“Water is life,” is a true statement, but in the tropics clean water is essential for a healthy life. The main objective of this development project was to rehabilitate eight water sources in the Okapi Wildlife Reserve to provide safe drinking water by building clean and well-protected sources of spring water for the local communities residing inside the Reserve. To safeguard the Okapi Wildlife Reserve and its biodiversity, it is important to do so with the involvement and support of local communities. If people are sick or lethargic, they can only focus on their daily needs and cannot look at big picture issues. To have discussions about future resource use, people need to be healthy and not be worried about the health of their children. In a survey of women living inside the Reserve conducted in 2016, their number one concern was access to clean water.
The springs, which OCP initially protected in the 1990s, had fallen into unacceptable conditions and poor hygiene. The water points were covered with mud, exposed to the weather and difficult to access. Children and women represent a significant proportion of users of these sources and spent an inordinate amount of time each day waiting to collect water for their daily use. It was determined that the water source remediation project would help avoid the risks associated with poor hygiene and contaminated water-related diseases, which may directly or indirectly cause dengue fever, yellow fever, sleeping sickness, malaria, cholera, diarrhea, hepatitis A and E, meningitis, polio, and intestinal parasites
The work to rebuild the eight water sources began in May 2017, and the last source will be finished by the end of October. The OCP construction team consisted of supervisor Mbete, an experienced mason, and a mason’s assistant. OCP staff provided the logistical support to purchase, transport the construction materials and all the work involved to build the source retaining walls and concrete apron and steps.
The spring outlets are encased in concrete and surrounded by a concrete apron that keeps the area around the spring from being polluted by humans and animals. With a little maintenance, the sources can be used by the same communities for a number of years, thus making it possible for women and girls to access clean water that is close to their villages and easy to transport back to their homes.
Once they are all complete, the 8 rehabilitated sources will make life easier for over 8,000 people (mostly women and girls) by providing them with high flow, clean water source that can be accessed safely and quickly providing them with more hours in a day to devote to other interests.
For the supervisory engineer, Mbete, who is in charge of the infrastructure of the water rehabilitation project, this activity is very important and vital for the well-being of the local communities’ in the OWR because their lives depend on it. “Under the unsatisfactory conditions around these sources, communities were not only exposed to water-borne diseases but also given the large number of users, water requirements and the amount of water that was flowing, they were obliged to spend hours and hours at the springs to take their turn to access the water.
Through these repairs, their efforts to access water are diminished, and the quality of water is much improved. We intend to continue rebuilding water sources to ensure the quality and availability of water for all the local communities resident in the Okapi Wildlife Reserve.”
Our educators had the chance to speak with many women that use the sources daily, and all were very pleased with the initiative to rehabilitate the water sources that were in poor condition. Not only did the women have to wake up very early in the morning around 4:00 am to be the first in line because the water flow was so low, but their children also suffered from regular stomach aches and typhoid fever due to the poor water quality and unhygienic conditions. After the repairs were completed, each woman could fill up their containers quickly because of the easy access to the spigot and the strong flow of clean water. The lines are shorter, less time is wasted waiting to access the water, and their children have suffered less from water-borne diseases.