVP to the inhabitants, as part of Lahmeyer International, it was charged with guaranteeing a target- and result-orientated realisation of the project, working out a division of labour with the competent authorities as well as translating it into action.

The Indonesian partner prepared the water distribution system and all the associated infrastructure measures. A local NGO supplied the central tap connections and undertook social education measures.

The necessary planning data were gathered by a local firm at the beginning of 1998 with the authorities and the community. By August an overall plan had been prepared and building work started in April 1999.

A maximum pumping height of approximately 110 metres and a pump output of approximately 20 mLVrag requires a solar generating capacity of approximately 4.5 kWp. The costs for this type of ready-to-operate pump equipment with solar generator, 2 underwater pumps and 2 pump inverters including a high-level tank amounts to a total of some €150,000. The equipment began operating mid-1999 and was handed over directly to the villagers to define ownerships and responsibilities.

Regular training enabled the equipment to be operated continuously and to integrate the PVP into the existing traditional environment. A local NGO carried out additional measures to increase income, which also had a positive effect upon the acceptance of the station.

Users pay water rates, an operator and small maintenance measures can be financed. This leads to a sense of ownership - which is important to establish the facility on a long-term basis. Income generating activities such as vegetable and spice growing, also enable the user to pay water rates.

The positive experiences have resulted in neighbouring communities carrying out similar projects. In view of the importance of hygiene in fighting leprosy, this project makes an important contribution towards overcoming the disease in Nusa.


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