Many people still do not have access to clean drinking water in the rural areas of Sri Lanka. As part of a large-scale infrastructure project in the east of the island state, GF Piping Systems provided a modern, environmentally friendly piping system and contributed its expertise to ensuring that the population of the town of Ampara can now benefit from running water.
Clean water for Sri Lanka
Part of a big infrastructure project //
For many people in the world, clean drinking water is by no means a given.
In the island state of Sri Lanka in the Indian Ocean, the inhabitants of small towns and villages usually depend on wells to obtain water for daily cooking and washing. The well water, however, is frequently contaminated with pathogens. What is more, the population suffers from frequent dry periods and droughts.
One exception now is the town of Ampara, situated 360 kilometers east of Sri Lanka’s capital Colombo. Here, the population of some 20 000 inhabitants have recently gained access to fresh, clean tap water thanks to a state-of-the-art pipeline system provided by GF Piping Systems. “We supplied a total of around 850 kilometers of piping and more than 200 000 fittings and other components for the Ampara project”, explains Shekhar Jagtap, Managing Director of GF Piping Systems in India. In addition to the Indian subcontinent, his subsidiary also covers Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, and the Maldives as well as Sri Lanka, since 2013.
The drinking water pipes were laid over the past three years by Sunpower, one of the country’s largest construction companies. The pipeline network in Ampara forms part of a much bigger infrastructure project being run by Sri Lanka’s central water authority, the National Water Supply and Drainage Board. The ultimate aim is to provide drinking water for almost 650 000 people in the eponymous district of Ampara in the east of the country by 2025. The project is being funded over a 15-year period by international cooperation projects, which include the governments of Australia and Japan as well as the European Union, for example.
When it came to installing the water distribution system for the town of Ampara, Sunpower opted for GF Piping Systems. The division is the exclusive supplier of all piping systems. The high quality of GF products and the division’s extensive portfolio were the decisive factors here. “We were the only competitor able to provide the customer with a complete system solution from a single source”, as Shekhar Jagtap relates.
Products with good life cycle assessment //
The core of the new piping system consists of some 850 kilometers of drinking water pipes made of corrosion-resistant polyethylene (PE) with diameters of between 63 and 315 mm – and that’s only the main lines. They have an expected service life of at least 100 years and a particularly positive life cycle assessment as compared to other materials. The CO2 footprint of a PE pipe made by GF Piping Systems is only half the size of a comparable metal pipe, for example. What is more, the fact that they are colored blue prevents them from being damaged during later construction work since they are readily identifiable as drinking water pipes.
More than 200 000 electrofusion fittings of the ELGEF system are installed under the streets of Ampara. This patented GF Piping Systems technique ensures reliable and long-lasting pipe connections. In order to ensure correct use of the relevant electrofusion equipment, GF Piping Systems provided on-site training sessions for Sunpower employees. Three GF experts trained a total of 200 welders in the correct use of the products.
One challenge that emerged as the project progressed was the town’s remote location. “As Ampara has neither an airport nor a rail connection we had to transport all the material by road from distant Colombo”, explains Jagtap. In order to minimize the environmental impact and the costs, GF Piping Systems planned the truck deliveries as precisely as possible.
The effort was certainly worth it for the population of Ampara. Since completion of the main lines this June, every household can apply to the water authority for a connection. Poorer families are exempt from the connection fee, which costs the equivalent of 15 Swiss francs. The water comes from a reservoir near the town and is purified in a treatment plant operated by Sunpower before flowing into the pipelines.
After the great success of the Ampara project, Sunpower and GF Piping Systems aim to further expand their collaboration in Sri Lanka. “There may be a new infrastructure project in the fall which will be around twice as large in scale as the one in Ampara”, says Jagtap. The National Water Supply and Drainage Board has now approved all GF Piping Systems products for the distribution of water. As a result, even more people in Sri Lanka can hope for fresh drinking water in future – thanks to the products and experience of GF Piping Systems.
More than 200 000 electrofusion fittings of the ELGEF system are installed in Ampara.
Interview with Pietro Lori, Head of GF Piping Systems (until August 2016)
Mr. Lori, how important are projects such as the one in Sri Lanka for GF Piping Systems?
The sustainable supply of clean drinking water is a key issue in many countries of the world. Large-scale infrastructure projects such as the one in the town of Ampara demonstrate how the safe and secure transport of water can be ensured with efficiency and expertise. Thanks to our products and know-how we are the ideal partner when it comes to implementing this kind of elaborate project in developing and emerging countries.
What challenges do water supply projects involve in terms of products, employees, and services?
The challenges we are faced with are many and varied. There are difficulties in the area of logistics, for example, because the infrastructure in these countries is not very far advanced. This means our employees often have to demonstrate a high level of flexibility as well as creativity in finding solutions. We also attach great importance to training the parties involved on site so as to ensure our products are applied correctly. In the case of Ampara this meant training more than 200 welders.
Several hundred kilometers of polyethylene piping were laid in Ampara. What is the advantage of this kind of material as compared with others?
Our PE pipes have demonstrated a better life cycle assessment than comparable products made of other materials: they have a very long service life, are resistant to corrosion, and are very lightweight. Thanks to a long-lasting system life cycle the PE pipes are very cost-efficient, too. Consequently, our solutions deliver the perfect combination of both economic and ecological factors.
Commitment to clean drinking water
Above and beyond its business operations, GF is closely involved with “clean water” issues. Since 2002 the company has supported drinking water projects all over the world through its Clean Water Foundation. All in all, GF has invested a total of some CHF 9 million in the foundation to date, providing around 250 000 people with a sustainably improved supply of drinking water. Between 2002 and 2015 the foundation was able to implement 130 projects involving the transport, distribution, and storage of water, for example. The main projects in 2015 were in Egypt, Ethiopia, Bolivia, El Salvador, Cambodia, and Nepal. Further information is available at www.cleanwater.ch.
In order to implement projects in an especially efficient and effective manner, the Clean Water Foundation and Caritas Switzerland entered into a partnership to bring access to clean drinking water in 2011. At the end of 2015, GF extended this collaboration by another four years, providing another CHF 1 million to realize drinking water projects with the charity organization. As part of this partnership, GF is also making its know-how and technical expertise available.