November 4, 2017
It is always very clear over the first day or two of an exploration program which individual is the most important member of the team. The learning curve is very steep for all 5 of us Canadians here. None of us speak more than a few words of Bangla. We do not have enough knowledge of the Bengali script to differentiate between the sign for a maternal health center and a tire repair shop. As we pull our cables through cities of plastic sheeting and mud, we have to constantly be aware that these are people`s homes; though, we do not have the cultural or language skills to properly excuse ourselves or ask for permission to pass.
And as we try to make sense of our results, we need to ``ground truth`` our interpretations and fancy 3D visualizations against existing wells of known locations, depths, construction, flow rates, and water quality…but how do you find these water points when they might be inside a walled compound of the village head man, or inside a military post, or in a sunken concrete vault in the midst of a rice field.
Our four Bangladeshi Polytechnic students have neither the English nor social mindset to help us in this regard. While the UN water Channing Tatum and his friends have an overall conceptualization of the hydrogeology and water use situation, they are lacking on-the-ground details. Our field schedules and the already ongoing water and sanitation crisis do not allow for the needed month long methodical, patient, water point and water use survey over vast areas of refugee settlement.
As such, and as is often the case, our most critical staff persons become our Bangladeshi drivers, Shajahan, Adur Rauf, and Younus. They are our translators, social facilitators, cultural advisers, treaty makers, negotiators of property access, and of course very skilled drivers. They quickly guide us to existing water wells that fall on our lines. They ask permission for us to cross unharvested rice fields. They negotiate settlements if we create any minor damage during our field work.
We have now moved from the agrarian areas beyond the main settlements, and into the densely populated, spontaneous, makeshift, and registered refugee camps. We needed the warm up as combining the social and human challenges with the logistical and technical quandaries of the first few days would have been overwhelming. But we are now very much enjoying interacting with the refugee population. And we believe we are having some success, as we have crossed a few sandstone units and likely aquifers. We are now chasing these aquifers down to determine their extents, and where they may exist in closer proximity to existing surface reservoirs and emergency water treatment facilities.
And we even had a few minutes to enjoy fresh coconut juice and a spectacular sunset on the beach on our drive home last night.
Blogging by Paul Bauman