Providing access to clean water in North Korea

Jul 09, 2016
10-Minute Read
Through my work with humanitarian and development assistance organizations over the last 15 years, I have had the pleasure of visiting some of the most remote places in the world, all the while observing and experiencing cultures that are little known to many Canadians. 

Recently, I returned from North Korea, officially known as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, where I had the opportunity to visit some of World Vision’s alternative energy water projects. 

Beyond the news cycle and the media reports, I was able to see the lives of people living in rural areas. They go about their daily lives, unaware of the politics and controversy that swirl around the country that they live in.

These people were gracious and hard-working, trying to carve out a life and livelihood for their selves and their families. 

World Vision has worked in North Korea for almost 20 years, supporting people’s food, water and health needs, as well as responding to cyclical disasters like droughts and floods. These disasters are in large part due to the effects of severe climate change and serious environmental challenges in the country, such as deforestation, soil erosion and water resource depletion. 

In response to the dwindling water supply in North Korea , as well as in support of the country’s decades-old infrastructure, World Vision has worked to bring clean water to over 150,000 people since 2006, using solar and wind power to run water systems in rural areas.  

World Vision drills wells, installs high-quality solar pumps, and uses solar electricity to pump water to water tanks on nearby hills. The water from the tanks is then piped directly into every single house, school, and clinic in the farming community. In Chongsan-ri, one of the communities that I visited, this means that 1,435 children will have easy access to clean water for the first time in their lives.

In the communities of Chongsan-ri and Oiso-ri, where water systems were installed between 2013 and 2015, challenges with inconsistent electricity supply led World Vision to use solar energy as the primary source of power for the system. Solar panels have significantly decreased in price, are long-lasting and easy to maintain, and are a reliable, year-round source of energy for these communities.

Households that we visited showed us pipes that ran directly into their houses, providing access to clean water to be used for drinking, washing and watering their vegetable gardens. These families were relieved to have additional time each day to dedicate to their household responsibilities, now that they did not have to walk 30 minutes to the nearest water source. 

World Vision is one of the largest development providers of clean water in the world. We have the experience needed to cater to the needs of different communities. Every day, I take for granted being able to turn on my faucet and drink clean water. In North Korea, I saw us using our experience to reach the most vulnerable, who don’t have the luxury of taking this life-saving resource for granted. 

Canadians can be a part of these incredible transformations too. I can now say with confidence that your support means life for people in countries like North Korea.

a hand turns on a tap to fills up a red bucket with water