Monday, April 22, 2013

Why is Infrastructure Important?

Last weekend a water pipe broke at the top of the hill from our new house, which also happens to be right outside the grounds of the local Catholic church/MK parish. The water caused the ground to sink and when 2 daladalas (minibuses) and a car where overtop of it, a hole developed and the three cars all fell in. 

Mabatini "sink hole"
Here is the hole with the pipe fixed and the dirt 1/2 filled in.

We first heard about the pipe breaking when on Friday we went to the new house to bring a load of stuff and start cleaning the house. There were about 20 kids and young women in the road outside our house collecting water from the stream. It’s not unusual for people to collect water from the stream, but it seemed strange that there were so many of them. That is when we found out that the water in the neighborhood had been out for several days because of the problem at the top of the hill. It’s bad enough that the neighborhood homes and businesses were out of water for days, but to make matters worse, I soon learned that the hospital at the top of the hill was also affected by the situation. This main (huge) regional hospital (with services found nowhere else in the area) was without water for the week! Can you imagine!??

Plus, the road that leads from the church to our house is completely destroyed. In all honesty, the road was not that good to begin with. It has not been passable by cars for the past 9 months, but at least motorcycles and bicycles could pass, as well as pedestrians. Now, it’s barely passable for people even on foot.

Mabatini "sink hole"
A year ago we drove down this road.

Mabatini "sink hole"
These ditches are about 3' deep.

As we were walking up the road to church on Sunday, a Bibi (grandmother) stopped to greet us and, shake my hand she said in Swahili “This road is very bad!” Uh, yeah, I’d say so!

This really highlights one of the major problems that holds Tanzania (and other developing countries) back. Access to safe roads and clean water should be a “given.” Yes, every country will experience water valve breaks and other unforeseen accidents, but for these incidents to cause so much damage is unforgivable. Mwanza is built on many hills. There is no drainage system, so, when it rains (or when water pipes break) the water runs down the hills, washing all the dirt paths and roads with it. The destruction each year is insurmountable and because development in this area increases every day, the destruction keeps getting bigger and bigger.

I just wonder what happened in the hospital when the water went out. What system do they have in place to provide sanitation in the hospital's bathrooms, scrub rooms, and wards? I cringe at the thought of how many infections happened because of this. How will this road ever be fixed? Answer: it probably won't, unless citizens in the neighborhood decide to come out with pickaxes and sandbags. But even then, when the rains come again the road will surely deteriorate again. What about the business owner who might rely on water for their hotel, restaurant or other place of business? How much money did they lose when the water was out?

These are complex problems with no easy solution but I wanted to share because to show some of the daily problems (or inconveniences, as the Tanzanians see them) that they encounter every day. Problems like these would be inconceivable in the developed world but here they are commonplace.


Anonymous said...

Yikes! Don't drive on this road ever! Don't even walk on it without stilts.

Love you,

Waldie said...

It's totally not drivable at this point. We walk up it only but take another road if we're driving.

Frederic Vogus said...

Having a broken water pipe is really troublesome, causing leaks which is a total waste of water. Some of these failures are caused by too much pressure inside the pipes. And some are from old plumbing systems that have become brittle as they are left unnoticed.