Aid Sri Lanka Foundation

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Saturday 18 June 2005

From: Claire de Boursac

Received by: Email.

Ralapanawa: Request for Water

Aid Sri Lanka has been approached by Ralapanawa School to fund a project to provide water to the school and village in the dry zone.

Ralapanawa school is situated in a poor, rural area in Sri Lanka’s dry zone, approximately 80 miles North North East of Colombo. Receiving only one monsoon in the spring, water becomes scarce towards the end of the summer and severe shortages are common towards the end of the year.

In light of the local water shortages and the difficulties the school experiences during the dry season, the school plans to build a well on its land. Despite their poverty, the villagers raised the necessary funds and work commenced. However, the contractors disappeared with the money after making the preliminary excavations, leaving a shallow hole. The principal is requesting assistance to complete the work on the well.

The proposal is for a shallow well 20 feet deep and 15 feet wide to be situated in an area of land owned by the school but currently unused. The well will provide water to the school and to an estimated 250 local families. Currently, the villagers travel up to 3 km to get water. With no motorised transport the journeys are made on foot or bicycle. In addition to being time-consuming and physically strenuous, particularly in the high temperatures, the area is home to wild elephants which are extremely dangerous. The current lack of water causes problems for the school not only in terms of providing drinking water for the children but for toilets, washing and keeping the plants in the playground alive.

A visit to the village confirmed that the well was much needed and would be a good use of the funds provided by Sibford School. However, there were concerns about the existing proposal. Decades of irrigation and the rock types present in the area mean that water here is typically hard and often saline. The chances that the well will produce salty water are high. While the villagers do not see this as problematic, having consumed salty water for many years, the idea does not sit well with us. There are clearly health implications and recent studies reveal a high incidence of chronic renal failure in Sri Lanka’s dry zone population which has been attributed to the consumption of this low quality water. It therefore seems sensible to undertake investigations to ensure that we are providing the highest quality water the area has to offer. We left with promises to return with experts. We believe very strongly in undertaking high quality projects which bring the maximum benefit to the community.