Rain, sand and sun

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Marj Moore

If the Japan International Cooperation Agency (J.I.C.A.) was to be given a report card as a donor agency to developing countries, it would probably include the comment “a quiet achiever”.

This quiet achiever has made it possible for a large section of Samoa to anticipate a regular and safe supply of one of the basics of life – water.  

Established in August 1974, J.I.C.A. underwent a merger in 2008 that led it to become one of the world’s largest bilateral and most comprehensive development agencies, according to the JICA website. 

In a speech by their president, Shinichi Kitaoka, he said the organisation has dedicated itself to efforts that range from contributions to achieving the Millennium Development Goals (M.D.G.’s) to peace-building, infrastructure development and human security. 

And under the banner of infrastructure development with the scheduled completion of the 40.8 million tala Water Treatment Project in August this year, Samoa will have as many reasons to give thanks for this generous and timely assistance. 

Despite substantial technical assistance from other donor countries over the past 30 years or so and a substantial annual, average rainfall of 3,000mm, there have always been periods where there was either no water supply for the general public because of claimed ‘shortages’, or simply mud-clogged water coming through taps which was undrinkable.

This problem seemed as ridiculous as the fact that despite our more than 3,500 hours of sunshine, our government moved at a snail’s pace to harness the sun to help address our dependence on other expensive sources of energy.   

But back to the water.

Questions as to why the water shortages occurred in the dry season as well as the wet season and to understand why storage seemed to be a problem, were never satisfactorily answered by the Samoa Water Authority.

Offers by their staff to bring a truckload of water to homes as a stopgap measure was a moot point for many who did not have, or could not afford to buy tanks in which to store it.

Nobody seemed to care and periodic vague answers from S.W.A. of farmers being to blame for clearing land upstream and thus clogging the waterways or insufficient tank capacities or that we were leaving our taps on, added to the frustration of consumers.

This was not helped by regular television advertisements proclaiming that water was life as if we were unaware of that fact, and using valuable marketing money that most people felt should be spent in fixing the supply and distribution problems    

In the meantime, a growing population and other developments placed a further strain on supplies. Fortunately, for those who could afford it, entrepreneurs saw a gap in the market and the advent of tanks of all sizes was an answer to the problem, for some.

It seemed as though there was no end in sight.

So the news that our generous friends from Japan are almost at the conclusion of this project is very welcome news. 

As is the news that the project will possibly spread to other parts of Samoa plagued by water supply problems

Andis it not rather ironic that the project uses sand as a filter – which like the sun and the rain, Samoa has always had plenty of?

© Samoa Observer 2016

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