Dave Tuzewski is a passionate volunteer with hands-on, extensive experience in disaster assistance and safe water installations. He recently travelled to Indonesia to assist Islamic Relief Australia (IRAUS) / Islamic Relief Indonesia (IRI) in Lombok and Palu (Sulawesi). Here are some of his recollections.

The Indonesian Government was not permitting foreigners to go to the disaster areas in Palu and Lombok to assist in the recovery efforts after the earthquakes, tsunami and liquefaction. Dave however, was permitted to assist as a foreigner and as a SkyJuice volunteer technical advisor to IRI after an initial delay.

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As most people know, Palu was recently hit with a triple whammy! First there was the severe earthquake, then the devastating tsunami followed and with no early warning! To make matters even worse, there were the effects of liquefaction in several areas.

This is an extremely tragic event and hard for us to imagine. It was even more profound (given the prior series of events) as entire communities including buildings and their occupants were literally “sucked” into a huge muddy sort of quicksand type of horror. Many people dispute the number of people lost, but certainly, the count exceeds 1500 persons.

My hosts from IR Indonesia were very gracious, open and helpful and thirsted for knowledge of how the 10 SkyHydrant units could best help in providing safe drinking water to the communities. I was certainly in my own element as I have deployed many gravity SkyJuice units over the past few years and knew how they could be deployed with immediate impact.

We jumped straight into first training session which was on arrival that very afternoon. My audience was interested and attentive, which is always empowering.  The next day we continued the broader training regime. As an incoming volunteer, unknown to me, some of them had set up towers in one of the communities in anticipation of the workshop. As we got into some of the details in the training it became clear that experience learned from prior roll-outs of towers would benefit all of the WASH participants involved. The training session was conducted in Bahasa Indonesian by the local IRI manager who was one of the attendees the previous day. They were fast learners!

The problems were easily sorted out and turned out to be a great asset to the learning experience. We were drinking Safe Water from the SkyHydrant unit in a very short time to the delight and amusement of those present.  My observation is universal, enriching and always pleasing to witness.

There were more installations planned for the region, however, it was discovered that the government had postponed reconstruction in the areas of liquefaction. Local WASH groups were still awaiting advice on proposed new sites for those that were affected.  The issues are complex and with many overlapping requirements and needs. We sometimes need to pause and assess. After some community consultation, it was decided to put the rest of the programme on hold pending allocation of land for re-establishing communities.

So keen to keep on moving, I jumped on a Garuda plane!

I was heading back to Jakarta to conduct another training session for IRI staff. Jakarta hadn’t been directly affected by the earthquakes in Sulawesi and Lombok. I was only too pleased to keep assisting staff with training for long term water projects. IRI does not only works in disaster areas, but they also have ongoing community development programs too.

They currently have two large village community water projects near Bentan in Western Java. It is not a long distance by road, but in Java, and more particularly Jakarta’s clogged roads, it takes a long time to go anywhere. This might ring a bell for some experienced readers.

The proposed water supply was an agricultural drain used for bathing, clothes washing, dishwashing and many “other” uses. The normal local norm to obtain drinking water was for a person to take a wheelbarrow with 4 jerry cans on a ½ hr return excursion to this putrid source (drain) and on return empty into an open container to sit for 3 days to “settle” somewhat. Then, the “clearer” water was boiled for drinking.

This is more than just a SkyHydrant filtration task as firstly, the water dries up for part of the year and then the runoff from the rice fields served returns back to the source in the wet season complete with insecticides. This is beyond the capacity of the SkyHydrant. Now that is not even taking into account the existing quality of the source water…YUK.

Most of the logistical problems could be solved, but alas, not the water supply.

Fortunately, in this case, we found some potable government water supplies nearby so the communities will soon have access to safe water at a reasonable cost. My message to readers is, always ask lots of questions on the feed water and the local water cycle. This exercise prevented what could have been a “deficient installation”. Supply and install with limited assessment should always be avoided.

Yep!! …it was then to another plane to Lombok. I was yet again impressed. Another set of great people were very attentive in the training session and keen to adopt better WASH outcomes. Their immediate plan was for an easy installation of a unit for one of the communities where they were working. I had not seen this site but they hoped that due to it being on a hillside, we may not need to utilise the normal gravity tower configuration. Wrong. It is so important to ask hard and “searching” questions when evaluating any proposed installation.

The ‘easy job’ turned out to be impossible where proposed it as there was “not a year-round water source”, but on further enquiries and a bit of a climb through the thick tropical growth, we found a good, year-round source. Great.

But still, experience always confirms that the implementation of a safe water project is multi-dimensional and relies on many factors. It is important to listen and discuss the issues with local community members.

The village was densely populated with little public land and most private lands were fully utilised. Luckily, one of the five sub-village elders offered a site that was suitable but not “central” to the village. As this was the only site found, a meeting of the entire community was called for the following day to discuss the issues and potential configuration options to deliver a workable solution.

It was an orderly meeting with questions and debate. I thought our Australian parliament could learn from this.

The community decided to proceed with a contractual arrangement and specific access provisions. In fact, this site was perfect in the end. It was small but adequate flat land on the hillside, which allowed one set of taps to be placed at a lower elevation on public land near an intersection of 3 footpaths. Because the tap stand was lower than the clean water, we could incorporate that tank near ground level beneath the source water tank. Adding to the stability of the stand and decreasing its height. WIN, WIN, WIN. Yippee!  What a great trip so far.

And another bonus was that we could run a pipe through mainly public land to another publicly owned site next to a mosque currently being built. BEAUTY! This is getting better.

And to cap it all off, they have a water committee that will take responsibility for the maintenance and care of the SkyHydrant and importantly IRI have a permanent presence to oversee the facility.

I was very happy that the Lombok staff and community residents had acquired the skills, knowledge and ability to install the unit, but alas, I had to go back to Jakarta for a debrief and my flight home. Yep, back on another Garuda flight.

From my perspective, it was a quick but highly rewarding and productive visit that was of immediate and obvious assistance. It reinforces my desire to continue on as a Water DART and assist with many more installations.

Finally, I am grateful for the privilege of working with such a dedicated and hardworking group at IRI as well as the people and community members assisting them to bring safe water to all.

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