Jan 09, 2019

United Nations Installs Solar Powered Water System in Refugee Camps

The five solar powered water systems will provide clean drinking water to 40,000 Rohingya refugees

United Nations uses solar powered pumps to convey clean drinking water
United Nations uses solar powered pumps to convey clean drinking water

The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) has installed five solar powered water systems in Kutupalong-Balukhali refugee sites in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, to supply clean drinking water to the more than 900,000 Rohingya refugees that have fled there. The five new systems are running at full capacity and while they are only able to provide water to approximately 40,000 refugees, the UNHCR is working to install more.

According to local news source The Dhaka Tribune,  the UNHCR has said its ultimate goal is to provide 20 liters of safe water a day to every refugee by piping in the water through solar power to collective taps. The agency aims to install nine more water networks across the camp this year at a total cost of $10 million.

“Using the solar energy has allowed the humanitarian community to reduce the energy costs and emissions,” said UNHCR Spokesman Andrej Mahecic. “So, there is a clear environmental impact of this. Chlorination is also a life-saver in refugee sites of this scale. The recent tests revealed that most contamination of drinking water occurs during collection, transport and storage at the household level.”

The networks have a pumping system that draws water from newly-installed 70,000 liters of chlorinated water tanks which then is pumped to tap water stands using solar power, as reported by Voice of America News. Because water trucking was previously the only way to address water scarcity at refugee camps in the dry climate, the new solar powered delivery system will reduce energy costs and fuel emissions.

“Chlorinating water helps in maintaining safe water and eliminates any risk of the spread of disease,” said Murray Wilson, head of UNHCR’s water, sanitation and hygiene programs in Cox’s Bazar. “Previous water sources, mainly boreholes fitted with hand pumps, were often highly contaminated by wastewater penetrating the aquifer from which the wells drew water.”