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Children's hard “duty” - Spending one hour every day for water

October 31, 2007

Takuya Kamata
Task Team Leader, the World Bank

October 31, 2007 - In Ulan Bator, a capital of Mongolia, it is children’s and housewives’ daily duty to go buy water. It is because access to water is not available for all families in the poorer district of Ger in the capital.

To buy water, they have to walk to a water station 20 to 30 minutes away from home, with plastic tanks or milk cans. After waiting in a queue, water is provided through a hose. You would buy 15 to 30 litters per purchase. After paying 1 to 3 yen according to a meter, water is brought home by hand or on a cart. Although a pastoral sight at a glance, it is not an easy task. In Mongolia, where the temperature goes down to as low as 30 degrees below zero during the winter time, spilled water would freeze in a moment, and you are required to be alert never to fall down. Moreover, it takes hard labor to carry water as heavy as 30 kilograms on an unpaved steep road.

While a range of water projects are ongoing by the government, foreign aid agencies and NPOs, the challenges are daunting. In the Ger district which spread without an urban plan, it will take tremendous costs to lay water pipes. For the poor, costs for laying water pipes in their premise as well as water charge would be a heavy burden. In barrack-like homes, it will be hard to prevent water pipes from freezing, while sewage disposal is another issue. Solutions based on wisdom of a broad range of professionals are much-needed so that one day children will no longer have to be tied to the job of water carrying.