S. BARTHIBAN ET AL.
vides more opportunities for the leachates from any on-
site sanitation system to reach one or more wells rapidly.
Therefore the answer to this altered question (Q1) will
always be “Yes” in the case of the Maldives islands stud-
ied, and thus becomes both the commonest and the most
important hazard. Considering these facts (and based on
the BGS ARGOSS guidelines ), it is concluded that
maintaining a safe separation distance between an open
dug well and an on-site sanitation system is not possible
in most of the Maldives islands.
Q2: Is the nearest latrine on higher ground than the
The second question in the published survey form is
intended to reinforce Q1 where groundwater flow direc-
tion is likely to increase the risk of faecal contamination
from latrines. However, since the topography of the Mal-
dives is almost flat there is virtually no down-gradient
flow, Question 2 can therefore be excluded. Furthermore,
it is not possible to deduce the potential for the leachate
from the latrine to reach the well water without tracer
study information about the groundwater flow direction.
However, this information was not available for the Mal-
Q2: Is the nearest latrine on higher ground than the
well? Of the published survey form is redundant and will
not be considered further.
Q3: Is there any other source of pollution (e.g. animal
excreta, rubbish) within 10 m of the well?
This question checks the possibility of microbial con-
tamination of well water from other localized sources of
contamination. It is not a common practice in the Mal-
dives to keep live stock, or pets due to the religious be-
liefs. However, breeding birds including hens were seen
in several houses in the study islands. Open disposal of
rubbish within the house plot near domestic dug wells
was observed frequently in the Maldives islands. As dis-
cussed in the case of Q1, the distance checked in Q3
might be modified to 52.5 m in the context of the Mal-
dives islands. However, at this distance (52.5 m) this
hazard is most unlikely to represent hazard. Therefore the
Q3 need not be modified in the case of the Maldives is-
Q4: Is the drainage poor, causing stagnant water
within 2 m of the well? AND,
Q5: Is there a faulty drainage channel? Is it broken,
These questions check whether the wasted well water
and other surface water, which potentially carries patho-
gens, could drain back into the well through preferential
pathways. Even though the wells were built inside the
washroom most of the time, the drainage was directed
out of the wash room towards the garden, or garbage
dumping area, or sometimes into the soakage pits of the
latrines. The washrooms were either marbled or ce-
mented. However, cracks on the floor of the washroom
were witnessed. Therefore, in the context of the Maldives
islands, these questions, Q4 and Q5 are valid and don’t
need to be modified, but become Q3 and Q4 respectively.
Q6: Is the wall (parapet) around the well inadequate,
allowing surface wa ter to enter the well?
Question 6 checks whether any contaminated surface
water, can potentially enter into the well due to an in-
adequate, damaged parapet wall. Only in very rare oc-
currences was the parapet wall around the well observed
to be inadequate in the Maldives study islands. However,
this can be a potential hazard in the context of the Mal-
dives and thus remains a valid question as Q5.
Q7: Is the concrete floor less than 1 m wide around the
As in the case of questions four and five, question
seven checks whether any potentially contaminated sur-
face water can enter into the well water through prefer-
ential pathways, in the absence of 1 m wide plinth around
the well. This could be another potential observable
sanitary hazard in the Maldives islands. Yet, it is a com-
mon practice observed in the Maldives islands, to build
the domestic well within the wash room (next to the la-
trine)! Since, the wells are located within the washroom,
most of the time the plinth around the well happens to be
wider than 1 m (with floor tiles or concrete paving). Con-
sequently, this remains a major concern and the question
is retained as Q6.
Q8: Are the walls of the well inadequately sealed at
any point for 3 m below ground?
This question checks the availability of preferential
pathways for the polluted water interflow to enter into
the well. Since the groundwater table in the Maldives
islands is very shallow (about 2 to 3 m), this question can
be an important potential hazard identification question
in the Maldives islands’ context. It is therefore valid in
the Maldives and becomes Q7.
Q9: Are there any cracks in the concrete floor around
the well which could permit water to enter the well?
Once again question 9 checks the presence of prefer-
ential pathways for the polluted water to reach the well
water. Even though most of the wells in the Maldives
islands are located within the wash room with a wide
plinth present around the well, still the floor can have
cracks. Therefore question 9 is valid in the Maldives is-
lands’ context and becomes Q8.
Q10: Are the rope and bucket left in such a position
that they may become contaminated?
A metal or plastic container attached to a pole, called a
“Dhani”, is the means of manual abstraction used in the
Maldives islands to abstract groundwater. However, in-
creasing usage of demand driven pressure pumps are also
observed in the study islands for flushing the toilets and
in the kitchens. When the “dhani” was used for well wa-
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