What is the Clean Water Initiative project?

Tibetan Village Project‘s latest project is to bring clean water to rural Tibetan villages. Currently villages lack a clean water storage and delivery system. They collect water from a nearby lake and although it is low turbid mountain water, rural Tibetans lack a waste disposal system so their water is contaminated by trash and animal waste products.

Moreover, they lack a storage system and often have to collect water in plastic containers they strap to their back with rope. This is more of a problem during winter when the lake freezes over. If it is really cold, Tibetans must break a hole in the ice to collect water.

In the end, the goal is to come up with a design that impacts the Tibetan villages socially, economically, and environmentally. Socially, this project will enhance the standard of living. Economically, this project will provide new types of jobs. Environmentally, this project will explore excess resources that can be used for the system.

Why is the Clean Water Initiative project important?

Tibet maintains some of the highest maternal and infant mortality rates in the world. In 2004, infant death rates were 5.3% in Tibet (UNICEF) compared to the 0.678% death rate in the United States (CDC).  Dysentery is the single greatest cause of infant mortality in rural regions of Tibet, which is mainly due to the lack of clean water.

80% of Tibetans live in rural villages, all of which lack a municipal water supply or any means of water purification (water.org). Many villagers suffer from diarrhea and gastro-intestinal diseases, growth stunts, and even death due to insufficient access to clean water. All these health problems can be easily avoided by implementing a water storage and filtration system.

How did a team of UC Berkeley students get involved?

Tibetan Village Project  (TVP), the non-profit organization for which UC Berkeley is working with reached out to several universities and advertised this project as a Competitive Internship. Project leads from 5 other schools were chosen and each project lead formed a team in their respective school. By presenting the project as an internship to students, TVP was able to gain support from students and work with them directly rather than deal with the official business of other organizations like EWB.

How does the Competitive Internship work?

UC Berkeley and 5 other schools, including Stanford and USC, are working on designing the most optimal water storage and purification system. Designs will be submitted to TVP in April 2013 to be assessed by hired engineers. The final design will be drafted and the team with the best design will be acknowledged. However, the competitive internship aspect of the project is more of an effort to outsource ideas and attract attention and participants. The final design will most likely comprise of a system implementing different aspects of various school designs.

What is Tibetan Village Project (TVP)? What other work have they done?

About TVP and its work can be read on the TVP tab here.

What community will this project serve?

The project will serve rural villages in the Kham and Amdo regions. TVP will serve families in the villages of Yoloshi, Sihurong, Pengpushi, and Layita. UC Berkeley will help install a water storage and purification system for a family in Yoloshi.

Read about TVP and see maps of where it serves here.

Why doesn’t Tibet have their government help them?

While under Chinese rule, government supervision and authority does not extend to rural villages in Tibet, which is where 80% of the Tibetans live. Instead, government of this area takes the form of a more decentralized indigenous political structure, being divided among a number of small principalities and tribal groups. This is because Tibet is extremely mountainous and the bulk of its people are semi-nomadic. Thus government infrastructure is hard to implement as villages are sparsely spread across Tibet. Mostly dependent on community leaders, Tibetans have a hard time providing their own infrastructure due to their lack of education. Unacknowledged, Tibetans don’t know what to do and where to start when it comes to infrastructure.

Moreover, TVP makes sure the villages they help want help and are willing to contribute. The villages they help are usually ones where either the people of TVP are from or friends of the people of TVP are from. Thus all projects are collaborative efforts with both TVP and the Tibetans from the rural villages for which they serve.

How is this project funded?

Materials and travel expenses are funded entirely out of pocket by the student team. Fundraising efforts such as benefit dinners, sales, etc. are made by the students constantly and can be followed through the Fundraising tab here.

Donations are also highly appreciated and can be made at the donate tab here.


2 responses to “FAQ

  1. I have been working in Kham since 2004 through the Amitabha Foundation and clean water is a big part of our health project. I would like to hear about your progress.

    • Hi Becky, I’m glad that you found our blog! We will be posting regularly with information and updates. Specifics on our design are withheld at the moment due to the competition aspect of the project. We will start posting our research and design as March comes to an end though.

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