Friday 28 October 2005
From: Claire de Boursac
Received by: Email.
With funds raised by the pupils of Sibford School Aid Sri Lanka is making a well in Ralapanawa to provide water to this school and village in Sri Lanka’s dry zone.
In addition to providing the well which will supply the local families with water, this project encompasses an educational element, aimed at providing information on water and sanitation to the community and to help them get the most form the well.
On Friday morning the children and parents gathered once again in the school hall. Dr Senaratne who is leading the team of experts gave an informative, interesting and interactive lecture.
The lecture started with an explanation on the water cycle and moved quickly on to the issue of salinity which is a real problem in the dry zone. Dr Senaratne explained how the characteristics of Ralapanawa, including the soil minerals, geomorphology, irrigation practices and high levels of evaporation caused a layer of salty residue.
A short Q&A session confirmed that the audience had understood so far and the lecture moved on to the health implications of poor quality water. The audience offered cholera and malaria as examples. Doctor Senaratne was able to explain how these diseases associated with water were not due to the water quality but to bacteria within the water. Those caused by the water quality include dental fluorosis (characteristic brown teeth), skeletal fluorosis (responsible for the exaggerated hunchback posture of many of the elders), chronic renal problems and blue baby syndrome.
Another key factor to the ill health of the population is the use of cheap aluminium pans for cooking and storing food and water. To maximize profit margins manufacturers use scrap metals and analyses have revealed that toxic materials, including used batteries, are frequently used. When water with high fluoride content comes in to contact with this surface the toxic elements are released. Furthermore, lime and tamarind, used in most traditional dishes, further encourage this release. Traditionally clay pots were used for cooking and storing. Clay naturally adsorbs most of the mineral salts in poor quality water within half an hour. This is one reason for the low incidence of these illnesses in the previous generations.
Dr Senaratne explained the use of filters to improve water quality. Using diagrams he described the features of the well at Ralapanawa and the simple filters using paddy husks and clay that would deliver safe drinking water to them.
The last section of the presentation covered the all important “do’s and don’ts” of a tube well indicating how to get the best yield and to avoid contamination.
His 25 years experience at the University in Kandy showed. Dr Senaratne managed to keep the audience interested while imparting a lot of information, pitching it carefully so that children and parents alike understood, as was exemplified in the questions and answers sections.
It was an interesting and enjoyable morning as well as an important part of the project which will maximize the benefits for this deserving community.
The well fittings will be completed shortly and some further training components of the programme will then take place, as well as the distribution of further educational materials for the community who are keen to know how to improve the health of their loved ones.