bodies in the GangesThe Ganges River is filled with dead bodies and lined with shallow riverside graves that dogs often dig up. According to estimates, people dug 4,000 graves along just one mile of the Ganges riverbank in Uttar Pradesh between mid-April and mid-May 2021. Families of the dead float their lost loved ones’ bodies in the Ganges or bury them on the riverbank because they cannot afford cremation, especially in the impoverished rural states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.

Increased Cremation Costs

Cremation for non-COVID-19 deaths in India generally costs around 5,000 rupees, but crematoriums have raised prices for those who have died of COVID-19 to around 22,000 to 30,000 rupees. Because of the high cost of cremation, many people living in poverty are submerging their lost loved ones in the river or resort to burying bodies on the shore.

Traditionally, Hindus in India float certain bodies in the Ganges, including those of people who die of infectious diseases. Now, though, with the COVID-19 crisis causing cremation costs to soar, people are disposing even more bodies than usual in the Ganges.

Fears and Economic Costs

Some worry that the bodies in the Ganges could spread COVID-19. Experts say that the dumping of bodies may not lead to increased COVID-19 cases, but could lead to other infections from polluted drinking water. However, the Jal Shakti Ministry, an Indian government ministry focused on water, claims that the bodies have not polluted the river.

Nevertheless, fear of poor water quality and coronavirus spread has led to declining fish sales. One fisherman said, “So far we have lost Rs 50,000… No one is buying fishes because of fear.” There is no evidence that COVID-19 can spread through the consumption of fish and the only carnivorous fish in the Ganges are illegal to catch. Still, some are refusing to eat fish from the Ganges. The greater danger, though, is that the Ganges provides water for drinking, bathing and irrigation for more than 400 million people.

Governmental Recommendations

In response to the crisis of bodies in the Ganges, India’s National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has called for legislation addressing the dignity and rights of the dead. It has given 11 recommendations:

  1. Protecting the rights of the dead.
  2. Establishing temporary crematoriums for timely cremations.
  3. Mandating that staff learn proper procedures for the handling of dead bodies and safety equipment.
  4. Allowing last rites that do not involve touching dead bodies.
  5. Allowing local authorities to perform the appropriate last rites in the absence of family.
  6. Encouraging the use of electric crematoriums rather than funeral pyres to avoid smoke-related health hazards.
  7. Prohibiting piling of dead bodies.
  8. Prohibiting mass burial or cremation.
  9. Providing criteria for identifying bodies and protecting information about the dead.
  10. Regulating the cost of transit of the dead.
  11. Ensuring that those working with the dead receive proper pay and are a priority for vaccination.

Solutions

India’s Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) is monitoring the Ganges and its tributaries closely, liaising with state and local health departments as well as pollution agencies. After the Jal Shakti Ministry asked that governments ensure the proper disposal of bodies, the Bihar government is taking action. The National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) has also asked authorities to properly dispose of unidentified bodies and to detail the actions taken in submitted reports. The Indian government has also installed a net to catch the bodies in the Ganges.

Along with preventing the dumping of bodies in the Ganges, state agencies must prevent citizens from burying bodies in riverbanks, support cremation and provide education on the proper use of river water.

– Hilary Brown
Photo: Flickr

Volcanic Eruption in the DRCOn May 22, 2021, the Nyiragongo volcano in the Democratic Republic of Congo erupted. Hundreds of thousands of people experienced the aftershocks, including contaminated water and structural damage. The destruction of water infrastructure means 500,000 people now lack access to a safe water supply. In a press release, USAID announced that it would be committing $100,000 worth of humanitarian aid to secure clean and safe drinking water for citizens affected by the volcanic eruption in the DRC.

History of Mount Nyiragongo

The Nyiragongo volcano stands almost 12,000 feet tall on the eastern border of the DRC in the strip of Virunga Mountains, a chain of active volcanoes. The volcano is one of the most active in the world and has the largest, most active lava lake. Nyiragongo has erupted several times since 1884, with the most severe eruption occurring in 1977, taking up to 400 lives. The most recent eruption before 2021 occurred in 2002, resulting in about 100 deaths and displacing up to 400,000 people.

The Aftershocks of the 2021 Eruption

The 2021 volcanic eruption in the DRC led to about 32 deaths and thousands of displacements. On May 30, 2021, in a period of just 24 hours, 92 aftershock earthquakes and tremors occurred but only about four were felt by citizens. For safety purposes, more than 400,000 people were evacuated from the North Kivu area.

Cholera, a diarrheal infection caused by drinking contaminated water, is an increased threat since the eruption.  Natural disasters often increase the risk of epidemics, especially those transmitted via contaminated water. The eruption of the Nyiragongo volcano in the DRC caused the destruction of a vital water pipe and damaged a water reservoir. The damage cut off water access for about 500,000 people.

On June 7, 2021, UNICEF and partners announced that they were working to restore the water supply to the area. For temporary water access, UNICEF “installed 15 emergency station chlorination points” close to Lake Kivu. UNICEF also committed to assisting a task force by “supporting installation of 1,500 meters of pipe on top of the lava to replace pipework that has melted.”

The Hope of Crisis Assistance

Prior to the 2021 volcanic eruption in the DRC, the nation was already struggling with a humanitarian crisis, following years of political violence and conflict. At the beginning of 2021, the United Nations predicted that 19.6 million people in the DRC were in need of humanitarian assistance. With more than five million displaced persons and the highest recorded levels of food insecurity before the eruption even took place, the humanitarian crisis in the DRC has only grown. The U.N. requires financial assistance from the international community in order to comprehensively address the crisis in the DRC.

The United States serves as the largest donor to the DRC, providing more than $130 million worth of humanitarian assistance in 2021 alone. The U.S. commitment of $100,000 for water security initiatives in the DRC will aid the efforts of organizations such as UNICEF, protecting the well-being of vulnerable Congolese people.

– Monica Mellon
Photo: Flickr

Water Pollution in IndiaIndia is infamous for its heavily polluted air. However, with up to 80% of its water contaminated, water pollution in India is just as prevalent and dangerous. Polluted waterways affect the standard of living of many Indian families, especially those within impoverished communities. Additionally, contaminated water creates unsustainable environments for aquatic life. Toxic waste such as discarded plastic and domestic sewage is damaging the fishing industry, which makes up a large portion of India’s economy. In an effort to combat water pollution, the Indian state of Kerala has started an initiative to recycle ocean plastic into materials for road construction, saving the jobs of fishermen and protecting the environment.

Water Pollution’s Impact on Livelihoods

Urban areas in India generate approximately 62,000 million liters per day (MLD) of sewage water. With the capacity to only treat 23,277 MLD, more than 70% of the sewage in urban areas does not receive treatment. The untreated waste often ends up in nearby water bodies such as the River Ganges, one of 10 rivers accounting for “90% of the plastic pollution that ends up at sea.”

Because of the water pollution, India’s rivers are in a dire state and citizens suffer health and economic impacts. The pollutants entering the water leave it contaminated and unsafe to consume. In 2018, more than 163 million people in India did not have a source of safe drinking water, leading to people relying on rivers for drinking water.

The polluted water also affects the fish that rely on healthy bacteria to survive. As a result, incidents of mass fish deaths are increasing at an alarming rate. Without fish in India’s waterways, millions of people will be out of work. As of 2020, India ranks third globally in fishery production and the fishing industry employs more than 145 million people.

Small-scale fisheries, which supply 55% of the total fish production, are critical for reducing poverty and food scarcity in local communities. Freshwater fisheries also help improve water quality and soil conditions on land, positively aiding agriculture. For this reason, water pollution in India is harmful to the agriculture and aquaculture industries.

Repurposing Plastic Pollution

Concerned for their futures, fishermen in Kerala, India, are taking part in an environmental initiative to keep their waters clean. In 2017, the local government put out an order to minimize water pollution. Fishermen in Kerala have answered the call. Kerala relies substantially on the fishing industry, which brings in approximately $14 million in revenue.

The government passed the Suchitwa Sagaram (Clean Sea) project, requiring harbor authorities to distribute nylon bags to fishermen so that they can store the plastic pollution that gets caught in their nets instead of throwing it back into the sea. Construction companies buy the collected plastic in shredded form and use it to build new roads. Cleaning and sorting the gathered plastic provides jobs to local women in Kerala.

When mixed with asphalt, the plastic component makes India’s roads more resistant to intense heat. In addition to helping the environment, the process is saving India money by reducing the cost of building roads by “8–10% per kilometer of road paved with plastic as compared with a conventionally built road.” Every kilometer of road utilizes about 1 million plastic bags. As of April 2021, the project has collected about 176,000 pounds of plastic and has built 135 kilometers of road, creating many employment opportunities in the process.

Fighting Poverty and Environmental Degradation

Properly developed roads contribute to economic growth. By building and maintaining roads to rural communities, India can ensure the economic development of these areas. Roads to rural communities improve access to education and reduce costs for transportation, trade and production. However, funding for rural infrastructure is usually low on the list of budgetary priorities for the Indian government. Repurposing ocean plastic for use in building materials reduces the cost of roads while simultaneously combating water pollution in India, thus reducing poverty overall.

– Samantha Fazio
Photo: Flickr

Growing Industries Improve Lesotho's EconomyThe small kingdom of Lesotho lies in the middle of South Africa, completely landlocked within its mountainous regions. When Lesotho gained its independence from the United Kingdom in 1966, it was established as a parliamentary constitutional monarchy. A majority of the country lives in poverty, relying on subsistence farming and the economy of its much larger neighbor, South Africa. Struggling to stand alone as a country vastly overshadowed by South Africa, four factors contribute to increases in Lesotho’s economy. Industries, such as diamond and textiles, are working to bring the country out of poverty and increase its GDP.

Private Sector-Led Economic Growth

Part of Lesotho’s economic growth can be attributed to the promotion of businesses and industries that are not under the direct control of the government. This initiative was supported more fully by the World Bank Board of Executive Directors, who approved $13.4 million donated to the government of Lesotho to assist with its promotion.

According to the World Bank, “the Second Private Sector Competitiveness and Economic Diversification Project (PSCEDP II) will help improve the business environment through the continued facilitation of reforms to reduce the time and cost associated with doing business in Lesotho, provide easier access to finance, make trading across borders simpler and provide streamlined, accessible and efficient government to business services in order to attract private investment and boost growth.” The PSCEDP II is already seeing growth through economic diversification and an improved business environment, which is crucial for Lesotho’s economy.

The Diamond Industry

The discovery of diamonds made a large impact on the economy of Lesotho, as some of the world’s most valuable diamonds have been discovered there. Mining for diamonds began in the mid-20th century, but a lack of decent finds made the mines close. However, the mines reopened in 2004 when new technology helped increase diamond discovery and the country’s overall GDP. Through the use of diamond exportation, revenue has drastically helped assist the economy of Lesotho. In 2011, diamonds constituted 31% of Lesotho’s total exports.

Additionally, operators of the mines aim to assist local communities. The Letseng mine, world-famous for its priceless diamonds, set aside $300,000 in 2014 to help its local community. This money funded projects to increase living conditions and provide survival training for herd boys. Not only is the diamond industry extremely beneficial for the economy of Lesotho, but it is also beneficial for the local communities and areas surrounding the mines.

The Textile Industry

Starting with a handful of textile factories originating in the 1990s, the textile industry has now become one of the largest employers of Lesotho people, with approximately 50,000 jobs available to communities. The textile industry holds thousands of jobs, primarily for women who account for 80% of employees within the industry. Between 2014 and 2019, the manufacturing sector of Lesotho’s economy grew 34%. Consequently, this increase allowed for a tripling of textile exports sent out to South Africa. By providing thousands of jobs to people, especially women, the poverty levels have eased and the GDP has increased significantly. With the assistance of the textile industry, the increased exportation of products is healing and strengthening the economy of Lesotho.

The Highlands Water Development Project

Lesotho and South Africa created and signed a plan concerning Lesotho’s exceedingly large water resources. This infrastructure project would benefit both countries in the transferring of water and the production of hydroelectricity. The initiative began in 1986 to help Lesotho’s electricity production independence. In addition, Lesotho would gain revenue by providing water to South Africa.

Moving water from the Orange River toward the Atlantic, this project includes the building of five dams and approximately 200 kilometers of tunnels to transport water to South Africa and produce electricity for Lesotho in three distinct phases, the last of which was to be completed in 2020. With this project, approximately 2,000 million cubic meters of water are transported from Lesotho to South Africa every year. This initiative has already helped improve the economy of Lesotho and save money through the production of hydroelectricity.

The assistance of these four factors is working to change the economy to alleviate the impacts of poverty throughout Lesotho. If growth continues with the assistance of private sector-led promotion, the diamond and textile industries and the Highlands Water Development Project, significant hope remains for this small country.

– Allie Degner
Photo: Flickr

Water Filters to EthiopiaIn 2012 and 2014, NativeEnergy visited Ethiopia to assess the water situation and determine the viability of water filters. According to NativeEnergy, about 65% of people in the Sidama Zone of Ethiopia are forced to utilize “unclean water sources.” In 2019, about 98.52% of people in Sidama voted for it to be an autonomous, self-governing state. In June 2020, the state became independent. However, the people of the Sidama Zone and other rural areas in Ethiopia face serious issues regarding access to clean water sources. To address this issue, the Desert Rose social enterprise is providing water filters to Ethiopia.

Water Studies in Ethiopia

According to Water.org, only around 42% of Ethiopians have access to clean and safe water sources. In rural areas of Ethiopia, access to clean water is even more limited. Severe climate conditions and political issues largely contribute to Ethiopia’s water shortages. Many rural Ethiopians resort to collecting water from water sources that are often contaminated and only serve to spread disease.

The World Health Organization (WHO) outlines the consequences of drinking unclean water. Contaminated water sources lead to the spread of diseases such as cholera and dysentery. Agriculture is central to the lives of almost 95% of people in Sidama. Since agriculture plays a significant role, water is needed for a thriving agricultural industry that supports food security and livelihoods in Sidama.

Desert Rose

Desert Rose is an Ethiopian-based social enterprise that has focused on community development through engineering consulting in rural Ethiopia since 2008. Thomas Berger, a swiss anthropologist, and British engineer, Andrew Smith, established Desert Rose as a force for social good. Desert Rose has come up with a water filter solution to ensure Ethiopian people in rural areas like Sidama have access to clean water.

The water filter called Minch is able to mechanically remove 99.9% of E. coli bacteria. There is no need for chemicals and the filter is much more effective than conventional biosand water filters. The Ethiopian government tested the filter. It is simple to use, “lasting up to two years in rural areas and up to five years in the towns.” The low-cost filter targets impoverished communities in Ethiopia. The water filter is produced entirely in Ethiopia, enabling the company to save on costs and keep the water filter affordable to all. The filter also has “an internal 15-liter water reservoir” to protect water from contamination during storage.

The Minch water filter provides a form of water purification for Ethiopian households who cannot afford to boil water due to the high cost of firewood. After three years in development, by 2019, Desert Rose produced 1,000 water filters. Oxfam bought 50% of these filters for use in its humanitarian efforts. With funding and support, the Minch water filter has the potential to reach large-scale production so that all Ethiopians can have access to clean water.

Water for All

Since water access and poverty are linked, better water access means reduced poverty. According to the United Nations, water is essential for socio-economic development and plays a significant role in decreasing “the global burden of disease and improving the health, welfare and productivity of populations.” With companies and organizations working to improve water access in Ethiopia, poverty in Ethiopia is reduced.

– Jacob Richard Bergeron
Photo: Flickr

BRAC Brings Water to PeopleIn the year 1972, Sir Fazle Hasan Abed founded BRAC in Bangladesh. The organization started as a “small relief effort,” eventually becoming a leading global nonprofit. The key mission of the organization is to help people living in poverty around the world. Whether this means tackling illiteracy, health impacts or social injustices, the organization has several programs aimed at reducing the effects of poverty. These goals are reached by implementing proven plans to tackle poverty. BRAC strongly believes in empowering people and communities with the skills and resources to break cycles of poverty and transform their own lives. In 2017, 785 million people around the world did not have access to simple water services. To address this issue, BRAC brings water to people in need through its programs.

Positive Impacts on WASH

BRAC focuses on the issues of water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) because the organization understands that these factors contribute to the growth and development of societies. These three necessities are often lacking in impoverished countries. The efforts of BRAC have allowed a total of 2.66 million people to now have access to safe drinking water. By establishing appropriate water technologies for area-specific geohydrological needs, BRAC brings water to people in need. More than 6,000 secondary schools around the world now have access to hygiene facilities and proper hygiene education. Additionally, BRAC has made hygienic and safe latrines available for more than 44 million people around the world.

BRAC and Hydro Industries Partnership

In 2019, BRAC and Hydro Industries entered into a partnership. Past water access solutions have often not considered the fact that the groundwater in Bangladesh is contaminated with arsenic, making it unsafe for people to drink. Hydro Industries provides technological solutions to address such problems. BRAC’s history of proven and effective plans will strengthen this effort.

Hydro Industries asserts that “Passing an electric current through contaminated water” separates and filters contaminants “so that the water emerging from the tap meets the highest possible standards” as the World Health Organisation lays out. The first phase of the collaborative effort between BRAC and Hydro Industries aimed to bring water access to 25,000 people in Bangladesh. The first phase also informs future phases and helps to broaden the scale and impact of efforts.

Hydro Industries’ systems will be extremely helpful to the people in Bangladesh. The systems will provide Bangladeshi people with 40,000 liters of purified water every day. Nick Virr, program director of BRAC United Kingdom, tells BusinessLive that Hydro’s “extensive experience, innovation and high-quality solutions” combined with BRAC’s knowledge of issues and needs “can deliver sustainable improvements in people’s lives at the scale needed.”

Reducing Global Poverty

BRAC and Hydro Industries have already achieved success in their respective areas of work. Their partnership will allow BRAC and Hydro Industries to complement each other and work toward achieving the goal of clean water for all. Since water and poverty are linked, addressing global water access essentially means addressing global poverty.

– Jacob. E. Lee
Photo: Flickr

Increase Access to clean waterAccess to clean water is a basic human right, but as of 2017, 884 million people do not have access to safe drinking water and more than two billion people do not have access to fundamental sanitation facilities. These issues have become more pressing as the COVID-19 pandemic pushed many into poverty and increased the world’s need for adequate sanitation to prevent the spread of th virus. The sixth Sustainable Development Goal is to “ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all” by 2030. Organizations are working together in a greater effort to increase access to clean water.

7 Innovations for Water Access

  1. Majik Water. Founded by Beth Koigi, Anastasia Kaschenko and Clare Sewell, Majik Water is a Kenyan company that engineers solar-powered filters capable of harvesting drinking water from the air. Koigi was the victim of water scarcity while at university and sought to create a device that would reduce water scarcity in Kenya and beyond. The device has the potential to provide water to the 1.8 billion people globally who may be without reliable access to water by 2025.
  2. Gravity Water. A majority of the people in the world who do not have access to clean drinking water live in tropical and subtropical areas where fresh water is plentiful. Gravity Water wanted to create a system that would allow people in these areas to take advantage of the water they have access to but are unable to drink because of pollution and contamination. “Through harvesting rainwater and storing it above ground, Gravity Water systems provide pressure for filtration without the dependency of electricity, which is commonly lacking in rural areas.”
  3. Ashok Gadgil and Vikas Garud. While UV water filtration is a proven way to purify water, these systems are expensive due to the materials needed to build them. Ashok Gadgil and Vikas Garud have developed a modified version of these devices. UV lamps placed above water tanks filter the water and then use gravity to separate the drinkable water from residue inside. The device is smaller than traditional underwater UV devices and is able to disinfect 1,000 liters of water an hour.
  4. Guihua Yu (University of Texas). Guihua Yu and his team of researchers at the University of Texas at Austin created a device that can be used in disaster situations and areas without access to clean water. The device uses water-absorbent hydrogels that release water when heated and work in both humid and dry climates. The water comes from the air, and when the hydrogels are exposed to sunlight, the water is released. The device also runs on solar energy, making it affordable and sustainable.
  5. Innovative Water Technologies (IWT). Jack E. Barker founded Innovative Water Technologies (IWT) to develop global water treatment facilities to be used in humanitarian and disaster relief efforts. These solar and wind-powered water filtration systems can process 5,000-250,000 gallons of water a day. IWT has four different products, all of which bring clean water to those in need,
  6. Dar Si Hmad. Dar Si Hmad is a female-run nonprofit organization based in Morocco. Its water project makes use of fog collectors, also known as the “cloud fishing” technique. A fine mesh gathers droplets of water in areas with thick fog such as Southwest Morocco. Once enough water is gathered, the water falls into a basin and is filtered using solar-powered filters. The water is then piped to 140 nearby households. The fog-catching system is able to provide 6,000 liters of water daily.
  7. The Drinkable Book. WATERisLIFE and Dr. Teri Dankovich developed the Drinkable Book to provide easy water filtration options to those in need. One page from the perforated book can filter 100 liters of water. One book can secure a person’s drinking water needs for up to four years. The pages are made up of cellulose and silver nanoparticles that can filter out “99.99% of the bacteria found in cholera, E. coli and typhoid.”

Access to Clean Water

The COVID-19 pandemic has heightened the need for universal water access, showing the broader impacts of lacking water access during times of crisis. Since poverty and water access are linked, innovations that increase access to clean water contribute to reducing global poverty.

– Harriet Sinclair
Photo: Flickr

Majik WaterData from 2017 indicates that 884 million people worldwide lack access to safe drinking water and more than two billion people (25% of the world population) lack access to adequate sanitation. The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic makes access to water and sanitation even more urgent in order to curb the spread of the virus. Inaccessibility of water is a major contributing factor to global poverty. In developing countries especially, people have to travel long distances to access water, a burden often falling on women. In Kenya, only 58% of people have access to clean drinking water and only 30% have access to basic sanitation. Majik Water provides an innovative solution to ensure access to clean drinking water in Kenya.

What is Majik Water?

Majik Water was founded by Beth Koigi, a Kenyan entrepreneur who was a victim of water scarcity while at university. After this experience, she sought to create a device that would reduce water scarcity in Kenya and beyond. The Majik Water team consists of three inspiring females: Koigi, Anastasia Kaschenko and Clare Sewell. A complex issue such as water access requires a range of methods to solve. While for many, the solution to a lack of clean drinking water is to develop and install water filters, Kenya is prone to periods of drought, meaning there may be no reliable source of water for months on end. Thus, typical water filters are ineffective as there is often no water to filter.

Majik Water seeks to solve this issue by producing filters that are capable of harvesting drinking water from the air. The air contains six times more water than all the rivers of the world combined. Koigi realized that by condensing the water, she could ensure that even people living in the most drought-prone areas could have access to clean drinking water. The Majik Water devices are made with Kenyans and their specific needs in mind, taking advantage of Kenya’s climate and high levels of humidity in many areas. However, the device also works in areas with as little as 35% humidity, making it a more versatile resource. The solar technology involved makes the system more cost-effective.

How Majik Water Systems Work

The devices are deceptively simple, using a sponge-like material that attracts water molecules to gather water in the air.  When heated, the spongy material releases the water vapor, which is then condensed to form water. The device is reusable, making it both sustainable and affordable. Water drawn from the air is often cleaner and more sustainable than groundwater, which is finite and often contaminated with minerals such as arsenic, fluoride and lead. These minerals can cause serious health problems if the water is not filtered properly.

The Potential of Majik Water

While the device is still in the testing and development phases, it has already gained the attention and support of many. The Majik Water team won the EDF Pulse Awards Africa prize. Even in its earliest stages, Majik Water has already proven effective in increasing access to clean drinking water in Kenya. At the Ark Children’s Home in Thika, Kenya, Majik Water’s filters are able to provide 50 liters of drinking water a day, straight from the atmosphere.

The goal of the project is to increase water access in Kenya and stop the potentially devastating effects of anticipated increased water shortages in the next decade. Koigi hopes to be able to produce clean water for just one cent per liter, which may be achieved by reducing the cost of the solar technology that the devices rely on. Majik Water has the potential to improve health outcomes and poverty rates in many parts of the country by ensuring reliable water access for all.

Harriet Sinclair
Photo: Flickr

Groundwater Wells in Venezuela
Amidst the current problematic economic situation and levels of poverty in Venezuela, urban and rural sectors are going deep to find water due to poor access to safe water. Geographical studies or dowsing are the most common methods of creating local groundwater wells in Venezuela.

Poverty in Venezuela

In terms of the poverty statistics of Venezuela, between the years 2008 and 2013, the country ceased the process of poverty reduction and the government stopped providing poverty statistics. Since then, a group of national universities called ENCOVI has implemented independent studies regarding poverty in Venezuela.

According to ENCOVI, 67% of the Venezuelan population is living in extreme poverty while 94% are in poverty. No other country in the region holds numbers as high as these.

Water Access in Venezuela

A 2019 to 2020 report stated that 77% of people in Venezuela enjoyed aqueduct access. Meanwhile, 12% had access to water via water truck, 3% garnered water from public taps and 9% retrieved water from wells.

Despite having a well-established aqueduct system nationwide, many communities do not have a guaranteed and continuous source of clean water. In fact, only one out of four houses have a continuous supply of water, while the majority (59%) can only obtain water on certain days of the week. Meanwhile, the remaining 15% is only able to garner water once a month. On top of this deficient service, the quality of the water is often poor. Reports have said that the water often has a foul smell, yellow color and sediment.

Solutions

Urban and rural communities have decided to solve this problem themselves. This has led to urban areas hiring private companies to implement geological studies and find underground water reservoirs. Rural communities can do the same if they have the economic resources, but if they do not, they opt for dowsing.

The total cost to explore and drill a water well hovers between $15,000 to $25,000. This sum is an orbital number due to Venezuela’s current economic situation. However, with great sacrifice, urban communities can collect this sum in many different ways.

In addition to this effort, local governments are also attempting to find a solution to this problem. In fact, some have taken on the full cost of building the water wells.

The Process of Building Local Groundwater Wells in Venezuela

A scientific method to detect water underground involves the use of a piece of equipment called an Earth Resistivity Meter. It injects electricity into the subsoil through some stainless-steel electrodes that those doing the testing nail into the soil to determine the receptivity of the layers of the ground and subsoil as well as groundwater covers. Various methods use electricity to explore the soil and subsoil to find a water reservoir.

While this works well for some areas, rural areas frequently have challenges due to a lack of funds. Despite this situation, some rural communities have opted for the dowsing method. With the help of two y-shaped branches of a pigeon pea plant, these communities can detect water underground. Normally, dowsing experts survey the area near ravines, and after several experiments, the branches will tilt down indicating the water reservoir.

Other communities go simpler and go along with their intuition by perforating the ground until they find water. However, the problem with this method is that these wells are not well made and the quality of water is dubious if not dangerous.

Efforts of UNICEF to Provide Safe Water

In 2019, UNICEF began working with the Venezuelan government to supply safe water to Venezuelans. Some methods that UNICEF and the Venezuelan government will take include repairing and improving water systems, providing supply water trucks and chlorinating water in many impoverished communities.

From a panoramic perspective, building local groundwater wells in Venezuela is necessary to supply local communities. No shortcut exists regarding solving this problem. To tackle this issue, Venezuela requires economic investments from both the private and public sectors to bring the vital resource of water to all of its citizens.

– Carlos Eduardo Velarde Vásquez
Photo: Flickr

Improving Water Access In BrazilThe South American country of Brazil has an abundant water supply. In fact, Brazil’s water supply makes up 20% of the entire water supply of the world. Brazil’s energy sector is significantly dependant on water as the country uses hydropower for 62% of its energy. Irrigation activities to preserve Brazil’s important agriculture industry uses 72% of Brazil’s water supply. Despite an abundance of water, many people in Brazil find it challenging to gain access to reliable water and sanitation. While the wealthier part of Brazil’s population has better access to water and sanitation, the more impoverished part of the population struggles with obtaining these resources. Due to the dire circumstances that disadvantaged people in Brazil find themselves in, organizations are dedicating efforts to improving water access in Brazil.

Water.org Assists

According to Water.org, three million Brazilians lack access to safe water. Lack of access to clean water and sanitation impacts the socioeconomic development of Brazil and also affects people’s health. During the COVID-19 pandemic, safe water access is vital for hygienic measures to prevent transmission of the virus.

Water.org is an organization dedicated to ensuring that people worldwide have access to safe water and sanitation resources. According to Water.org, financing can often be an obstacle to water access. In order to resolve this, Water.org implemented the WaterCredit Initiative loan program. By providing small loans, financial barriers are overcome and people have access to water and sanitation. Thanks to more than 15 years of WaterCredit’s efforts, more than 36 million people in 13 countries have access to safe water and sanitation facilities.

Lower-income communities in Brazil do not receive the same amount of financing as the wealthy. This makes the population even more vulnerable. Using the WaterCredit Initiative, Water.org has been able to provide safe water and sanitation for 107,000 Brazilians. With this success, Water.org plans on continually improving water access in Brazil.

Providing Water in Sao Paulo

The state of Sao Paulo in Brazil is heavily urbanized and susceptible to water shortages. To rectify this problem, the World Bank and partners devised the Sao Paulo Water Recovery Project. The project targeted communities around the five key watersheds of Sao Paulo and aimed to reduce the amount of water wasted and improve upon existing water systems. Furthermore, the project worked closely with water providers in Sao Paulo and was successful in many ways. Certainly, the project’s efforts helped to benefit almost 98,000 people by the project’s close in May 2017. The project was able to save 47 million cubic meters of water annually. The total amount of recovered water amounts to a water supply adequate for a city of 800,000 people, which reveals how successful recovery efforts were.

The efforts of organizations provide long-term solutions to improve living conditions for impoverished people in Brazil. By improving water access in Brazil, the right to water access is upheld and people are able to live better quality lives.

Jacob E. Lee
Photo: Unsplash