Palimbe Village Water Project

Developed by Members of the Palimbe Village with support from PPP

OBJECTIVE: Since September 2013, Pacific Peoples’ Partnership (PPP) has been working with community members of the Palimbe* village in the Middle Sepik River region of Papua New Guinea.  We are seeking $25,000 to support the purchase and installation of urgently needed rain water containment storage equipment to safe guard the village’s drinking water.


DESCRIPTION OF PROJECT: Two 5000 litre rainwater tanks are to be installed at Palimbe village, on the Middle Sepik River, in order to provide a local supply of potable water to the community. River water is unsafe to drink and, in the dry season, requires a long walk for the women and children who normally perform this task; there are no springs within walking distance of the village.  Rainfall is heavy through half of the year, from November to April; the remainder is drier but there is enough rain to keep the tanks filled. Recently, with global warming, the area has been wetter and the distinction between wet and dry seasons less pronounced.

In the past the village has successfully utilized and managed rainwater storage systems. These systems are now past the end of their serviceable life and have been repurposed within the village. The new tanks will be installed in elevated frames, and roofed over with galvanized iron. Rainwater will be collected through PVC gutters and drain pipe.  Hardware will be sourced from a hardware store in Wewak; framing will be sawn from local timber near the site.

Funding is needed to cover the costs of purchase of materials, truck and river transport, hiring of sawmill workers and a carpenter to supervise construction, a small honorarium for the community volunteers who will assist with carrying and assembly, plus facilitation and modest overhead costs.  The project is estimated to require 4-6 months to carry out.


About the Village of Palimbe:  Palimbe village is near the Sepik River, in a climate that is wet for six months, with periodic flooding, and relatively dry for the other six, with intermittent rain. The only reliable local source of water at present is the river. The river water is unsafe to drink on account of disease-carrying organisms and pollution from upstream villages. There is the prospect of a mine development in the headwaters that could also contaminate the river. In the dry season villagers must walk between one to two hours each way to get water from the river.

Rainwater storage systems previously constructed from materials subject to corrosion have come to the end of their life, and have since been recycled within the community as they are no longer able to hold water.

The most important feature of this project is that it increases water security for 579 villagers living within Palimbe. 466 of these villagers are women and children who are responsible for carrying water back and forth from the river in the dry season. This can take between 1-2 hours each way. The proposed rain water storage system will alleviate this additional labour for women and children in the village.

The village of Palimbe is home to two haus tambaran (“spirit houses”), testifying to a strong cultural life. Indeed, it is the strongest bastion of traditional values on the Sepik River. Recently, over a month was spent by the villagers restoring one of the spirit houses. All the men participated, supported by the women who provided the food for the endeavour.

A visit to the village, accessible only from the river, may entail an hour’s walk in the dry season, or in time of flood a canoe may dock in the village centre.


Health Concerns:  A recent water filtration project proposal (Greenaway, 2013) elsewhere on the Middle Sepik River calls attention to the fact that: “The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that 88% of diarrheal disease is caused by unsafe water supply, inadequate sanitation and hygiene…”, stemming in large part from the absence of nearby sources of safe water. “In rural areas of PNG the Ministry of Health is responsible for… the monitoring of water supply systems, but there is little or no regular monitoring…The main source of contamination of drinking water is bacteriological, originating from human and animal wastes, particularly in rural areas where the proportion of rural households having access to safe human waste disposal systems, such as some form of pit latrine, is estimated as to be as low as 15%. Statistics clearly show that water related diseases, in particular diarrheal disease, are the commonest cause of mortality and morbidity in all provinces [of PNG]…”. WaterAid, an international NGO, estimates that over half of the rural people of PNG lack access to safe water supplies.

A study was recently carried out of the quality of water produced by rain catchments in East Sepik Province, in comparison with traditional drinking water sources (Horak et al., 2010). Fifty-four water sources in 22 villages were evaluated for enterococci and E. coli densities as well as 14 health-relevant metals. In addition, the authors examined how the prevalence of diarrhoeal illness in villages relates to the type of primary drinking water source. The majority of tested metals were below World Health Organization safety limits, but rain catchment water sources had lower enterococci and E. coli than other water sources. Individuals in villages using Sepik River water as their primary water source had significantly higher incidence of diarrhoea than those primarily using other water sources (streams, dug wells, and catchments).

It is clear from this information that clean water is a priority need for villages such as Palimbe, especially for the children, and that all aspects of village life are favourably impacted by improvements in water quality, such as substituting rainwater for river water in the drinking water supply.


About Palimbe Village Community Involvement:  This project and its development have been envisioned by Palimbe village members. The village members are committed to ensuring the success of this project, and have asked for the support of PPP, to assist them with access to funding and with general project support. PPP also intends to utilize this opportunity to build capacity within the village by providing appropriate expertise to support the project monitor, through training for system maintenance and reporting. Further we are committed to working with the village in future phases of project work which would likely entail ensuring safe water filtration systems.

Please contact PPP if you would like any additional information on this project.

References

  •  Note: The spelling for Palimbe village has several variations including: Palemebei, Palambei
  •  Greenaway, Paul (2013) Korogo Project – Life Straws for Middle Sepik, Papua New Guinea. Private project proposal.
  •  Horak HM, Chynoweth JS, Myers WP, Davis J, Fendorf S, Boehm AB (2010). Microbial and metal water quality in rain catchments compared with traditional drinking water sources in the East Sepik Province, Papua New Guinea. J Water Health 8(1), pp.126-38