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Infrastructure: Improving Africa's Water Supply


American investors and US officials meet their African counterparts next week in Bethesda, Maryland, for the first annual US-Africa Infrastructure Conference. Among the participants will be those working with some of the continent’s most important resources, its lakes and rivers, both as a source of power and for safe drinking.

VOA English to Africa reporter William Eagle spoke with Reatile Mochebelele, the advisor to the NEPAD Secretariat on Water and Sanitation, about hydropower generation projects. He also spoke to William Bucknam of the group Moving Water Industries about new technologies for purifying and storing drinking water.

Among those interested in harvesting water for the continent’s energy use are officials of NEPAD (the New Partnership for African Development). It is an ambitious project that aims to combine good governance, democratization and free market economic growth.

NEPAD officials say their plan for the continent’s waterways include the building of dams and reservoirs to serve the continent’s energy, irrigation and drinking water needs. For this, they are seeking foreign private investment from the West, as well as from India and China.

Reatile Mochebelele is the advisor to the NEPAD Secretariat on Water and Sanitation. He will be attending the conference to explain NEPAD’s initiatives to investors.

“African countries were split up along the lines of the colonial masters, and [you will find countries sharing] most of our river basins .. you have the Nile River Basin with 10 countries – Ethiopia, Egypt, Kenya, Uganda,…etc…then the Congo, with the biggest river in that basin…in West Africa, you have the Niger River [basin] …[Our effort] involves dialogue with countries involved. We are making a major thrust to deal with transboundary water resource management by bringing all countries in the basins to dialogue and agree on action plans to benefit (the people who live there).”

Mochebele says NEPAD is looking at ways of harnessing water with reservoirs and dams.

NEPAD’S projects in West Africa include the construction of power lines between Benin, Togo and Ghana. NEPAD also plans to rehabilitate the Inga Dam power lines on the Congo River that feed southern and central Africa. A third project will connect electricity generated from Zambia in southern Africa to Tanzania and Kenya in the east.

Africa’s waterways do not just provide power; they sustain life.

Improving the continent’s drinking water is the goal of another delegate to the conference, William Bucknam. He is the vice president and general counsel for Moving Water Industries, which is based in Deerfield Beach, Florida.

The group is working to help realize Millennium Development Goals by decreasing the number of people without access to safe drinking water in Africa by half by the year 2015.

Bill Bucknam says that 42 percent of people in Sub Saharan Africa do not have access to safe drinking water. He says nearly 9,000 children die every day from contaminated drinking water.

Bucknam says his group has developed a number of technologies to help with water related problems. He describes one of the most popular, a potable water supply system.

“We developed and hold a patent on a device called the SolarPedalflo which can produce a continuous and reliable source of safe drinking water for an entire village using solar power with the back-up of human pedal power. The water is filtered down to one micron; it is pressurized and stored in an overhead tank to exclude waterborne diseases and to prevent the intrusion of airborne diseases.

In one village in Mali, shortly after we installed one of these devices, there was an outbreak of cholera in that particular region and this village was able to escape the ravages of the cholera outbreak because they had a protected clean water source. The chief of the village reported to the USAID country director that after the first year of operation not one child had suffered from diarrhea, which was basically unheard of. So we are convinced that the SolarPedalflo is one sure way to increase access to safe water and to assist countries to meet the challenge of the Millennium Development Goals.”

Bucknam says by doing that, women will be freed to lead productive lives. Children will no longer be too sick to attend school. And persons suffering from HIV/AIDS will have access to safe drinking water so that their antiretroviral drugs will be effective.

With increased access to clean water, he continues, “economic development and real poverty reduction will become a reality.”

To learn more about the solar pedal pump and other technologies, go to http://www.safewater.cc/ and Moving Water Industries (http://www.mwicorp.com/contact.htm)

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