March 2013

Communication helps us to get water on our own

According to Antonio Becerra, the project coordinator of AGUA TUYA, we need more communication within the different sectors of water committees in order to help people get water. Since the water conflict in Cochabamba in 2000, AGUA TUYA has constructed the small size water systems in peri-urban area and provided training on management and maintenance of water systems for water committees.

By: Taisuke Azuma
Projects Abroad Volunteer
Kanagawa-ken – Japan

Forms of water storage in rural areas
Photo: Courtesy of Agua Tuya

Nowadays approximately 102,200 of Cochabamba´s inhabitants have access to safe drinking water thanks to the work of AGUA TUYA. Every year the population of Cochabamba is gradually increasing; the city today has over 600,000 people (registration 2007), which means more water is needed. To meet the needs of the citizens AGUA TUYA decided on a different approach in contrast to a common one. It does not construct the pipelines directly to the main pipes running in the center of Cochabamba. Instead they started to work with the secondary networks independent from the main ones at the suburban area, where SEMAPA (municipal water supplier) cannot provide the service.

In 2012, AGUA TUYA has implemented three local projects for more than 1,000 households. The main purpose of the project “7 esquinas” is to construct the water distribution system for 673 households in Sacaba. Two other projects, “Lomas de San Miguel” and “Pampas de San Miguel”, have developed the district 9 for 350 households in Cochabamba. In Sacaba they dug down wells to supply water for people, as it is the cheapest solution (2Bs./m2). On the other hand, in Cochabamba they constructed large water tanks for the distribution of water to the community. Water costs are a little bit higher than wells (18 Bs./ m2). These projects help citizens have access to tap water 24 hours a day.

The activity of AGUA TUYA is composed of two main projects now; the Swedish Embassy finances one of them. The financed project including the above-mentioned three projects started in 2009 with an agreement for three years. In March 2013 the project will be completed and approximately 1,260 households will have access to water. The other project is the public private partnership negotiated in 2004, called “Agua para Todos” *1. Although now it gradually expands the area to supply water involving local water committees, the situation is getting better, in the past the citizens had struggled to get clean water.

For the purpose of decreasing the national and municipal company’s debt, the Drinking Water and Sanitation Law in October 1999 allowed the new consortium, known as “Aguas del Tunari”, to administrate the water and sanitation system in Cochabamba. Within three months they increased the average cost of supplied water by 35 % to compensate SEMAPA’s debt and Misicuni Multipurpose Project. High-income householders paid around twice as much as before while people with low-income paid increases as little as 10%.

Information dissemination on project, water fees, etc.
Pampas San Miguel

Photo: Courtesy of Agua Tuya

In January 2000, the first protest against the contract and increases in water prices occurred and escalated in April. In early April, the strikes had lasted for 4 days and the military was therefore installed to restore order. An agreement was finally reached when hundreds had been injured and one young boy had been killed. The agreement was settled between protest leaders and the government. The private contract was cancelled and the control of water system rolled back to SEMAPA.

The water progress in Cochabamba once again accelerated with the meeting of the top of SEMAPA and AGUA TUYA in 2002. The partnership, which is known as “Agua para Todos”, was formed in 2004. The objective of the partnership is “to provide households in the southern part of the town which are not yet connected to the main water pipelines with access to tap water to an affordable price”. The project was started by four sectors; municipal water supplier (“SEMAPA”), commercial enterprise (“Agua Tuya”), 2 micro finance institutions (“Pro-Habitat” and “CIDRE”) and water committees.

Each sector has different roles, which means that they have divided areas between them. SEMAPA constructs the main water distribution systems and designs the whole plan for the other sectors to direct the secondary networks with main pipes in the future. On the other hand, AGUA TUYA constructs the secondary distribution systems and provides technical training to the water committees for management and maintenance of networks. Due to the award of SEED that the partnership got in 2006 two other organizations were attached to the project. One of the new participants is the municipal government of Cochabamba (the Alcadía), which is the financer for “Agua para Todos” projects and monitors it.

“The active participation and coordination between citizens, municipalities and the private sector (NGO´s, etc.), none of these actors will be able to solve the problem on their own.” Marie Claude, the communication manager of AGUA TUYA, explained the needs of communication with citizens. AGUA TUYA has provided the training courses of management and maintenance for the local water committees several times a year after their construction of distribution systems. However, there are too many committees and therefore it is impossible to reach all of them. “If there is communication, people know there are alternative solutions”, Antonio Becerra said. People, from the different water committees, who knew SEMAPA as the only solution, came to construct pipelines, but are now able to empower themselves and look for other sorts of solutions and not just wait until SEMAPA works.

The project of the Swedish embassy plans to finish in March 2013 and AGUA TUYA will start new projects on its own. Antonio explained that the new objective of 2013 is to connect 1,000 households to the water distribution networks. It takes much time for all citizens of Cochabamba to get water at affordable costs. To expand the networks more rapidly we have to act on our own, not wait for the services of the municipal. It is important to communicate and share information with other water committees.

Making international politics accessible to students
What is a Model United Nations?
It is a simulation of the United Nations in which students take the place of a delegate of a country (usually not their own) and debate about different world issues. They sit in committees, as for example the Human Rights Council, and talk about the situation of human rights in Iran or alike.
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