Despite ealier attempts to modernise it, the drinking water infrastructure in the village of Yrdyk in eastern Kyrgyzstan is in a sorry state. You can help change that with a donation to Engineers Without Borders.

The drinking water for the village of 3,000 inhabitants comes mainly from the nearby River Yrdyk. With nothing but a simple sedimentation tank for treatment, the water is distributed to homes through the old Soviet pipe system. During heavy rain or snow, the pipes easily block. On the other hand, in hot weather, the pressure is too low for distribution. As a result, water is often unavailable for days. In addition, houses in the newer part of the village are not even connected to the network.


In the summer and autumn of 2022, staff from HOLINGER and the non-profit organisation Engineers Without Borders Switzerland (IngOG+) visited the village for the first time. Together with the village community, the project team extended the pipeline network to the new development area and commissioned a groundwater well. However, this is not enough to supply the entire village. In addition, it was not possible to establish a sufficient protection zone in the catchment area. During the second visit in winter 2022/23, the team analysed alternatives for the river water catchment. The main challenge is that resources and electricity are not readily available outside the village. Back in Switzerland, the team is now developing plans for a water treatment system that does not require electricity or chemicals.

"We were surprised by the ambivalence: the well-paved road through the village of Yrdyk suddenly gives way to a dirt track at the top. The houses are in good condition - but the pigs literally bathe in the settling pond of the old river water catchment. Water is only taken from there in emergencies but the relatively new river water catchment above the village, does not function well. After heavy rains, the river water is so turbid that it cannot be used for days or even weeks. Water has to be fetched from neighbouring villages or even from Karakol, some ten kilometres away."

Joachim Meili, Project Manager

The solution

At the heart of the sustainable treatment solution is a multi-stage, dual-flow gravel, grit and sand filter. It is based on an approach that has been proven on a smaller scale in Switzerland, for example in remote alpine huts. To adapt it to the needs of a village of 3,000 people, it had to be scaled up: A system of in-situ concrete basins, 20 m long and 7 m wide, with pipework will be built. About 80 m3 of gravel and sand are needed. Thanks to the 4-metre difference in height between the water intake and the reservoir, water will flow through the gravel split filter from top to bottom. Periodic surge flushing is possible by means of a slide valve without electromechanical components. The subsequent sand filter is also flushed from the top. Maintenance is limited to removing the layer of dirt from time to time - no chemicals or electricity are required.

Door opener for further projects

Drinking water treatment is a challenge in many rural areas. The plant in Yrdyk is set to become a flagship project: It is a technically simple but effective solution that can be realised together with the local population. Having acquired expertise in construction and maintenance, the local responsibles can manage the plant themselves and build further plants in the region without the help of the project team. Future financing will also no longer be dependent on donations, but will be able to benefit from institutional funding. This project is intended to lay the foundation for further plants and the self-efficacy of the rural population.

Help make this pioneering project possible

Donation details

To: IngOG Switzerland, 8092 Zurich
IBAN: CH47 0900 0000 6015 4664 3
Note: KGZ001






Partnership commitment

“Engineers Without Borders” is a development cooperation organisation. It is made up of engineers who volunteer their expertise to projects abroad. The missions are financed by project-related fundraising. As a partner company, HOLINGER provides Engineers Without Borders with employees for selected projects.

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