Whereas the proportion of people with access to clean water is steadily increasing around the world, in Moldova it has fallen since the collapse of the Soviet Union. In rural areas, water and wastewater systems are either lacking altogether, or systems from the Soviet era are for the most part no longer functional.
Access to water
Because of the precarious water supply, in some villages people are forced to draw water from shallow open wells. Contaminated drinking water and poor sanitation cause diseases, especially among children. Some 70 per cent of rural residents have no water supply, which means that they have neither a flush toilet nor a shower nor running water at home.
Regional governments' responsibility
The provision of clean drinking water and adequate sewage systems is essential to advance the development of the country. With its National Strategy on Water Supply and Wastewater Management, which was introduced in 2007, the Moldovan government is betting on decentralisation: Regional authorities are to manage the supply of drinking water and removal of wastewater independently and efficiently. Plans are in place to build, with government support, drinking water and wastewater systems that will obtain water from local sources.
Switzerland supports these efforts by the government to further sustainability and cost effectiveness. ApaSan, a project funded by the SDC since 2009, is assisting local institutions in building new water systems and connecting villages which have hitherto lacked access. To this end, the SDC is working not only with the authorities but also with civil society and the private sector. ApaSan is a successor of the WatSan (water and sanitation) programme which the SDC implemented from 2001 to 2008 as part of its humanitarian assistance to the Republic of Moldova. Thanks to the WatSan programme, the SDC was able to demonstrate that decentralised water systems and local wastewater treatment plants in rural areas were a sustainable solution. Consequently, the WatSan programme was converted into the ApaSan programme in 2009.
The key role of civil society and the local authorities
Regional and local authorities, as well as the water end users, share the costs of the water supply systems that are currently being built in villages by the ApaSan project. The SDC has successfully transferred the operation and maintenance of the drinking water and wastewater systems to water consumers’ associations. At the same time, the SDC supports the construction of efficient and environmentally friendly wastewater treatment facilities, particularly for schools and other social institutions.There is also a demand for innovative solutions and models to develop decentralised water systems throughout Moldova as a complement to the centralised water supply system. The SDC is currently working with the Moldovan government, the World Bank, the EU and the Austrian Development Agency (ADA) to develop successful models for other parts of the country. A key aspect of the programme is to offer local authorities and members of civil society further education and training to enable them to run the decentralised water supply and sanitation facilities efficiently, sustainably and independently.
Clean water for 8,300 people
The SDC's long-term objective is that by 2025 the local authorities, with the support of civil society, will be able to provide clean water and functioning sewage treatment plants to all rural residents. Since the project began in 2009, more than 8,300 people (2,400 domestic water connections) have gained access to clean water and sanitation systems in rural areas of Moldova. Moreover, in schools and social institutions 1,640 people are now benefiting from sewage treatment systems and 2,840 people from newly installed toilets.