Tatirano team

Alumnus helps bring clean water to rural communities

Exeter alumnus Harry Chaplin (MEng Civil and Environmental Engineering, 2015) has helped set-up a project in Madagascar to deliver fresh drinking water to communities.

In Madagascar, 1 in 10 children die from diarrhoeal illnesses directly linked to dirty water and poor hygiene. On a volunteer placement in 2011, Harry saw the dire need for clean water in the country, with diseases caused by dirty drinking water rife. On his return home, and having completed his masters in engineering, he decided to use his skills to help. The resulting project is known as Tatirano, meaning ‘to collect water’ in Malagasy.

The project Harry devised, in conjunction with charity SEED Madagascar, involved swapping rusted roofs for corrugated metal roofing or using tarpaulin panels to collect rainwater, via guttering, in holding tanks. Fundamental to the system’s design is its self-cleansing ‘first flush’ mechanism, where the first rains wash any debris or dirt on the roof into a separate chamber before clean water runs into a main holding tank. Water tests have shown that this simple overflow system maintains high drinking water standards.

Harry said: “In 2011 I volunteered with SEED's conservation programme in a remote rural village where people drank dirty well water. It rained a lot, and was supposed to be dry season, and seemed crazy to me that no-one was collecting the rain for drinking water. So I did a bit more research during my time at Exeter and almost eight years after that first visit (and a huge amount of support from family, friends, SEED and The Travers Cox Charitable Foundation) I am still sat in Madagascar knowing that people's lives are improving just because they have clean water on tap at home.”

The project has gone from strength to strength, driven by its committed Madagascan staff members. It has installed 148 systems, across ten communities, and runs education classes about the ongoing maintenance of the systems. The next step for the project is to look at 30 schools that have been built or refurbished over the past decade by SEED Madagascar and the potential to fit them with Tatirano water systems; not only supplying the schools with clean water ‘on their doorstep’ and enhancing educational outcomes, but providing the wider communities with clean water as well.

Date: 31 January 2019

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