No Rain, No Work, No Money

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WATER [image, unknown] People, water and ways of life

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No rain, No work, No money
People, water and ways of life.

Illustration: Clive Offley
Illustration: Clive Offley

Harry Watkins
Telephone engineer
Croydon, UK.

What? What do you mean where does it come from? Reservoirs, I suppose. I think they catch the rain, purify it, then send it through pipes. Hot water's expensive I can tell you. You should see my electricity bill! Cold water? I don't know. I suppose they include it in the rates. Of course there's enough - except for the drought in 1976. That was terrible. They stopped people washing their cars and watering their gardens. We'd booked a canal holiday but had to cancel - the water was so low in the canals the boats kept getting stuck!

Saleh Hamshali
Village health worker
Museimeer, Democratic Yemen

We used to think that water was just water and we drank it straight from the wadi. Now we know we were drinking the diseases of people living further up the river. If they have diarrhoea, we have diarrhoea. Their children die and so do ours. We used to believe that if a young child was sick, nothing could save it. It was the will of Allah. So the men in the village laughed when I insisted we should build a small dam, to collect clean water from this spring. They said I was mad. But now they don't laugh any more because they see that things are better now.

Stephina Mapogo
Molepolole, Botswana

Look at this earth. It is hard and dry. People call this part of Botswana the 'great thirstland' because there are no rivers here. Last month there was rain to make the ground soft for planting. Now you can see my plants are small and green. But without rain they will die - only rich people can afford to have a borehole drilled for their crops. Now look at the sky - how clear and blue it is. Where is the rain to save my seedlings? When it rains we run out to feel the rain on our faces - no-one minds getting wet when it rains. We call the rain `pula'. Our money we call pula too. Water and money. Its all the same to us. Without rain there is no food, no work, no money.

Abdul Korim
Paddy farmer
Noa Khali, Bangladesh

This Council is the cause of all my troubles. This is where my house once stood. It was a good house with a roof of straw. And here is where my rice grew. I had just transplanted it ready for the rains. Now look - there is nothing but water. The rains were good this year but the Council Chairman stole our money instead of using it to repair the banks of the river. So when the rains came the river overflowed taking everything - my house, my rice, everything was washed away.

Wurgu Umbara
Member of a Pitjantjatjara tribe in the Victoria Desert of South Australia.

In the dry months we camp near pools between the hills and hunt animals when they come to drink. At sunset the old people tell stories of the travels of beings that lived before women and men. We don't read or write so the stories make the desert like a book. They paint a map of the desert for us to follow. Because when the raintime comes the animals run into the desert to follow the water. So we must follow the water too - follow it to where the animals drink.

Maria Juanaramirez
Slum dweller
Lima, Peru

No, it never rains here. Sometimes in winter there's a cold mist but there is no water in this part of Lima - no taps, no wells, no toilets. Most days men come round with the water lorry. They buy water cheaply from government wells outside the city. But they are cruel men. I have to pay them over 25 cents just to fill this tank I'm lucky though. I can earn nearly one dollar a day washing clothes for the rich people. It means I must buy more water but there is usually enough money left over for food. And next year it will be much better. I hear the government will pipe water here next year.

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New Internationalist issue 103 magazine cover This article is from the September 1981 issue of New Internationalist.
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