My WATSAN Life in Bangladesh: Week 3 and 4

Hundreds of thousands of people have fled violence in Myanmar. In neighbouring Bangladesh, Alex and her team are working on providing clean water and sanitation to the refugees.

Each makeshift refugee settlement here in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, is divided into blocks (neighbourhoods). All NGO’s (non-governmental organisations) have been appointed specific blocks by the Bangladeshi government to efficiently coordinate who is doing what activities where and so that work is equally spread over the camps.

MSF has planned to drill deep tube wells and set up gravity flow water distribution systems in Block C and D of Jamtoli Makeshift Settlement, and Block M, N and O of Hakimpara Makeshift Settlement. In a gravity flow system, water flows down pipe using the force of gravity, towards easily accessible distribution taps downhill. We are also planning on supporting our medical facilities to ensure an adequate, accessible and reliable water supply for our patients.

View on Block M from across the valley at Hakimpara Makeshift Settlement. The drilling equipment is being moved to a site at the bottom of the valley.

My WATSAN Life in Bangladesh: Week 3 and 4

These last two weeks I’ve been drilling deep tube water wells at both Jamtoli and Hakimpara Makeshift Settlements. 

Setting up the drilling rig at the base of Block M in Hakimpara Makeshift Settlement. MSF is drilling the first deep tube well in this area

Drilling equipment is carried in and set up by hand. No vehicles are able to access this area due to steep rolling hilltops and uneven mud roads

Drilling in the MSF Primary Health Centre in Block G at Jamtoli Makeshift Settlement. Water formation has been found from 410 – 460ft

Drilling fluid is used both to carry up drill cuttings from the bottom of the well, and to lubricate the drill bit from getting too hot and coat the borehole walls to prevent them from sloughing in.

The fluid is pumped through a hose down the inside of the drilling pipe and comes out of small holes in the drill bit. It then comes back up to the surface outside of the drill pipe. At the surface, I can analyze the drill cuttings and determine whether we are drilling in a clay formation (no water) or a sand formation (water layer).

Drilling in Block C at Jamtoli Makeshift Settlement. Water formation found from 450 to 500ft 

Drilling in Block M at Hakimpara Makeshift Settlement. Water formation found from 335 to 420ft 

For our deep tube wells, I wanted to drill very deep because I believed that the shallow aquifers were contaminated from the toilet wastewater leaching into the ground. My goal was to target a water formation at least 400ft deep and have a layer of coarse sand from ideally from 80 to 100ft. 

Coarse sand carried up by the drilling fluid from the bottom of the deep tube well while drilling from 450 to 500ft deep

Drilling deep tube wells for a MSF project is a new experience for me and also for the Rohingya community as lots of them came out to watch our activities and play games during the downtime. 

From left to right: Gofur (drilling contractor assistant 2), Arafat (my MSF translator), me and Shofiq (drilling contractor assistant 1)