UMCOR

United Methodist Committee on Relief

Collaboration for clean water

In Papua New Guinea, villagers including schoolchildren of Enduga Egu show appreciation for UMCOR
In Papua New Guinea, villagers including schoolchildren of Enduga Egu show appreciation for UMCOR's support for their improved water supply.

By David Tereshchuk *

September 25, 2015—The people of Papua New Guinea (PNG) are employing innovation and collaboration to confront the challenges posed to them by drought, especially in acquiring and maintaining accessible, clean water supplies.

Climate patterns affecting PNG, located in the South Pacific, have been changing significantly. There has been a serious lack of rainfall during each of the past two years, for example, as the ocean-warming phenomenon of El Niño has affected the entire Pacific Rim.

In the highland regions particularly, people frequently have to seek out new sources of water such as natural springs that are not yet drying up, according to Mike Barbee, Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) technical officer for UMCOR, the United Methodist Committee on Relief. This is the case in the village of Enduga Egu, which Barbee visited last month.

Collaboration and creativity

“As is often the case, thankfully,” says Barbee “this project originated with determined, creative individuals coming together to energize the rest of the community to make necessary changes.” The Egu Community Group, a local community-based organization, provided that initial impulse.

Villagers then came up with a plan to harness water from springs that, while more reliable than their old, dried-up sources, were much farther away. They would create a dam to capture water flow from three different springs. Then they would pipe the water all the away—nearly four miles—to the community, where they would install a series of communal taps. Each tap would serve about 20 households.

“Before the pipes were laid, villagers had to make a two-hour trek to the springs every three days,” Barbee said. “Not only did they walk a great distance, they also climbed steep inclines.”

Working together for the good of all

Another challenge to overcome was the historic tribalism of the highland areas. Such rivalry lay behind some contested land issues in much of the terrain the pipes had to cross.

“Thanks to the Egu Community Group’s willingness to partner with others, a holistic approach was hammered out that emphasized the greater good,” Barbee said. The result: Some 18,000 people will benefit when the successful venture is completed next year.

Barbee summed up: “It’s encouraging to see what’s been collaboratively achieved already. The community’s work has fostered great hope in its ability to address other challenges they face, such as good sanitation and improving their health.”

Your gift to UMCOR Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene, Advance #3020600, will support our work with partners like those in Papua New Guinea to help communities become more water-secure.

*David Tereshchuk is a journalist and media critic who contributes regularly to www.umcor.org.

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