Cleaning and repairing old (deep) wells
There are many wells in Bangladesh. Most of the shallow wells are mainly private property, but the expensive deep wells are usually owned by a user community and were built by the government or an aid organization. These wells are used extremely frequently and some are therefore in poor condition. The predominantly manual pumps wear out over time with heavy use. The wells are maintained by the user communities within their means. Minor repairs, such as replacing screws or seals, can still be carried out without any problems. However, over time, larger repairs can also occur, such as broken rods or broken well pipes. Old wells in particular (> 10 years old) are often simply blocked, as mud and fine sand are increasingly drawn into the filter slots over the years until the well eventually stops supplying water. As a result, the villagers have to drink the shallow groundwater containing arsenic or transport clean water over long distances.
This is because many villages already have a deep well - but unlike the shallow wells, these break down much more frequently and quickly and can no longer be repaired. As a rule, a new well may then be drilled at some point by the government or an aid organization. This is not necessary, as a simple cleaning with compressed air can quickly remedy the situation. During our field visit in November 2023, we therefore paid particular attention to these "broken" wells. A local drilling company was able to make almost all of the wells work again and the costs were a fraction of what a new well would have cost. During our stay, four wells were made usable again. We involved the user communities as much as possible - all of them were even willing to contribute to the repair of their wells - through financial participation, labor or donations in kind such as used well pipes.
The continued use of existing wells makes much more sense than the constant construction of new wells. This is why we will continue to support the repair and cleaning of old wells in the future. A well can be repaired with a donation of just €50 to €100. And that's not all - because the useful radius of a functioning well can simply be extended with pipes. More on this in the next news article.
Here are a few impressions of the work:
Hindu well in Kanaipur: In this deep well, the well pipe was broken in a shallow area of the well. The village community had already made several makeshift repairs, but a proper repair was too expensive. It was unusable for more than a year. The shallow well directly behind it supplies arsenic-rich water but was still used a lot. After more than a week of hard work, the drilling company was finally able to repair the well. It has now been fitted with an electric pump and a tank. The users contributed a lot to all the work. In the photo, the drilling company is removing the well pipe that was pushed into the broken pipe by the users for repair.
In addition to this well, the drilling company in Kanaipur was able to repair another well near the market square by cleaning it on our behalf. There was also a defective well directly on the market square, but it could no longer be repaired, so we had a new one drilled near it. Market squares are central places that are visited by many people. This is why there is a particularly high demand for water here.
Gujakhair school well: The school well in Gujakhair was a deep well with a hand-operated swivel pump, but it always provided cloudy, bad-smelling and bad-tasting water and was therefore hardly used. Manual swivel pumps for deep wells are extremely difficult to operate and therefore not suitable for children. The children drank the extremely arsenic-laden water in the toilet block next door. The drilling company cleaned the well for several days with compressed air (the pupils had a lot of fun with this, as can be seen in the picture) and filled the lower part with glass balls to prevent future turbidity from being stirred up. The well now supplies clean, clear water. The hand pump has been replaced by an electric pump and now fills the water tank on the toilet block from which the children take their drinking water.
Korgaon community well: The community well was built to a very high standard over 10 years ago by a Bangladeshi aid organization. However, it is extremely heavily used, as a result of which the inner rods of the manual swing pump have broken several times and have been welded several times. Eventually, however, a valve broke off and a simple repair was no longer possible. The drilling company was able to salvage the broken part and extensively regenerate the well. It is currently being operated again with the original manual swivel pump. However, we have offered to support the user community with the conversion to an electric pump with tanks and pipes. This makes it easier to draw water and considerably reduces the distance to the water for many villagers.