Maji, Maji, Maji

This past Friday we took at trip to the water treatment plant situated on a hill above our little village.

The plant is about 30 minutes walk up a road that heads nearly straight west of us. The view of the mountains to the north and the plains that spread out away from Tabora is striking. I got the opportunity to walk back up to the treatment plant yesterday in order to take pictures and I enjoyed it thoroughly.

I was personally surprised by how sophisticated the facilities at the treatment plant really were. I am used to hearing stories of infrastructure in Africa that have names which make them sound like they are a lot more impressive than they really are. I wasn’t expecting to actually find facilities for treating water at the plant, I had assumed that it would be a simple station for gathering the water into tanks so that the water spigots in the area could be fed by Gravity.

For the most part, that is the current function of the facility, but it was designed to do more.

The plant was established in 1974 by what I understood to be a German NGO. The design of the plant takes in water 5 km away at the Pagani river from which it flows by gravity through 16 inch pipes to the first step of the process, a ladder that churns the water before it heads through a long filtration maze. Towards the end of this maze, a pipe feeds over the top of the channel wall where a solution of water and “dawa” (which literally means medicine, but in this case was referring to the chemical additives that make water safe to drink) is supposed to be fed into the untreated water. This is where the infrastructure first fails. The chemicals they still have are expired and they don’t have the money to buy new ones.

The water then sits in a sediment tank to allow the particulates suspended in river water to settle. From there it flows into five holding pools which then empty into a large round tank underground where chlorine gas is still being added before the water heads off to the villages below. The flow from the five holding tanks is supposed to pass through a final filter before it heads to the final step in the process, but the filters are so old and clogged that they had to install unfiltered siphons to prevent the holding tanks from overflowing. Most of the water that makes it to the final tank has not been filtered at all.

One of the really impressive things about this facility is that they have the capacity to run tests on the water themselves. Many of the workers, past and present, are highly trained and they have a variety of scientific apparatus, including incubators, hot water baths, and a centrifuge. (The set-up reminded me a lot of my senior lab classes at St. John’s where I went to school.) Regrettably, they no longer have electricity after the government shut off power to the area in the 1990s, so now any testing that they need to do has to go through Korogwe.

It is amazing how many resources the people here in Tabora already have, and unfortunate how, with just a few missing pieces, those resources become so under-utilized.


About Joshua Paul

Due to his father's military background, Joshua spent his childhood moving throughout the continental United States. Though he did not travel out of the country until his teens, Joshua has been interested in cultural anthropology and linguistics as long as he can remember. A recent graduate from St. John's College in Annapolis with a B. A. in Liberal Arts, he has studied ancient Greek and French for literary purposes. He currently lives near Boise, Idaho.
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One Response to Maji, Maji, Maji

  1. Harvey S. Trop says:

    It is amazing that to a “Westerner” the project was the building of the water treatment plant, and they probably gave little thought to what would be required to maintain the plant after it was built. Successful projects need to consider not only the immediate thing but also the upkeep and people and environment. I think we in the developed world forget the level of infrasturcture that is required just to turn on a tap. Your post got me thinking about how much the ‘developed world’ take for granted and how success isn’t just measured in the completion of a task, but in the continued effort to ensure that that task completion leads to an ability to sustain and build on the advances made in a continual basis.

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