CHIMWEMWE MWALE, Lusaka
SCIENTIFIC minds aptly refer to it as a universal solvent whereas it is globally acknowledged that water is life. Its sources therefore need to be reliable, safe and clean, otherwise life would be troublesome.
Provision of clean drinking water to all Zambians remains a challenge as the country strives to inch towards meeting the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) on water and sanitation by 2015.
The struggle to attain this critical goal seems to be gaining momentum as stakeholders continue to leverage efforts aimed at sourcing water cheaply but effectively.
This is especially for people in rural areas of the country who still have a challenge in accessing clean drinking water.
Water and Sanitation Health (WASH) Forum, a non-governmental organisation, estimates that only about 62 percent of people have access to safe drinking water in Zambia.
The organisation also approximates that 50 percent of Zambians do not have access to sanitation facilities.
In an effort to help increase peopleâ€™s access to safe and clean drinking water, Village Water Zambia (VWZ) has introduced and developed markets for manual drilling of bore holes in some parts of the country.
Also known as hand drilling, the method is a shift from the commonly known and used machine drilling technique. And as they suggest, hand drilling technologies primarily utilise human energy.
Better still, borehole hand drilling equipment can easily be transported to sites where larger drilling machinery cannot be taken.
And unlike hand digging which requires a person to be physically below in the ground to dig a well (of at least one metre in diameter), hand drilling enables operators to remain above the ground and drill a narrow diameter borehole of between 50 and 200 milimetres.
Manual drilling can provide highly affordable improved groundwater sources for households and communities for both domestic and commercial use.
Drilled depths of boreholes depend on the technology and formation, but can extend to 30 metres and sometimes more.
VWZ has been conducting a case study in Western Province whose terrain is sandy, making it difficult for heavy motorised drilling equipment to drive and â€˜ploughâ€™ through the rickety sandy ground.
Provincial manager Mubiana Muyangwa says with the borehole hand drilling technology in place, the MDG on water and sanitation â€˜has been met.â€™
However, the most difficult populations to reach remain unsaved, inevitably posing a challenge to equity in access to clean drinking water between urban and rural populations.
Mr Muyangwa says the manual drilling technique being implemented in Western Province is not meant to replace the mechanised means of drilling boreholes.
The method is being used as a complementary approach in areas which are unlikely to be reached and serviced by mechanised drilling operations.
This makes the technique cost effective. Moreover, it is friendly and inclusive as it accommodates women and people living with disabilities.
â€œIt [manual drilling] was included as one of the MDG good practices by the United Nations Development Group to achieve MDG number seven [on water and sanitation],â€ Mr Muyangwa says.
To boost the hand drilling technology, VWZ has trained some enterprises to help in the manual drilling of boreholes in Western Province.
So far, VWZ has more than 150 manually drilled boreholes by the various enterprises it has engaged for the purpose of providing safe drinking water to the people of Western Province.
The engaged firms have also hand drilled over 10 boreholes for private ownership by companies and individuals. In fact, demand for private boreholes has increased particularly in farming and other outlying areas of the province.
â€œWe now envision certified enterprises running as profitable entities without depending on NGOs that have been spearheading their training. We want to scale up enterprises contracted under Government, local authorities and NGOs,â€ Mr Muyangwa says.
According to Mr Muyangwa, an increase in demand for boreholes by the private sector and individuals across Western Province is expected to rise further.
The manual drilling enterprises, Mr Muyangwa states, are based in areas of their operation as opposed to most mechanical drillers who are found in Lusaka which is located over 600 kilometres east of Mongu, the capital of Western Province.
Although cheaper, the quality of manually drilled boreholes which cost about K16, 500, is the same as for the mechanically drilled ones whose cost is over K28, 000.
The frantic effort to provide clean drinking water through cost effective sourcing of the commodity is a sure path towards attaining the MDG on water.
CHIMWEMWE MWALE, Lusaka