Russian Federation/Chechnya: water for Dachu-Borzoi

13-12-2012 Feature

Although things have improved in Chechnya, many settlements in its remote southern are still having trouble getting clean drinking water. Dachu-Borzoi is one of many villages where the ICRC has repaired or rebuilt the water-supply system in recent years. When choosing villages for this kind of assistance, the ICRC takes into account the scale of destruction, the number of inhabitants, the state of the water network and the severity of the mine threat.

Dachu-Borzoi is a village of some 2000 inhabitants, situated on the right bank of the river Argun, bordering the Shatoi district of Chechnya. In 2009, when ICRC engineers came here for the first time, they discovered that 95% of the existing water system had been destroyed. Almost 90% of the residents have dug wells, which are filled with bought water delivered by water-carriers. However, water soon becomes stagnant in the wells, and usable only for washing, not for drinking. Having finished repairing water systems in other villages, the ICRC returned to Dachu-Borzoi in 2011. Right from the start, this was clearly going to be the largest ICRC project of its kind in a Chechen village. The settlement met all the criteria of population size and scale of destruction. Musa Shaipov, an ICRC engineer, jokingly cites another argument put forward by the locals: "Girls were reluctant to marry into the village because there was no water!"

First, engineers examined natural water sources in the surrounding area. The springs they discovered were situated below the level of the village, which meant that pumps would be needed to get water to the houses. The village administration had the necessary potability analysis done. Satisfied with the results, the Red Cross hired a contractor whose team began work under the supervision of ICRC engineers. "Pumps need electricity," Musa explained, "so the ICRC laid more than a kilometre of cable and installed a transformer." In addition, two water tanks were built and more than 19 kilometres of pipes laid. Ramzan Serganov, former head of the village administration, recalls that at first he wasn’t very positive about the ICRC. "I thought they were just here for appearance's sake," he laughs. "But now so much has been done. Seven generations of my forefathers have lived here without water, carrying it in buckets, using shoulder-yokes. I can’t remember water ever flowing so well here."

Musa tries to settle any issues that arise diplomatically. "Villagers often attempt to give advice," he smiles. "Some are happy, others are not. This is always the case. Many people, knowing nothing of the technical details, try to convince us that we are doing something wrong. But we have very accurate calculations, plans and designs as well as our own criteria. We are guided by our capabilities and the ICRC’s task, as a humanitarian organization, of providing access to drinking water in villages that have not yet been able to overcome the consequences of the armed conflict on their own."

At present, half the villagers already have water. Engineers started up the new system before the end of the project to check that it was working properly. At a house at the entrance to the village, a freshly dug trench twists under the gates leading from the road. Maryam meets the engineers. She is around 60, and freely confesses to her scepticism about getting running water, given that nothing has happened in this part of the village so far. In the area where the system is already working, clean laundry hangs outside a house. A young woman comes to the door. "When water began to flow for the first time, I was so happy I washed all the carpets," Larisa says. "We used to buy water and it didn't last long: we’re a big family, and we need water for the cattle as well." And still the water flows … through the pipes that form the main arteries of Dachu-Borzoi’s water network, and on down its veins and capillaries into the houses. Soon, it will reach Maryam. There is a month's worth of work left in the village, so she should have running water before the cold winter comes.


A water engineer tests the recently installed water system. 

Dachu-Borzoi, Russian Federation.
A water engineer tests the recently installed water system.
© ICRC / v-p-ru-en-00684