the NGO Youth With A MISSION (YWAM) in Dili heard of a small village in the
South of the Island which had lost its main source of clean water. The village
pump had been destroyed by the retreating Militia and they were left with only
wet season shallow wells. The villagers were walking over two kilometres to
gather water in hand carts. The leaders of YWAM asked a team from Peak
Hill, NSW to help restore the water supply in the village, called Weberek.
The leaders of the team together with the leader of YWAM East Timor travelled to Weberek in August 2002 to survey the water situation. A hydrologist from a Darwin based firm was contracted to check and test the bore for flow and depth and a sample of the bore water was taken for testing. The last remaining well in the village which was still holding water was sampled also for testing.
The bore depth was found to be 45 metres, which meant that the water coming from it was clear of impurities leaching from the ground surface. However, the test on the well water, carried out by the Australian Army Hospital in Dili, proved to have high levels of both bacteria and faeces. This accounted for the large number of skin diseases found in the village.
The interim period between September 2002 and June 2003 was used to fundraise and investigate the type of replacement pump to install. The village was critically short of water, food and funds. Therefore the decision was made to install a solar, deep bore pump which would not require fuel. The electricity generation capability was also destroyed so that option was also ruled out.
In June 2003, a team comprising twelve members from Peak Hill, Parkes and YWAM, left Dili with the solar pump, to install it in Weberek. The trip was made extremely difficult as the wet season was not completely over, and rain accompanied the team all the way to the South coast town of Same. The delay caused by the adverse conditions meant that to reach Weberek would be a case of driving after dark.
Pressing on from Same, the lead vehicle was confronted by a water spout in the middle of the road. It stopped to find that the bend in the road which led to a bridge, had been totally washed away. The road was cut by the rain swollen river and there was no recourse except to find shelter in Same for the night and to assess the situation the next day.
The daylight showed that an approach to the bridge would need to be built up to access the road. The team, together with locals, dug and transported dirt and saplings to corduroy the embankment onto the bridge. This took most of the day and after another night in Same the team was able to continue toward Weberek. By nightfall on the third night, the Troop Carrier was on the forward slope of the ridge into the village, when it slipped into a washout, and there it stayed. The team members were forced to carry their packs into the village and await daylight to rescue the vehicle and trailer.
The fourth day saw the village mobilised to bring in “their” pump. The road over the ridge was used by villagers on foot or on pony. It was unsurfaced, slippery mud. The pump, solar panels, steel piping and trailer were separated from the vehicle and each was transported by manpower up the slopes. The vehicle was pushed and pulled until it reached the top also. Then the cargo and trailer were reunited with the vehicle to enter the village. The whole village was out to welcome the pump.
The actual replacement of the original pump with the solar deep bore pump was a smooth transition. Most team members are farmers and are able to improvise naturally. The old bore pipe was drawn up, the scaffolding for that then became the framework for the solar array. The new piping with the pump attached was poly pipe with a stainless steel wire support.
As a follow-on from the pump, another team, this time from Northern Illawarra, brought a large tank flat pack into the village and erected it next to the pump. Later, water lines were laid to the various streets in the village where a smaller tank with taps could be accessed by the villagers.
Since the initial installation, there were continuing maintenance tasks and the solar array was modified to track the sun, giving an increase of 40% on the daily flow rate. The pump was renewed in 2011 by another team from Peak Hill and Parkes.
The cost of this project was over AUS$ 30,000. The team members also contributed their travel expenses of approximately AUS$2000 each. The funds were raised by donations from individuals, churches, community groups and the schools in the Parkes Shire, NSW.
The immediate benefit of clean drinking water was realised in 2004 when the next team arrived. Expecting to see the large number of skin complaints that were treated in 2003, they were amazed at the general improvement in health of the village. Cuts and damage to skin was no longer washed in water which added to the infection. Cases of suspected malaria were shown in some cases to have been dehydration due to not drinking enough water.
The key to the improvement in health well being, and ability to work their fields, was the provision of clean drinking water. That’s something we take for granted.