Rus Alit and the Bali Appropriate Technology Institute

Welcome to this week’s installment of Water Heroes.   The hero we’re looking at today is Mr. Rus Alit.  Mr. Alit is a man that has dedicated his life to helping the people of the world get clean water easily and cost effectively. He is founder of the Bali Appropriate Technology Institute (BATI) with his wife and is an appropriate technology expert renowned for his simple water technologies that have been used in over 30 countries.  At BATI Rus teaches others appropriate technology and trains them to make their own pumps and water tanks, among other things.   Rus’ philosophy is that if he teaches people how to make these systems cheaply and with available resources then there will be water for all.

Rus was raise in Tabanan which is in Indonesia, and is the last of 11 brothers and sisters.  After high school Rus was fortunate enough to be able to go to New Zealand to study for three years.  This trip had a huge impact on his life.  For the first time he experienced having clean water anytime just by turning on the tap.  After his studies he went home and saw elderly villagers hiking long distances and in rugged terrain to get water.  Knowing how important water is he decided he had to do something to make getting water easier, but also knew that the solutions needed to be simple and easy to learn.  That is basically the theory behind appropriate technology; any technology that is simple and doesn’t use any outside energy source like fuel or electricity and uses materials that are available locally.

One of Rus’ first projects was a water system for a village near where he grew up. It had a spring that was hard to access but pumped out clean water and at a rate that would fill 38 drums in 24 hours.  After Rus explained what could be done the villagers were a little skeptical so he showed the village heads a hydraulic ramp pump in another village.  After seeing this, and discussing the project with the community, they decided to adopt the system, but weren’t sure how to pay for it.  Some people said they could pay, but some weren’t sure if they could pull together the money they needed to throw in.  This is where you really see the sense of community.  One man told the rest of the villagers that he was willing to sell two of his cows to get money for the system if they were willing to pay him back.  Within days the villagers had constructed a dam at the spring, ran pipe back up to the village, and had built a holding tank in the village.  Soon after this they ran pipe to each household, providing them with clean water.  The system was easy to make, cheap to install, and could be maintained by people in the village.  Amazing!  And this was only the beginning of it all.

In 1981 he started working for World Vision Indonesia as a consultant.  He worked throughout Indonesia and the South Pacific providing appropriate technologies for water, as well as micro-bio and biogas systems.  He also had the opportunity to work in China and Africa providing the same kind of services.  In 1998 he resigned from his post at World Vision and started BATI.  BATI teaches appropriate technologies, and every year has a ten day course.  Rus explains, “It’s always a fascinating mixture of scientists and villagers.  People come from Africa, Central America, Japanand elsewhere in Asiato learn about water systems, road and bridge building, micro-enterprise, animal husbandry and sustainable agriculture technologies hands-on in a very simple environment”.  When Rus is not busy with BATI he still lends a hand consulting NGOs in the developing world and holds international appropriate technology seminars.  To get a better understanding of what Rus does lets look at a couple more of his projects.

One of Rus’ projects was the Onesu,Timor project. Years before Rus went to Onesu a large company had been there and built an expensive water system to provide the village with fresh water.  The one problem with this system was that it depended on a diesel engine to power the pumps that got the water to the villagers.  In this rural village people didn’t have the means to continuously buy diesel and keep the pumps going, and so it was rarely operational.  This left the villagers with no choice but to walk several kilometers to gather their water.  That’s where Rus and his team from BATI stepped in.  After working with the community and designing the system based on their needs they modified the existing system by building eight hydraulic ram pumps that operate using “head” of water.  If I understand it correctly “head” of water means the height above ground that the water is stored at.  Then when the tap is turned on gravity creates pressure and pushes the water out of the tap.  I hope that makes sense.  Rus explains it better, saying “A one meter drop from a spring or river generates enough energy to drive piped water uphill for about 20 meters…A ten meter drop or an array of ten systems will raise water 100 meters.” When finished this village had a system that is no longer dependent on diesel.  Also, because the community was involved in planning and building the system, and all materials are available locally, it can be managed by the community.  That’s appropriate technology!

Rus worked on another project for a mountainside community in Bali with Water for Life and 40 students and staff from Youth with a Mission Kona Campus.  The community had been drinking, defecating, and washing themselves and their clothes out of an irrigation ditch for years.  For this project they installed a hydraulic ram pump, a storage tank with sand filter, and pipes to link two of the villages.  It’s amazing how simple these systems are.  The pump pushes water up the hillside and then through pipes and into the storage container.  That’s it! The system cost $3000 US and is helping 400-500 people in this community.  What’s even more amazing is that after the system was complete the villagers, educated by Rus, piped water directly to seven households in one village and expanded the system to another village.  There’s a video showing the project here: http://thehefleys.com/tag/rus-alit/.  This is just proof that if you have a simple system and teach people how it works they’ll run with it.

Today there are hundreds of Rus’ pumps all over the world, and his teachings have ensured that they will continue to be there for a long time.  Rus is still out there teaching appropriate water technology, as well as teaching people to turn animal waste into biofuel, make roads, and helps farmers make the most out of their land through appropriate technologies.  Yet another amazing person doing amazing things!

If you’d like to see how some of Rus’ appropriate technologies are made go to http://www.campbali.com/campbali.htm and head to the bottom of the page.

Here are two video’s showing the first project that I wrote about above.

Please check back for the weekly installment of Water Heroes, and if you liked (or disliked) this post please leave a comment.

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