Still no fresh water nearly a year after cyclone Nargis

Mar 23, 2009 (DVB), Villages in Irrawaddy division are still struggling for fresh water nearly a year after sources were inundated by seawater and debris, including human and animal corpses, from cyclone Nargis.

According to locals and aid workers in Irrawaddy, finding fresh drinking water had remained difficut for residents in about 80 villages in Bogalay, Mawlamyaingkyun and Laputta townships.

Many villagers have had to travel long distances via boats to fetch water since the cyclone hit last May.

"In some villages, people have to travel to far places, sometime an hour's boat ride away on the river to get to fresh water wells," said one villager.

"Those who are unable to travel can buy water from those who sell it in the villages for 1000 kyat [$US1] a bucket."

Some NGOs and international organisations, including France's Red Cross, have been installing water purifying machines and digging new wells in affected areas, said the villager.

Their geographical spread, however, has meant that not all areas have been covered.

The leader of the National League for Democracy's Nargis Relief Committee, Ohn Kyaing, said it was a worrying situation for the villagers located in a region that was known for water shortages in summer even before the cyclone hit.

"In places that are near to the sea, like Laputta, people in summertime have to rely on rainwater from the previous year which has been stored in lakes and ponds," said Ohn Kyaing.

"But for this year, they will have no water to use as all the local lakes and wells were polluted by muddy seawater, dirt, and dead human and animal corpses during the cyclone."

The Nargis Relief Committee had managed to help clean around 100 wells in 60 villages in the south of Laputta last year, he added.

The owner of a clinic in Laputta, Dr Aye Kyu, said that the water pollution crisis may lead to an outbreak of diseases such as cholera, which is common in the region, and broke out in Laputta nearly seven years ago.

Farmers have also suffered as a result of continued contamination of land.

Farming equipment bought on credit from private companies has been taken back after farmers failed to pay installments following a poor harvest that left them with insufficient money, said a local in Bogalay township.

Reporting by Nan Kham Kaew

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