German expert says ground water situation in Jaffna 'alarming'

[TamilNet, Friday, 25 July 2003, 14:56 GMT]
Speaking at a seminar held at the International Water Management Institute in Colombo on the potential of rainwater harvesting in the Jaffna peninsula, Mr. Herald Kraft, a consultant to the Jaffna Rehabilitation Project, funded by the German Technical Cooperation (GTZ), revealed that the ground water situation in the Jaffna peninsula is alarming, given the thin cover of soil over the ground water table that provides no protection against pollutants, a press release from the GTZ said on Friday.

The German expert said that as the Jaffna peninsula has a scarcity of uncontaminated underground fresh water, new methods of harvesting rainwater should be considered to meet the increasing demand, according to the press release.

The GTZ said that Mr. Kraft had spent several months studying Water Supply, Rain Water Harvesting, Waste Water and Solid Waste Management in the Jaffna peninsula.

According to Mr. Kraft, the sandy soil has a very low purification capacity, and pollutants such as agricultural fertilizers, pesticides, fungicides and herbicides, as well as liquid and solid industrial wastes, oil, diesel and petrol can easily penetrate to the ground water.

Mr. Kraft also said that the lime stone cover, which is widespread in the Jaffna peninsula, “provides almost no purification capacity, permitting all pollutants reaching the ground water to spread far and wide.”

“Salination, along with contamination from the surface,” he said, “has made it vital for such drinking water from local ground water sources to undergo sophisticated chemical treatment before it can be considered safe for human consumption.”

The GTZ said that it would launch a pilot project at the Kopay Christian College. The school buildings at this college provide 1,845 square metres of roof surface and will be connected to a cistern of 600 cubic metres. GTZ estimates that this collection will be sufficient to provide drinking water to the students and teachers of the college for 365 days a year.

According to GTZ water resource experts, schools, hospitals, and public buildings that have large roof areas are perfectly suited for rainwater harvesting, as they are usually covered with clay tiles.

The experts hope that such an alternative source of fresh water will be beneficial as more and more refugees return to their homes in Jaffna, which is expected to exacerbate the ground water situation.

 

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