When we first visited Kampung Padang, their issue with drinking water was immediately evident. They walk half an hour to the well in the village to collect drinking water, twice or thrice each day. Unfiltered and exposed, their water is completely unsafe for consumption. Due to the inaccessibility to water, let alone to clean water, the villagers use the well water only for drinking and cooking. They do not clean their houses and rarely wash their utensils. Even bathing is not a daily routine for them. Unhygienic environment and habits arise due to the inaccessibility of water.
The villagers once tried to pump water from the well into a water tower they built near their settlement but failed due to technical difficulty. To address the issue, we collaborated with Engineers Without Borders (EWB) Malaysia.
Established in 2012, EWB is one of the most active voluntary engineering organizations in Malaysia. Their main efforts are focused on helping underprivileged communities in Malaysia to have access to the six basic human needs: food, shelter, power, education, healthcare, and water. Knowing that our cause aligns for Kampung Padang, EWB immediately agreed on collaborating. After a few recce trips with them to Kampung Padang, the engineers drew up a plan and together, we started our 2-days 1-night installation on Friday, 22 September 2017.
The first day’s objective was to lay out all the HDPE pipes from the well to the village settlement. We recruited help from the Orang Asli to build a cement platform for the generators and water pumps.
As the Orang Asli laid out the cement, we worked on the most time-consuming part of the installation — laying out and unspooling 500 meters of HDPE pipes, which came in 100 meters a roll. One person would hold onto one end of the pipe and start pulling as the pipes unravel like a giant slinky.
As the giant slinky gets longer, another person would start pulling from the middle to facilitate the first person pulling, and one by one, more people would pull along until the pipes are completely unravelled, and then we started unspooling, where we turn the pipes over until the giant slinky becomes one straight line on the ground. “It started off with carrying the pipes, which was pretty tiring. But I would say that it was pretty satisfying at the end.”, said Govin, a volunteering member of EWB.
We finished unspooling and laying out all the pipes before 5.30pm and took some time to rest and interact with the Orang Asli. It was during this time we learned that a proper piping system was not the only basic facility lacking in the village, Kampung Padang also has no electricity. The villagers use a carbon-zinc battery to power one small lamp every night, which lasts only 3 days. Knowing this, both Global Peace Foundation and EWB know that to truly help the village, there is still a lot of work to do.
While the first day required the hardest labour, the second day was arguably the most important, that is testing out the engineering design, to ensure it is functional.
The design uses the generator and pumps to draw water out of the well and into a storage tank placed near the well, and with another generator and pump, push the water from the storage tank to a water tower much closer to the village settlement.
After many trials and attempts, we finally successfully run the pump. It was a continuous effort to completely fill and flush the pipes with water, only then did the pump started running smoothly. When the first tank started filling up, we rejoiced!
Unfortunately, as the storage tank was filling, we noticed a crack at the side of the tank that is causing a major leakage. We placed some duct tapes on the crack to reduce water wastage, but it definitely will not last long. Reluctantly, we had to call it an end for this trip and plan for a next visit to complete the installation another time.
We made our way back to the village settlement to explain to the villagers of broken water tank storage and our plan for the next visit.
We packed up and started our return journey to Kuala Lumpur around 3.30pm. Although we did not manage to complete the installation, we know now that the design works for sure. Now, all we have to do is get a new water storage tank and let us bring on Phase II!