July 23, 2014

Water, Safe and Close, Makes Life Simpler in Rural Myanmar

Residents learn how to manage and maintain Myine Thar Yar village’s new supply of clean water Photo: Yoko Ito, CWS Japan

Safe water was hard to come by for the residents of two villages in Kayin State, Myanmar, who were used to walking miles to fetch water from shallow, unclean wells and streams.

"It was very difficult for them to get safe drinking water especially during dry season. Some people had to walk to get water for more than two hours," said Yoko Ito, program coordinator for CWS Japan.

Services of any kind are in short supply in Myine Thar Yar, a village of farmers, with almost no basic infrastructure. There is no water supply system, no electricity, no public school, and no health center,” Ito said.  

Now, following completion of a water project that serves Myine Thar Yar and an adjoining village, residents can strike “no water supply system” from list of things their community is lacking.   

The new system, which uses gravity to move water downhill from the source to a designated spot in the village, provides a dependable supply of safe water for drinking and domestic use to 33 households of 163 people.  It is the result of a CWS initiative, with additional funding from the Japan Platform, to strengthen the community’s capacity to implement and manage vital development projects.  

The water project already is changing lives.

Saw Thein Ye has lived in Myine Thar Yar with his family for more than a decade. He has the good fortune of living right across from the new water supply.  For him, the close proximity is more than just a convenience that allows him to walk steps instead of miles for water. Saw Thein Ye [Myanmar people do not have family surnames] said the water system has freed up time for him to do other things, which means an increase in productivity.  “I can easily get water whenever I want it, and we can work more now as we do not have to spend time for water.”  

Importantly, the development project also included training so that the people of the village could gain the technical and management skills necessary to make the project sustainable, a hallmark of all CWS development initiatives. 

A resident of Myine Thar Yar, in Myanmar lays pipe for the village’s new water system. Photo: Yoko Ito, CWS Japan

“We trained people on how to manage the community based project as well as how to construct the water supply system and how to maintain it,” Ito explained.  “People worked with the carpenters and a civil engineer and now they are able to have water near their homes.” 

In addition to the obvious health benefits of safe water residents are pleased that  the local managers also have designed an equitable system of distribution. “I feel secure now when taking a bath,” says village resident Cho. The water is clean and good for health and each household has an equal and fair share of water.”

The water is distributed at a fixed time, which resident Than Win appreciates and it is close enough, she said, that “even the children can get it.” The new ease of access comes at a time when the community, which was affected by the civil war in Myanmar, could experience an influx of residents. 

CWS’s Ito described the situation as “calm now after the cease fire agreement between the government and non-state armed groups.”  With the end of fighting, though, “We are expecting that internally-displaced people and refugees will return to this village in the near future," she added. 

At the very least, those who return will share in the experience of lives made  both simpler and healthier because of the construction of a water system that has made safe water readily accessible, even during the dry season.