In Myanmar, clean water to cook, bathe and grow food – all for about $2

July 31, 2015
Children in Pale township. (photo by UN-Habitat)

It’s hard to overstate the difference that reliable access to clean water makes – something that the people of Ohn Hnauk village in central Myanmar are learning firsthand.

Recently, Pact’s Shae Thot program partnered with UN-Habitat to renovate a hand-dug well and provide a pump house and engine, a 1,500-gallon overhead water tank and main pipelines to bring running water to all of the village’s 160 homes. Each has its own tap-stand and water meter.

Like all of Pact’s work, the project was carried out in partnership with the local community and in a manner that ensures lasting impact. Each household contributed $8.70 to cover the cost of installing pipeline to an individual dwelling, and the village has established a collective fund for operations and maintenance. After consulation with the the community, a new Village Water Committee has begun collecting $0.31 for every 200 gallons of water used.

That means households are spending about $2 per month for water.

Given the benefits, families in Ohn Hnauk say the cost is well worth it.

Before the new water system, the entire village relied on the same hand-dug well. It was always surrounded by stagnant water, which polluted the well and spread disease.

And a typical family had to fetch water three or four times each day, which added up to three to four hours of effort. Now households can spend that time at work or tending to businesses to boost their income. For many, the extra money they make in a single day is enough to cover the month’s water bill.

Families now have the clean water they need to cook, bathe and grow food.

Shae Thot is a wide-ranging, integrated five-year development program that Pact launched in Myanmar in 2011 with funding from the U.S. Agency for International Development. Working with residents and local organizations, the program is making lasting improvements in maternal and child health, economic opportunity and food security, and water, sanitation and hygiene.

In each village where Shae Thot works, Pact helps form committees called Village Development Committees, comprised of democratically elected village members who are independent from local authorities. Through the committees, Pact supports inclusive and participatory village decision-making and transparent and accountable community planning, implementation and monitoring.

Since Shae Thot began, the program has improved access to drinking water for nearly half a million people.