Water related problems in Romania are not so much about the shortage of water but rather that of water quality. The problem safe water is significant for rural areas. Although, Romania has adopted the European Union drinking water legislation, this does not cover the private wells in the villages.
Thus, 70% of the population in rural areas depend on small scale water supply systems notably wells, which are often exposed to human and animal excreta. Coupled to this, is the problem of low awareness amongst the population and authorities on the connection that prevails between man-made pollution of water sources, water quality and related diseases in rural areas.
A two years project entitled “Safe Sanitation, Health and Dignity” (SSHD) was initiated by WECF (international NGO) and its partners in villages in four counties (provinces) of Romania; Giurgiu, Ialomita, Mehedinti and Teleorman county.
The project was financed with the support of foundation Essemble, France and the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs aimed in raising awareness on water source protection, safe sanitation, organic waste management, hygiene and health.
To address this, WECF introduced an educational package (WSP toolkit) for schools as a means to promote community based Water Safe Plans (WSP) for local small scale water supply systems like dug wells, public taps etc.
The project’s implementation embodied WSP activities for the small scale water supply system that included 8 schools. The WSP manual for teachers and other stakeholders were distributed in order to provide background information of WSP, the properties of drinking water, and sources of pollution and related health risks.
The toolkit included questionnaires, which were intended to obtain information from the population, local health authorities and authorities responsible for water sources. In addition to the questionnaires, WECF conducted water tests, and trained teachers.
Pupils and staff of eight rural Romanian schools investigated the risks and the quality of their local drinking water, identified the sources of pollution and formulated plans of actions in order to improve the water quality and to minimise the health risks caused by contaminated drinking water.
The project found that there is low awareness existing amongst the rural population on the causes of water pollution. The pupils of participatory schools were very motivated and enthusiastic about the activities, because they experienced it practically, and also because it was relevant to their local environment.
The result of WSP activities depended substantially on the background motivation and availability of teachers, and the local NGO. WSP approach with the involvement of schools contributed in raising awareness, capacity building and mobilising of the community.
- In most of the target villages the findings of the WSP-teams showed a severe nitrate contamination of the first aquifer, whose causes are mainly “home-made”. A first step in solving the causes should be awareness raising on all levels, and with public participation and support, followed by concrete water protection measures.
- Safe drinking water supply with community involvement should be ensured in all rural areas of Romania, a section of the society which had until now been neglected.
- The project showed that WSP programmes could connect the local communities, regional and national authorities, and contribute to the realization of the allocated targets of the protocol of water and health, and set objectives for rural areas.
Photo credit: Sava Violeta