Medium & Sanitas Factsheet
- Founded in 2000
- Founding member of WfWP
- Mission: To contribute solutions to crossborder water conflicts in Eastern Europe
- Focus area: Water and sanitation, environmental awareness, policy and governance, gender, sustainable development / women policy makers / youth / farmers and rural communities
- Level: Basin, local, national, regional
- Main themes: Water, sanitation, gender, sustainable development, education
Seven million people in rural areas of Romania get their drinking water from wells. These wells are often polluted with nitrates, bacteria, and pesticides. Poor sanitary conditions and latrines, the mismanagement of waste dumps and agricultural waste, cause groundwater and surface water pollution. Health effects include both the long term (thyroid and brain dysfunction) and immediate (blue-baby-disease, diarrhoea, parasitic diseases, hepatitis) and can be lethal. The Romanian regulation states that public wells have to be monitored every four months by the communal authorities. However, in most villages there is no budget for monitoring, maintenance of public wells and no alternatives for obtaining unpolluted water.
Medium et Sanitas combats pollution, ignorance and fights for involvement of civil society in water related legislative processes, by educating communities, teachers and pupils. M&S is actively pursuing a participatory democracy, involving stakeholders in the legislative processes around water, creating a network of local environmental NGOs and implementing effective and reproducible small-scale projects for safe drinking water solutions. For instance with the Eco-School projects such as Contest on Environmental Protection, the Heart of the Earth, National Symposia on Danube Schools and Eco-technique between 2011 and 2014. Over 80 pupils and 40 teachers received intensive trainings.
One of the larger programmes of M&S in collaboration with WECF was the Matra Program “Safe Drinking Water – Catalyst for Citizens’ Involvement in Romania” from 2001-2004 and 2009 with a budget of 250,000 Euro for 6000 beneficiaries. The main goals of the MATRA project “Safe Drinking Water” were to increase citizens’ participation in community projects and “democracy building” which was hard at first, due to a lack of experience in forming community-based organisations. It was necessary to organise women’s meetings or to establish a women’s group so as to actively engage them in the decision-making process.
Health statistics showed that many cases of blue baby disease had occurred in the pilot village Garla Mare, which links to diarrhoea, intestinal or stomach infections, among others caused by the water used for baby formula. The project objective was fivefold (i) to raise public awareness on water quality (ii) to mobilise the community to take on more responsibility for their health and environment (iii) to actively involve women in local policy-making and implemention (iv) to identify short and medium term solutions and (v) to develop practical water improvement projects.
M&S and WECF initially investigated the water quality of 78 public wells. Villagers could also test a sample from their wells. These tests showed three types of pollutants in the drinking water; high levels of faecal bacteria, nitrates and the pesticide ‘atrazine’. None of the public nor private wells had clean water. Also, there was a lack of awareness about the link between polluted water and health among villagers. A project committee of villagers was established to develop solutions to reduce water pollution. During a public meeting survey results were showed and experts presented possible solutions. Three preventive measures were decided upon: an immediate solution was the instalment of a water filter specially designed for the high-nitrate and bacterial pollution in the village- first intended for the most vulnerable people. Then a medium-term solution was the installation of hygienic toilets which do not pollute the groundwater. The long-term solution addressed agricultural pollution, by switching to organic farming. WECF and the Technical University of Hamburg-Harburg have continued monitoring the filters and toilets after they were installed. Urine and faeces samples were collected and analysed. Farmers were instructed and assisted on how to apply the urine to their fields.
In the Clean Water and Hygiene in Rural Areas Educational program, in partnership with WfWP, 150 persons were reached. For this program a model was developed for primary and secondary schools. Practical demonstrations were conducted to monitor drinking water quality in three schools. Samples of school water were tested and Water Safety Plans were developed together with pupils and local communities.. This programme had spin offs in other villages and regions in Romania.