Monday, May 10, 2010

In the under-developed world a water source may never return

When we lose water in the developed world, it's only for a few days, but in the under-developed world, the only water source can be lost forever. A blog post we ran across today makes this comparison. OXFAM worker Lydia Rebac lost water in her hometown for a little bit, but a village she worked at in Ethiopia wasn't so lucky.

From Passport blog at the Boston Globe, Rebac talks about an Ethiopian village that she will return to visit this June.

A few days before, I’d received another unforgettable message. This one came in an e-mail from Moyale, Ethiopia, where a friend is an aid worker for Oxfam. The subject line read, “Gone for good.”

Last week, he wrote, Ketele Pond was destroyed by torrential rains -- an unexpected and disastrous counterpoint to the persistent droughts plaguing the region. The parched earth just couldn’t absorb the water, and the pond overflowed its run-off channel.
I visited Ketele Pond on my trip to southern Ethiopia eight months ago. The pond was wide and flat, softened at the edges, a shallow bowl reflecting the pale afternoon sky. It’s nothing impressive to look at, until you realize that it’s the only clean drinking water source for thousands of families in this remote area. Ketele is in fact partly man-made, shored up by local aid groups in an effort to protect the water supply during the dry season.

When we opened the photos attached to the email, one of my Boston colleagues, who was with me on the trip, gasped as though in pain. Ketele’s water had bled out, thick and red-tinged like the rust-colored soil. The pond itself was a puddle: shrunken, diminished.

On the shores of Ketele, I saw dozens of women and girls carrying yellow, 40-gallon plastic jugs. Some laughed as they scooped up water, tying the jugs to the backs of donkeys or to their own backs, getting ready for the hours-long journey back to their home villages. These jugs held their families’ water supply for the day -- their only water for drinking, cooking, and a dozen other essential tasks.

I don’t know what those girls and their families are doing now that Ketele is gone.

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