Students engineer hope in Sri Lankan village

Dhanusha Gokulan/staff Reporter
Filed on February 2, 2015
Students engineer hope in Sri Lankan village

They braved difficulties like lack of sponsors and harsh weather to instal water filters in a Sri Lankan village that didnít have access to clean water.

Students engineer hope in Sri Lankan village (/assets/oldimages/youth3101.jpg)

Student members of the ‘Engineers Without Borders’ sieving sand and gravel in Badulla, Sri Lanka, as part of their project. -Supplied photo

For Tuqa Khalid, an engineering student at the American University of Sharjah (AUS), the words ‘no’ and ‘impossible’ are never an option. Her lifelong dream and the perseverance of 10 AUS students for 10 months have put an end to the water-related woes of a village in Sri Lanka.

The students braved adversities like lack of sponsors, harsh weather and managing studies simultaneously to achieve this dream.

As part of the first international project by the ‘Engineers Without Borders’ (EWB) at the American University of Sharjah, 10 students travelled to Badulla in Sri Lanka earlier this month to instal 15 BioSand water filters for the benefit of the community. Tuqa, who is the president of the EWB at the AUS, said: “EWB is a newly-founded student-run organisation established to support community-driven sustainable human development in the Middle East and North Africa.

Students engineer hope in Sri Lankan village (/assets/oldimages/youth3101a.jpg)

Engineering students from the American University of Sharjah behind the BioSand Water Filtration Project. — Supplied photos

“Our aim is to design and implement sustainable engineering projects, while allowing students to have inspirational experiences, giving them a chance to give back to their communities, and creating responsible leaders. Our ambition is to expose engineering students at the AUS to the ... fulfilling experience of utilising their knowledge in a way to give back to the unfortunate communities all around us.

“The club was established a year ago and I personally spent over 10 months ... preparing for the project. We spent seven days in Sri Lanka and returned on January 3.”

Along with Tuqa, Ameeq Pirzada, Loay Ayad Farhat, Abdul Samad Mohammad Zahir, Khalid Ibrahim, Reshma Sultana, Issam Faisal Saif, Moataz Khaled Abdrabou, Maged Ahmad Shoman and Salmah Ossama El Sawah participated in the initative.

After the proposal was put forward, it took months to find a sponsor. “That was one of our biggest hurdles because there were several companies that literally shut the door on my face. However, we got Be’aah on board and they were the title sponsors of the project,” said Khalid.

The event was fully sponsored by Bee’ah, the Middle East’s leading integrated environment and waste management company. Additional financial support was provided by ITL World, one of the largest travel management companies in India and the Middle East.

BioSand water filter

A BioSand filter is a water treatment system for daily use by households that do not have safe or treated water sources available. BioSand filters remove 95 to 99 per cent of organic contaminants, including bacteria, viruses, protozoa, worms and particles. The filters remove the dangerous biological contaminants by filtering the water through three layers — sand, small gravel and large gravel.

The filter works by gravity and does not need to be powered electrically or mechanically. Currently, there are tens of thousands of such filters operational in over 35 developing countries around the world.

Tuqa said: “In Sri Lanka, the Helping Hills Foundation (a Sri Lankan humanitarian organisation) ... got us in touch with the Badulla Municipal Council. The council provided us with the working space and some of the equipment we needed to do our work.

“Once we were there, we ... found the right type of sand and gravel we needed. Over the next five days, we prepared the material to be used in the filters. This consisted of sieving over half a tonne sand and gravel, washing it, and then drying and storing it. The process itself is simple, but the sheer physical effort that went into carrying it out was quite impressive even if I do say so myself. It was very labour intensive work, and the students did it all by themselves.”

Apart from installing the filters, the students visited the School of the Blind and Deaf as well as the elderly home in Badulla.

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