Many African water wells in disrepair

An estimated 50,000 water boreholes, pumps and wells installed with foreign aid are lying derelict in Africa for want of basic maintenance, New Scientist reports, citing a study presented at the recent World Water Forum. Millions of African women still are having to collect water from distant rivers and dirty ponds as a result.


Jamie Skinner of the London-based International Institute for Environment and Development, the study’s author, estimates that US$300 million of investment has been wasted. Such waste undermines the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goal of bringing clean water to half of the world’s estimated billion people who are still without it by 2015.


Key problems, Skinner says, are poor design and poor construction. Although aid agencies like to use local contractors – thereby providing work and helping local economies – many are slipshod, corrupt or incompetent. Also, local committees that manage completed projects often find that when repairs are needed, there are no funds for maintenance.


“It is not enough to drill a well and walk away,” the magazine quoted Skinner as saying. “You can rarely declare ‘job done’ with any confidence.” In the Menaka region of Mali, he said, 80% of wells are dysfunctional, while in northern Ghana, 58% need repair.


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