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Solar energy for household water disinfection in formerly war-torn Lira district

Potable domesticated water and psycho-social support for formerly displaced people in northern Uganda

Photo of Brian Otim
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What problem does the idea help to solve and how does your solution work? (2,000 characters maximum)

Many people in northern Uganda lack access to improved water supply and safe water owing to the massive destruction of the water infrastructure during the protracted war involving government and the Lord’s Resistance Army rebels making them prone to water-borne diseases. This has resulted into the use firewood as an energy source to disinfect water through boiling leading to environmental degradation since the trees which help in rain fall formation are felled down, and using sunlight can help such communities disinfect water on a small scale domestically without any negative effects on the environment as well as resulting into highly healthy productive households for sustainable development. Water in plastic bottles is exposed on Corrugated Iron Sheets for about six hours of direct sunlight and in sunlight it’s the UV light particularly UV-A which effects water disinfection in the whole electromagnetic spectrum by destroying the cells of pathogens, infrared radiation only raises the water temperature (Meierhofer & Wegelin, 2002); and the drinkability of water is ascertained through carrying out the confirmatory tests i.e. bacteriological and physical.

Geography of focus (500 characters)

This project is basically to be implemented in formerly war-torn region of northern Uganda i.e. Lango, Acholi & West-Nile owing to the fact that the water infrastructure serving communities was destroyed during the protracted war and yet their existing water sources can’t ideally meet the water demand added upon by the presence of quite a number of Sudanese and Congolese refugees who are currently being hosted in the districts of Lamwo and Arua.

Building Bridges: What bridge does your idea build between people on the move and neighbors towards a shared future of stability and promise? (500 characters)

The access to clean water and sanitation for all while equitably utilising the available water resource sustainably for healthy co-existent communities while mitigating greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere.

What human need is your idea solving for? (1,000 characters)

Potable water for all for communities previously traumatized by war and refugee settlements in the districts northern Uganda. The ability to access clean water directly translates into healthy productive people who can ably engage in other household income generating projects i.e. commercial agriculture, small-scale enterprises; which can enable them to not only realize monies for communal local saving groups but also meeting fees for school-going children for a better brighter generation. In addition agri-business skills clinics, water resource management i.e. water source protection and development through borehole drilling, and student-scholarships will be implemented within the project areas.

What will be different within the community of focus as a result of implementing your idea? (1,000 characters)

This project will assist local authorities in their bid to sustainably manage solid waste since it incorporates environmental conservation through the re-use of plastic bottles that would have been recklessly deposited by the public leading to the clogging of storm-water drainage systems as well as reducing the high water treatment costs of the discharged effluent at water-waste treatment plants. Communities living in informal settlements normally resort to untidy waste disposal systems leading to water-borne disease outbreaks and this is further aggravated by the corruption tendencies at the national environmental regulation body who allow settlement in water catchment areas and the establishment of ground water sources e.g. boreholes downstream of pit latrines, however people can be able to obtain potable water through the application of solar water disinfection. Fully fledged customer satisfaction and market surveys will be conducted countrywide within the project scope.

What is the inspiration behind your idea? (1,000 characters)

The massive damage to the water infrastructure leaving the majority of the populace with access to polluted alternative sources e.g. streams/lakes for domestic use leading to water-borne disease outbreaks; in addition over 23.8 million Ugandans still lack access to potable water (WaterAid, 2018). I was therefore compelled to change the status-quo with the successful piloting of this project in Lira district in formerly war-ravaged northern Uganda in order to assist government and development partners’’ efforts in the scalability of water & sanitation services for all. My employer, the National Water & Sewerage Corporation which is a government utility charged with the provision of water and sewerage services countrywide has limited coverage of the piped-water network with high operations and maintenance costs (O&M) and lacks sustainability with dry-zones even in Kampala city.

Describe the dynamics of the community in which the idea is to be implemented. (1,000 characters)

Highly sociable people who are currently hosting refugee communities from neighbouring countries i.e. Sudan & Democratic Republic of Congo and therefore are offering psycho-social support to the refugees as well given the fact that the entire northern region had the prior experience of tremendous recovery from the aftermath of the Lord’s Resistance Army war. Consequently, the sharing of the project nitty-gritty by these communities will foster sustainable implementation and reasonable impact.

How does your idea leverage and empower community strengths and assets to help create an environment for success? (1,000 characters)

The entire northern region is highly receptive to behavioural change i.e. absorption of the fundamental principles of the project will be easy as well as practical implementation skills, and the leaders in the local authorities as well have excellent resource mobilisation abilities (manpower & money) that will not only allow the project thrive but also ensure longevity coupled with their paraphrase ‘renewable infrastructure' will therefore eagerly embrace this new idea; and the average regional temperature of thirty-degrees for effective pathogen disinfection will greatly aid its success.

What other partners or stakeholders will work alongside you in implementing the idea, if any? (1,000 characters)

The local authorities within the project scope e.g. Lira Municipal Council will majorly assist in project outreach, a number of water & sanitation development partners i.e. SNV Netherlands, KfW will be sought for possible funding engagements, School Water & Sanitation Clubs in schools/institutions and the Young Water Professionals Uganda Chapter for information dissemination and National Water & Sewerage Corporation’s expertise in water quality analysis will also be utilised.

What part of the displacement journey is your solution addressing

  • Arriving and settling at a destination community

Tell us how you'd describe the type of innovation you are proposing

  • Technology-enabled: Existing approach is more effective or scalable with the addition of technology

Idea Proposal Stage

  • Blueprint: We are exploring the idea and gathering the inspiration and information we need to test it with real users.

Group or Organization Name

Progressive Building & Civil Engineering Contractors Limited P.O. Box 689, Lira, Uganda Tel: 0473420108

Tell us more about your group or organization [or lived experience as a displaced person?] (1000 characters)

A privately-owned registered local construction company headquartered in Lira district northern Uganda that has greatly participated in the rehabilitation of the infrastructure (roads & buildings) that was devastated during the war in various districts e.g. construction of Agweng sub-county office and with links to a number of local governments within the project region. Furthermore, I hail from Lango sub-region that was greatly traumatized by the protracted war involving government and Lord’s Resistance Army rebels for over twenty years but the highlight of the trauma was in 2002 when thousands of people were massacred in Barlonyo refugee camp in Ogur sub-county Lira district and this event forced my school to relocate us to Kampala city in order to sit the primary leaving examinations. However, I beat all odds to successfully pursue my degree in civil engineering thanks to an educational grant from the government of Uganda for bright but needy students from northern Uganda.

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Type of submitter

  • We are a Private Sector Corporation

Organization Headquarters: Country


Organization Headquarters: City / State


Attachments (1)

Project Abstract.pdf

This research project was limited to testing of water samples from shallow wells, boreholes, spring wells and Lake Kwania for Turbidity and E.coli (pathogen) respectively and it was a case study of Lira district in formerly war-ravaged northern Uganda. It was found out that all had Turbidity of less than 5NTU with varying degrees of E.coli pollution before and zero counts after exposure to sunlight.


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Photo of Brian Otim

Thanks for the compliment!

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