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In Beheloke, the trials and rewards of providing clean water
by Israel Bionyi Nyoh
RAFALIMANANTSOA Nantenaine Narcisse Raymond distributes 4,000 to 5,000 liters of water from the water desalination plant to 5,000 inhabitants of Beheloke every day.
Beheloke is situated in the Littoral, in the Southwestern part of the region, 70 km from Toliara following the coast and 256 km from Toliara via the national road N°10. The village is situated near the sea but ironically has very little rainfall, receiving slightly above 600mm per year. Because of this the village is semi-desert and lacks a supply of clean drinking water. Drinkable, or potable, water is like gold to the villagers.
Recruited in 2012 by the local community to take care of the Beheloke desalinization plant, Mr. Narcisse, as he prefers to be called, was trained for one week by Trunz, the Swiss company that made the desalinization equipment for water filtering and purification.
“I was trained together with my colleagues to perform minor technical maintenance for the station,” says Mr. Narcisse. “I spend 9 to 10 hours of my time working at the plant. Together with my colleague Tonda we start the distribution of water between 10 to 11 a.m. and stop at 5 p.m.”.
Mr. Narcisse is very positive about his work. He says, “despite the numerous tensions and fights among villagers when there is water scarcity at the plant and at times some technical problems that are more than my capacity, I am doing quite well with my job.”
Early in the morning Mr. Narcisse makes a general roll call to ensure that each family has water to drink. The desalinization plant produces about 5 cubic meters of water every day, which should be rationed 20 liters per family. Sometimes there is not enough supply to go around, but Mr. Narcisse tries to ensure everyone is treated equally. “When the station does not produce enough water some villagers go back to their homes without water. But the next morning I serve them water first before everybody,” he explains.
During a visit to the desalination plant, Gaetan Tovondrainy, WWFs Project Manager for the local area tells me that the villagers pay 250 Ariary for each large jug of water. This is a cheaper rate than they had to pay for water delivery before the plant was working and the money is used to pay technicians and for the maintenance of the plant. He believes the village committee in charge of the plant will raise enough money to be able to sustainably take care of the plant’s technical needs.
The village committee members express hope that Trunz will give more training to Mr. Narcisse and his colleague Tonda so that they could manage the equipment and fix small technical problems.
WWF provided training for the members of the village committee on how to better manage the plant and currently continue to do evaluations and analysis of the plant operations.