Water is life: make it a lifetime service
It was a longtime coming for the villagers of Tanumalala who welcomed the sight of the excavators doing the water-pipe laying work on the roadside leading into the village.
And if there is any truth to the personal testimonies of the residents – that it has taken over 80 years to finally get the water taps running in this inland village on Upolu – then it is indeed a project worth celebrating.
An article on the new water supply project (Clean water connection inspires Tanumalala residents’ gratitude) was published in the Tuesday 11 January 2022 edition of the Samoa Observer.
A number of Tanumalala residents told the Samoa Observer that they were elated that the work has finally started to get the village connected to the Samoa Water Authority (S.W.A.) water network.
In fact a villager, who did not want to be identified, said her grandfather died when he was 80 years of age and that is how long the Tanumalala community had waited before work began recently on the water supply project.
So how is it that a section of the community on Upolu Island did not get connected to Samoa’s water network for over 80 years? Or did someone in authority simply fall asleep on the job resulting in this inland community on Upolu missing out on a vital resource for close to a century?
It is mind boggling how this could have happened in this day and age, especially with the previous Human Rights Protection Party (H.R.P.P.)-led Administration championing the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (S.D.G.) with S.D.G. 6 specifically focusing on water and sanitation.
S.D.G. 6 exalts the benefits of “clean water and sanitation” with the global goal of offering “safe and affordable drinking water for all by 2030.”
Obviously, one community in Upolu missed out on having access to this vital resource for close to a century, and no one in the Government appeared to care over the years until recently.
But we should not be surprised with this omission of a vital service to a long suffering community, as it has happened before to a district 55 km to the east of Upolu, Aleipata-Itupa-i-Lalo. The Aleipata-Itupa-i-Lalo district villages of Lotopu'e, Saleaumua, and Utufa'alalafa were without water for 30 years until they were connected to the S.W.A. network in December last year.
Most of these villagers in the Aleipata-Itupa-i-Lalo district had relocated from their seaside homes and moved further inland, following the devastating 2009 earthquake and tsunami which claimed 149 lives in Samoa.
So what happened to the millions of tala that the Samoa Government received at that time from the international community following the natural disaster?
Surely some of that funding could have been used to connect the disaster-affected villagers to the water supply and they did not have to wait until last December to have access to this vital resource.
In December 2021 the Asian Development Bank (A.D.B.) released a report on its work in the Paciﬁc water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) sector in a bid to “plan, improve and extend sustainable WASH sector services.”
The report titled “Review of Opportunities for the Pacific WASH Sector” provided a snapshot of the sector during the COVID-19 pandemic period from March 2020 to August 2021. The report shared light on the “experiences, lessons, and aspirations” of Pacific nations to take on the challenges posed by the pandemic.
According to the A.D.B. report, the country is blessed with an abundance of water resources, as it has over 40 river systems with “surface water” accounting for 65 per cent of the water supply and ground water 35 per cent.
The A.D.B. report further stated that the S.W.A. supplies water to about 89 per cent of Samoa’s population with the independent water scheme supplying 10 per cent through village-owned systems.
“Although the percentage of population with water access is high, work remains to ensure that access is continuous and of reliable quality,” the A.D.B. report stated.
The A.D.B. report on the availability of water in Samoa confirms that supply and accessibility for the general population to this vital resource should not be an issue for this nation of over 195,000 people.
With most communities in Samoa now with access to water, there should not be any reason why families either in Upolu or Savai’i should go without it.
And for those who are unable to afford the service, the Government through the S.W.A. should consider the formulation of policies to specifically cater for poverty-stricken families, who will not pay but still have access to water.
To deny water to families and communities is a denial of their human rights. There is an abundance of this resource in Samoa – let’s make it available to all.