Many villages in Moldova are underdeveloped and have no water pipelines. The old people are afraid. A visit shows the problems - and the hope.
The man with a grey moustache bends down and grabs. Blood flows into his arms, veins stand out. Both hands are clutching a plastic bucket of water, which he has just extracted from the well. Now, Michael Sperento has to carry the 20 kilogramme buckets home by foot. He knows the way in his sleep – more than a hundred metres, around the corner, past a few plots of land and fences; he can walk the distance with his eyes closed, as he takes this route with the buckets ten times a day. Another alternative to get water is just not available to him. Most households in the village of Biesti are neither connected to pipelines, nor to a sewer. So far, the wiry body of the 73-year-old has the power to bear the burden, but what happens when his legs are no longer willing?
According to a report by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), only half of rural Moldovans draw water from a tap. Villagers often use wells as the main source of water, wells which provide poor-quality water. According to the UNDP, about 44 percent of Moldovans have no access to clean drinking water. How can this be? The water situation is indicative of why the Republic is one of the poorest countries in Europe.
On the dusty roads of the municipality of Biesti, about 70 kilometres north of the capital, Chisinau, in the deepest province, the visitor encounters more gaggles of geese and horse-drawn carriages than cars. Some men stagger, can hardly stay on their feet at lunchtime – severely inebriated. Their faces are puffy, full of lines drawn by alcohol. Many are self-sufficient, planting vegetables and grapes to make wine.
Vera Montean is on her way to her home and has some fresh tomatoes in her baggage. The 62-year-old retiree opens her gate and points to a hole in the garden on which she set all her hopes two years ago. Several workers were active, laying a concrete shaft – they then disappeared as suddenly as they appeared. Tarpaulin over the hole shows that the project is resting. The result is no connection, no water. “When will they continue?” asks the former teacher and complains that the water in the well nearby is mixed with too much sand.
The whole community of Biesti are able to report about holes on their property. Before the last municipal election, the water supply was part of a mayoral candidate’s campaign. “He also collected money from us and promised to lay pipes if he won the election”, says a retired biology teacher, who prefers to remain anonymous. She paid 25 Euros; other neighbours paid about 100 Euros, almost an average monthly salary. The politician lost the election, all the construction was stopped – the money was never returned to its owners.
No one in the community knows what happened with the money. Such incidents are no exception because, according to Transparency International, Moldova is the most corrupt country in Europe. Almost a billion euros disappeared in 2014 from state-owned banks to offshore accounts. The money has not re-appeared since this ‘robbery’.
In Biesti, they are hoping for progress and undoubtedly many other villages are, too: “Otherwise, I'll soon have to pay someone to bring me water from the well”, says 73-year-old, Michael Sperento. He quickly picks up the two buckets and starts on his way back to his home – for as long as he is able.