Is my diarrhea caused by drinking the water at the nearby river?

According to the 2014 Updated Report on the “Progress on Drinking Water and Sanitation Report” released by the World Health Organization and UNICEF, through collaborative efforts worldwide, the global community met the Millennium Development Goal’s (MDG) drinking water target, of 88% of the global population having access to improved water sources.

With better water infrastructure put in place through these collaborative efforts, many more communities were able to access to improved water sources more easily than previous years. Hand in hand with improving this access however, a conscious effort to educate and raise awareness to beneficiaries on the importance of drinking clean water is necessary to change behaviors, and further extend the sustainable impact achieved by the increased ease people have to access improved water sources.

This May, as part of our Community-based Water Social Enterprise (CWE) initiative, Lien AID’s team continued to travel to five locations, across two provinces in Cambodia (Kandal Province, Kampong Chhnang Province), to conduct health and hygiene awareness sessions with the assistance from the local government officials. At these sessions, information on the importance of drinking clean water and the negative effects of consuming contaminated water is shared interactively in a thought-provoking manner.

Changing behaviors does not occur overnight, but through these sessions, it is our intention to encourage and facilitate these changes in behavior, that if not addressed, may diminish the impact of an increased access to clean water.

We have listened to many water stories over the years. Last year, we spoke to some villagers in the Kampong Chhnang Province to get a better understanding of their water situation. Through conversations with the villagers, it drove home the point that raising awareness and educating villagerson the benefits of drinking clean water, and how drinking dirty water may cause water-related diseases such as diarrhea, has to go hand-in-hand with the improvement of clean water through the development of adequate and sustainable water infrastructure.



Seung Khom, Mother of 7 children, Kampong Chhnang Province
Seung Khom is a mother of 7 children. The adults and older children take turns fetching water for daily use. The family retrieves dirty river water using six small containers, which is then used for boiling, drinking, washing, and cooking. She waits for the water to sit “for a couple of hours until there is no turbidity before I consume it”. However the river water is still unsafe to consume and she regularly falls ill. Every month, Seung takes medications to ease her diarrhea, but drinks it with the same river water that caused her illness.

Duk Tom, 72-year-old woman, Kampong Chhnang Province
We had asked Duk if she had fallen ill recently, in which she recalls she had diarrhea and attributed this affliction to the food that she ate (water flowers and snails), and not the water that she’d drank, which at that time continued to be untreated river water. She readily shared with us her home-made remedy to treat diarrhea which involves holding her breath while picking seven leaves from a specific medicinal tree. These leaves are eaten whole or mixed with water before they are consumed.

To find out more about our efforts towards delivering clean water access, take a look at What We Do.

Pilot CWEs launched in one of the poorest communes in rural Vietnam, bringing affordable clean drinking water to 8 villages

In late March, Lien AID was in the Tra Vinh Province of Vietnam to hand over two Community-based Water Social Enterprises (CWEs) to the Da Loc Commune, following the completion of a successful pilot that will benefit more than 15,000 people across 8 villages.

The CWEs consist of bottled water treatment plants that treat contaminated water into clean drinking water, using low-pressure reverse osmosis. Fully funded by Lien AID, the pilot was a collaborative effort with the Provincial Centre for Rural Water Supply and Sanitation (PCERWASS) and National Centre for Rural Water Supply and Sanitation (NCERWASS).

“The aim of the pilot is to assess the effectiveness of the CWE approach in providing affordable clean drinking water in rural communities in Vietnam. We hope that this model will catalyze an alternative approach to the provision of a water supply in rural Vietnam. Particularly, one that continues to be affordable to small/remote rural communities,” explained Lien AID CEO, Mr. Koh Lian Hock.

As one of the poorest communes in the Tra Vinh province, and inhabited by a high concentration of ethnic Kh’mer, Da Loc has very low access to clean drinking water, with the added problem of high levels of salinity and alkalinity affecting their water sources. Due to rising sea levels, this is a condition common to coastal areas like Da Loc.

Many villagers cannot afford commercially-bottled water and resort to drinking from unsafe water sources, risking their health.

Thach Thi Dan is 30-years-old and lives in Huong Phu B village. Before the community-based water social enterprise was built, her family drank water pumpled from a dug well, which they rudimentarily treated on their own with chemicals such as alum. They also drank rainwater.”


Both CWEs began operations in April, with the water sold costing a fraction of the price of commercially-produced bottled water sold in the market.


To find out more, take a look at our Community Water Enterprise Programme.

Lien AID signs MOAs with five Cambodia commune councils to start work on Community Water Enterprises

Lien AID has signed Memorandum of Agreements (MOAs) with five Cambodian commune councils from Preak Reusey, Peam Cheleang, Prasat, Boeng Pruol, and Kaoh Samrong (Kampong Cham Province, Kandal Province) to start development of Community Water Enterprises (CWEs) in these communes. These projects are located along the Mekong River and are scheduled for completion in the second half of 2014.

The installation of CWEs at these new sites follow the highly successful pilot initiated at Chnok Trou in 2010 which to date, continues to provide an affordable and sustainable source of clean water for the commune and neighboring villages.

Safe drinking water remains a challenge for many communities living on floating villages and along the floodplains, where contaminated river water is used for cooking and drinking. In addition, in some provinces like Kandal, groundwater cannot be consumed due to its high levels of arsenic, leaving many with little option but to risk water-borne illnesses from ingesting river water.

These communities also face uncertainty in terms of food and job prospects. Depleting fish stocks has resulted in 20 per cent, or 400 families leaving Chnok Trou for dry land and greater work and education opportunities in the last two years, according to a report by Channel News Asia.

In the face of uncertain income, hard choices will be made by these communities with many favouring utilizing their hours engaging in income-generating activities such as fishing, and therefore drinking water with as minimal treatment effort necessary, despite the risk.

Therefore it is even more important that efforts continue to be channeled towards ensuring that these communities have access to a sustainable source of clean drinking water that they can afford.

Since signing these agreements between 19 and 26 February, needs assessments for all sites have concluded and installation work has begun. An estimated 39, 317 people across two provinces will  benefit.

To find out more about our work in Cambodia, take a look at Where We Work – Cambodia.

Meet a water entrepreneur

Meet Mr. Bun Ratha, a friendly Cambodian, highly-skilled in nuts and bolts, and with a gift for fixing machinery. Regarded as a reliable and responsible person, he was appointed as a water entrepreneur by his community in Kaul Banteay Commune (Kampong Chhnang Province) to manage the commune’s first Community Water Enterprise.

Developed by Lien AID, the Community Water Enterprise is part of the organisation’s Gift of Water programme and deploys social enterprise fundamentals to provide a sustainable and affordable source of clean drinking water for rural communities in need.

The water treatment system is designed to effectively treat nearby river water sources into clean drinking water quality in a cost-effective manner. Then, Lien AID works with local resources for the building and the construction. Bun Ratha also receives training from the organisation to :

1) operate and maintain the water treatment system
2) set up the sustainable social business, which pays no dividend, enabling a low and affordable water price for the villagers.

 “After people drink clean water, they are healthy. When they are healthy, their expenditure on medicine is reduced and they have more time to earn their living,” says Bun Ratha.

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BASF and Lien AID implement social enterprise for floating village on Tonle Sap lake in Cambodia

BASF, the world’s leading chemical company, together with Lien AID, a non-profit organization with a strong track record in implementing sustainable water infrastructure projects for poor rural villages, celebrated the successful launch of a community-owned water treatment plant project in Kampong Chhnang Province, Cambodia. The project aims to improve the access to affordable clean water for 620 villagers residing on the Tonle Sap river.

In this unique partnership, Lien AID, which has already established 18 successful community water enterprises across 29 villages in two provinces, will provide project mentoring based on their strong experience. Five BASF management trainees are acting as “business consultants” for the project, contributing innovative ideas and at the same time gaining hands-on social interaction experience through their involvement from needs assessment to project implementation.

Mr Dean Draper, Managing Director, ASEAN Sub-region, BASF South East Asia Pte Ltd, said, “By 2050, more than nine billion people will live on this planet. While the planet’s resources are finite, this will pose huge challenges. BASF sees innovations powered by chemistry as enabler in addressing the challenges in resources, environment and climate – in this case, access to clean water – becoming increasingly important.

A joint initiative between Lien AID and BASF, the project is a platform for the company to develop and implement a water-treatment infrastructure in Kampong Chhnang Province for some 100 households. It adopts a social enterprise model – following the successful launch, a chosen “water entrepreneur” from the village will take over and operate the plant, providing affordable, safe drinking water to the community which lives entirely on the Ton Le Sap Lake. Currently, about 53% of the inhabitants fall sick more than once a month from water borne diseases.

The project was developed as part of a larger existing programme by Lien AID, “The Gift of Water for Floating Communities and Communities on the Floodplains and on Land”. BASF is the first company that Lien AID has partnered with for this programme.

The programme takes a holistic approach that not only addresses the specific needs of the beneficiaries but also lays the foundation for long-term benefits for the communities including community ownership and a gradual change in hygiene behaviors.” said Draper.

“The programme continues to yield positive outcomes, with Lien AID’s first pilot community water enterprise launched in 2010 still benefiting the community. We chose to work with BASF for this particular site as we are impressed by how sustainability is part of the company’s corporate purpose, and the efforts BASF puts into employee development,” commented Mr Koh Lian Hock, Chief Executive Officer, Lien AID.

For BASF, this sustainability project also has an important employee development element under the “Grow ASEAN Graduate Development Program” which was launched in July 2012. Targeting young graduates from different disciplines throughout ASEAN, the 18-month programme aims to identify, develop and retain a diverse group of talents to support the future growth of BASF. The first run saw the recruitment of five trainees from Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

“Taking part in such an initiative enables our young colleagues to collaborate across borders as well as provides them with a more holistic personal and career development opportunity”, said Draper. “This project for water is one of the many ways how BASF contributes to conserving resources, ensuring healthy food and nutrition and improving people’s quality of life.”

To learn more about our programmes, take a look at Implement Sustainable Programmes.

First Community Water Enterprise pilot in Vietnam offers new hope for a community in one of poorest provinces in the Mekong Delta

The provinces of Tra Vinh remains one of the poorest in the Mekong Delta, with a high concentration of ethnic minority people (Kh’mer) residing in the area. Living conditions are made even more challenging with water sources in the coastal province severely affected by salinity and alkalinity problems, due to the rising sea levels. Unfortunately, many are unable to afford commercially-bottled water and risk their lives daily by drinking from unsafe water sources.

Consuming from unsafe water sources daily affects health, with poor people further burdened with rising costs to pay for healthcare and treatment.

Earlier this month, Lien AID initiated the construction of the first pilots of its Community Water Enterprise in Vietnam’s Da Loc Commune in Tra Vinh Province, in an official groundbreaking ceremony attended by the officials from the Vietnamese government, including the Director of PCERWASS, Mr. Bui Van Mung.

Lien AID’s first community water enterprise was launched in 2010 in Cambodia’s Kampong Chhnang Province. Three years later, it continues to provide a sustainable and affordable source of clean drinking water for the 1,000 people in the floating community on the Ton Le Sap. Since then, Lien AID has completed 16 community water enterprises in two Cambodian provinces.

Now with the expansion of the programme to Vietnam, Lien AID intends to provide a sustainable and affordable source of clean drinking water for the poorer rural communities there.

These pilots are a joint collaborative effort between Lien AID and the local government. “PCERWASS (Provincial Centre for Rural Water Supply and Sanitation) has collaborated closely with Lien AID and NCERWASS (National Centre for Rural Water Supply and Sanitation) throughout the project development processes and highly support the intervention to pilot the two community water enterprises in Da Loc Commune,” stated Mr. Bui.

15, 134 people across 8 villages in Da Loc Commune are expected to benefit from the development of two community water enterprises.

A record 12 Community Water Enterprises handed over to the communities, bringing clean affordable water to close to 30,000 people in rural Cambodia

“I am very happy because from now on, everyone is able to drink treated water. When we bought the water from the Community Water Enterprise, we demonstrated to the children that this water is safe for drinking. We also told them that they should only drink water from these bottles from now on. The children do not like drinking the river water anyway, because it is smelly and still dirty.” – Ms Seung Khom, 39
Kampong Chhnang Province

The need for an affordable source of clean drinking water continues to plague poor rural communities in Cambodia. In some communities, clean drinking water is simply not available with no connectivity with water infrastructure. In many, commercially-produced bottled water remains too expensive.

In 2010, Lien AID has worked in close partnership with the Ministry of Rural Development in Cambodia to pilot the first community water enterprise in Chhnok Trou Commune, in the Kampong Chhnang Province. Three years later, this enterprise continues to be a thriving social business that is owned and run by the community, providing bottle water at a quarter of the commercial price, and conveniently within the commune as well as for the neighbouring floating villages.

While the pilot began within the floating villages of Kampong Chhnang Province, it was soon ascertained that communities that lived on floodplains as well as those on land were equally needing improved access to clean water.

Recently, Lien AID handed over a record twelve community water enterprises to the community, benefitting close to 30,000 people across 23 villages (including those on floodplains and on land) in the Kampong Chhnang and Siem Reap Provinces. Cambodian government officials and villagers were present at the milestone event.

“This achievement has significantly contributed into the government commitment as set in national policy and national rectangular strategy phase II to improve the well-being and living standard of the Cambodian people. In the name of the Ministry of Rural Development, I suggest commune councils continue to manage and maintain these plants to ensure its sustainable operations to meet the needs of the rural community and in the line of the Ministry of Rural Development’s objective under its slogan of Sustainable Rural Development.” – H.E. Tray Meng, Secretary of State, Ministry of Rural Development

The organisation continues to reach out to more communities to provide an improved and sustainable access to clean water in Cambodia, expanding its coverage to Kandal and Kg. Cham Provinces. Beyond Cambodia, it is also expanding the community water enterprises programme to Tra VInh Province in Vietnam.

To find out more about our programmes, take a look at Implement Sustainable Programmes.

Rural township home to dinosaur fossils now equipped with inaugural permanent water facilities

A township in mountainous rural China that became a major tourist attraction after archaeologists found dinosaur fossils there recently came into the international spotlight again but this time, not because of its archaeological past but instead its now promising future.

Till last year, the community within the Chuxiong Prefecture in the Dinosaur Valley Township lived without a permanent drinking water facility in the village. While there is a natural spring that flows through the village, this water is contaminated by animal manure and waste materials. In order to obtain relatively unpolluted water from upstream, villagers need to spend considerable time and effort to collect water manually from the main source of the spring, which is at a distance of 1,150 meters away in the surrounding hills. Many resorted to harvesting rainwater, which was especially inconsistent during the annual drought. A primary school in the village also had insufficient facilities to store water for its students. Wastewater from the school kitchen, teachers shower room and other washing points flowed freely, untreated. School toilets were also inadequate.

Last year, a collaboration between Green Cross International and Lien AID installed the first permanent water facilities at the village, bringing an improved access to clean water to the community. Two new suitable spring water sources were discovered through extensive research and evaluation. Water storage tanks were subsequently constructed, and a water distribution network set-up, piping water into homes and the school. Shower facilities with solar heaters as well as eco-toilets (with handwashing facilities) were also built in the school. Additionally, health and hygiene training was conducted to facilitate behavioural change.

The project is estimated to have benefited 442 people in the village.

Getting affordable drinking water made easier on the polluted Ton Le Sap

A few months ago, most of the people living in several remote floating and flooded villages in Kampong Chhnang Province of Cambodia drank directly from the polluted Ton Le Sap, putting them at high risk of water-related illnesses such as diarrhoea. This is because the Ton Le Sap lake is heavily polluted with human and animal waste, sewage water, emissions from motorized boats, and industrial runoff, rendering it unsafe for direct consumption.

However, safe drinking water is difficult to access as it takes up to 45 minutes to travel from these villages to the nearest jetty. When available, commercially-bottled water is also too costly for these villages to afford. As a result, despite the health risks involved, these communities continued to drink directly from the polluted water source.

Due to the inaccessibility, these communities’ need for safe drinking water had been neglected, till now. In February 2013, Lien AID completed two community-based water treatment plants, providing affordable drinking water to the estimated 4,339 people living in these villages.

These community-based water treatment plants adopt a social enterprise model, where bottled water for the communities are kept affordable; less than half the price of those provided commercially. Profits generated are used to sustain the treatment plant’s operations and maintenance. These plants are also conveniently located within the community to reduce the effort for the villagers to transport drinking water home, making it easier for them to choose to do so.

To find out more about our work in Cambodia, take a look at Where We Work – Cambodia.