Cuu Long Delta water and sanitation
Poor water, inadequate sanitation and a lack of safe drinking water cause diarrhoea, dengue fever, malaria, and eye and skin diseases. The Mekong or Cuu Long Delta Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Project engaged the people and governments of Vietnam and Australia in working together to improve water and sanitation. It improved the overall living standards and health of 500,000 poor people. The project had a major emphasis on achieving the participation of women in all aspects of the project.
Water access for many poor people in the region was through unsafe sources, such as stagnant ponds, open wells and polluted rivers. Families, particularly women, spent large amounts of time and energy collecting water for basic household needs; often paying 3–10 times the local price for small quantities of potable water. Piped water was available only a few hours each day.
The project expanded the water supply systems, increasing access to potable, reliable piped water. It supplied safe drinking water to 70–80% of the population, 24 hours a day. Safe drinking water became available to poorer households, close to their homes and at an affordable cost. This meant water-related diseases declined and poverty decreased.
Flooding, polluted canals, lack of drainage, untreated industrial waste water, lack of toilets in homes and schools, lack of solid waste collection services, and inadequate waste disposal sites made illness common, particularly among the poor. Waste water flowed directly into open drains or the river.
The project involved local communities in the design and construction of improved drainage and sanitation services (toilets, drainage and collection of solid waste). The project built 120 blocks of toilets in schools and ran programs to promote personal hygiene. Students’ hand cleanliness improved and good toilet maintenance was observed.
Staff training, purchasing of new tools and equipment, and long-term planning are often limited by lack of money. The project supplied equipment and trained local people in water and sanitation technology to ensure that the systems could be well maintained beyond the completion of the project.
Improved water and sanitation systems are not only improving the health of people in the Cuu Long Delta, but also the economy. Staff, particularly women, have been employed to manage the maintenance and community education programs. With a stable water supply, small-scale industries such as gardening, fish farming and the processing of agricultural products are able to develop.