Sunday, 13 March 2011

Tapping S'pore ideas to help Cambodians; Insead project put water filters in rural homes

via CAAI

Judith Tan
The Straits Times (Singapore)
March 12, 2011

INSPIRED by Singapore's innovative efforts towards achieving self-sufficiency in water, an Insead student here set about helping rural Cambodian households obtain clean drinking water.

Not only that, Mr Victor Ferre Pellicer, a Spaniard with a degree in industrial engineering but who is working towards an MBA at Insead, also rallied 13 other foreigners here to the cause.

Barely three months later, the Water For Life initiative had installed 61 biosand filters (BSFs) and built another 40 in homes in Siem Reap.

As some homes house more than one family, the lives of 115 rural Cambodian families have been raised a notch as they now have access to water that is 98 per cent free of faecal bacteria, reducing their exposure to diseases like diarrhoea by half, he said.

Mr Pellicer, 31, said pulling off the project was 'dead easy': 'By sending an e-mail to the 500-strong Insead student community, I was pretty sure of generating a wave of interest in minutes.'

The first one on board was Ms Patricia Colard, a French lawyer who organised the trip for the group to Siem Reap; the Singapore International Foundation (SIF) helped identify the villagers in need of clean water.

Mr Pellicer told The Straits Times that he felt providing drinking water to villages was a worthy cause, and running the project fit into the group's 'intense' MBA programme.

'At the same time, discovering the real faces of Cambodia beyond Angkor Wat's ruins appealed to us,' he said.

He said that last November, he and about 20 other MBA students from Insead had attended the first instalment of Singapore Insights, a series of thematic study visits and dialogues to clue foreigners in to Singapore's strategies, innovations and way of life.

The half-day programme included visits to the Marina Barrage and the Bedok NEWater Visitor Centre.

'The visits showcased Singapore's amazing capability to transform the living environment for the better, using state-of-the-art technology and a good deal of education,' he said.

After the group was assembled, it raised funds for the project by baking and selling cookies and coffee on the Insead campus; with contributions from the dean and the rest of the faculty, they put together more than $5,000, which covered the cost of building the BSFs.

Each simple but effective water-treatment device, which can run without electricity for 15 years, comprises a column of sand and layers of gravel.

Water to be treated is put through the filter, which is kept permanently wet to develop a biological layer on top of the sand. The biofilm degrades the pollutants and keeps the filter clean.

The filters' blueprints were developed and donated by Rotary International and Deutsche Bank to the Water for Cambodia project.

Mr Pellicer said the toughest part of the project was raising awareness of the need of filters among the rural folk, and convincing them to pay for the maintenance of the filters.

Now that the work is done, he said: 'We're hopeful that Cambodia will keep growing and that the Insead community will stay involved in helping it to.'

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