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How we got water to flow uphill in Panguna

Roka RAM
Augustine and Fitzkeith with cellphone and repurposed fire extinguisher


PANGUNA - In late 2017 my father-in-law, after seeing what I did in Panguna, asked me to help built a toilet and shower facility.

I was lost. How could I help in a place where there were no hills to provide gravity feed to get water for the facility.

This area of Buin is low-lying and the waterways are mostly about four plus meters lower.

I had nothing in store to get water meters lower my feet uphill to reach our lawns.

I had water pumps driven by electricity in mind. I saw them in the shops but didn’t have the money to get them to Buin. It was too costly for a subsistence farmer like me.

Then in 2018 I came across a man, educated in Japan, who was building water pumps using various types of one-way valves.

His tale of pumping systems that use the hammer effect of the water captured my attention.

But he wasn’t able to tell me, item by item, what parts were needed to assemble the pump.

After I’d pestered him for a while, he said if I arranged transport we’d go to Buin so he could scope the water source I had in mind.

He said he’d also itemise a list and costs of what was required so I could identify how to fund the project.

This looked like the end for me. I had no money.

I knew he had money because he was linked to some NGOs undertaking water projects in Bougainville.

Something he said lodged in my mind. The ‘one-way valve’.

From him I had gleaned that these were devices that maintained the flow of water in one direction.

It was 2021 before I had a breakthrough.

A sojourn in Buka got me hooked into the government intranet and the very first day I had access to a computer, I entered into Google the name of the object that had stuck in my mind - ‘one-way valve’.

The world opened and there it was, what I wanted - the RAM pump.

Wikipedia said this device had only two moving parts, a spring or weight loaded ‘waste’ valve, sometimes known as the ‘clack’ valve, and a ‘delivery’ check valve making it cheap to build, easy to maintain and very reliable.

It seems that the first device had been developed in Granada, Spain, in the year 1238.

Then in 1772, in England, a manually controlled model was developed.

And the final RAM pump was invented in France in 1796.

Sadly, in Bougainville in 2021, I did not have the finance to get the parts I needed to assemble the facility for my family in Buin.

I needed a miracle to happen, and it did - in late 2022.

I had some financial good luck and purchased a mobile phone in Arawa.

All the money went on the phone and, when I arrived home with it, my wife was not in a good mood with me.

However, with the phone I could send a couple of stories to PNG Attitude.

Chatting online with Keith Jackson about some personal issues, I mentioned to him that I had a bit of financial trouble.

As a good friend who has supported us writers and our writing as a labour of love, Keith sent me some money.

When he told me this, I was in tears, for I was really all consumed by the RAM pump and some other useful things I had gleaned from Google.

When the money reached me, I was in Arawa with my sons, Fitzkeith and Augustine. (Fitzkeith is named for my two literary friends, Phil Fitzpatrick and Keith Jackson.)

With the money we were able to purchase all the materials we needed from a hardware shop in Arawa.

Once home the next morning, we began to assemble the device and completed it late in the afternoon. The kids were so excited when we began to test it.

My three children and I lifted a 1,000 litre water tank onto a metal work table that long ago I’d taken from the abandoned Panguna mine site.

We filled the tank with water and connected it to 10 meters of 30 mm hose. The other end of the hose we connected to the inlet of the RAM pump.

The positioning of the RAM pump was about 12 meters away from the supply tank and the water to feed to the pump had a fall of some three meters.

I closely examined the setup amidst the pestering of the two kids who were fighting over who should be the first to open the inlet tap, I allowed them both to open the tap.

The water entered the RAM pump. My heart was beating fast. Would it work.

I waited for the water to fill a pressure tank for which I employed a fire extinguisher cylinder that a neighbour was using to distil liquor.

Then I open the outlet tap and the water was fired and pushed seven meters high into a tree next to my house through a 16 mm hose.

And because Keith Jackson stepped in, people in a village in Buin, South Bougainville, will have water at their doorsteps in the coming months of 2023.


Remarkable what a little money (K500) and a lot of ingenuity can achieve - KJ


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