Water and Sanitation in the Canadian Wilderness and Urban Slums: Which is Safer?

DG-Ken-164x172By Ken Krebs, District Governor, 2015-2016 District 5550,

How many of us go camping in the wilderness, or have gone camping in the wilderness? I know such places are getting harder to find every year, but for some of us it was the only way to camp. No modern facilities were available and it was a long distance back to civilization and safety if things went wrong. If you have never been wilderness camping here is a hint of what we needed to do to ensure our trip will be comfortable and not end up being a disaster. If you are an experienced woodsman, bear with me.

When we start planning a trip there are a number of things to take into consideration – Can-Wild-DG-Gov-News300x202among them, food supplies, water, camp sites, drop off and pick up points and so on. Once the trip has begun, we are in a different world from home. There are no water taps to conveniently fill our canteens, no warm showers to freshen up in, no sanitary facilities for when nature calls. We must plan ahead to ensure that we bring sufficient water purification gear (filters, tablets etc.) and know where good water might be found. We also have to know where we can safely hide human waste where it will not attract animals, contaminate the water supply or pollute the environment near our campsite or trail. In addition, we have to carry any garbage that we produce back home with us. And we do this for fun!

Now transport us to parts of the world where these conditions are the norm, not just a fun thing for at most a week or two. Take away our easy access to water purification gear. Then add to that an area where the population is so high that it is difficult to dispose of our waste, both human and garbage.

We live in a part of the world where it seems impossible to not have proper water and sanitation facilities. However for a large part of our planet’s population there are only rudimentary facilities, if any at all. How many of us would be able to survive under these conditions, not for a few weeks, but for a lifetime? This is one of the reasons Rotary has declared March the Water and Sanitation month.

We are asked to consider carefully those places where water and sanitary conditions not only affect the health and well-being of the individuals, but affects nearly all aspects of their lives. Where water is not conveniently nearby, usually the girls and women walk several kilometers to each bring back a bucket of water for their families, sometimes several times in a day. This affects their ability to help earn monies to purchase necessities, to cook, clean, care for their children. It affects the girl’s ability to attend school in order to better their chances to find meaningful employment. Illness from contaminated water prevents those with jobs from working and students from attending school.

Similarly the lack of decent sanitary facilities increases the probability of illness. At school the girls will drop out when there is no private place for them to go to the bathroom. Again

Water-DG-203x267

Micropore filter provides clean water in Fuji (WASRAG)

there is loss of productivity, loss of schooling (literacy) and, very importantly, loss of self-esteem.

Water and sanitation is the key to the success of many Rotary projects. Water and Sanitation is fertile ground for Rotary projects. Water and Sanitation projects help in far reaching ways and have a ripple effect in the local communities. When we supply wells, water purification systems and sanitary facilities, we not only provide the equipment, but we ensure the availability of supplies for repairs and the training necessary to keep the project running indefinitely.

Clubs who have problems locating projects can go to Rotary Showcase on rotary.org to find potential partners. Some clubs and individuals may join the Water and Sanitation Rotary Action group (WASRAG) and be part of the effort through them. Another way to help is to be a generous contributor to the Rotary Foundation. Through the Foundation your money will be used to fund projects around the world, including water and sanitation projects. Talk to your club’s Foundation Chair to see how you can help.

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