Engaging communities on climate resilient water management and WASH in Papua New Guinea

Tanum WASH Committees doing their WASH Improvement Plans in North Bougainville, Papua New Guinea

Members of Tanum WASH Committees work on their WASH Improvement Plans (Plan International PNG)


This Water, WASH & Climate story was authored by Ishmael Palipal and Gail Pigolo, Plan International PNG, and Tom Rankin, Plan International Australia


Plan International is pleased to share our experience working with communities to identify and mitigate the impacts that climate change is having on water security - the availability, quantity and quality of water - in the rural Autonomous Region of Bougainville, PNG. 


Identifying WASH and climate change challenges

Plan International Australia has been working closely with healthcare facilities to identify villages with a high incidence of water borne diseases. We conducted two surveys to understand marginalised people’s involvement in managing WASH and community WASH access. We found that many women and people with disabilities did not participate in WASH decision-making, so we established inclusive WASH committees.

We also found that water access is inadequate to provide for the needs of community members during prolonged dry seasons. During dry seasons, many people resort to using unsafe water sources such as creeks, springs, wells and rivers to meet their needs. Healthcare centres report that children and other community members suffer from diarrhoea due to using and drinking unsafe water.

The communities and households that depend on water tanks are facing increasing water security challenges as the weather patterns change and they experience prolonged dry seasons.


Responding to challenges and shifting norms

To support community-based water management, Plan has conducted water quality testing with each of the communities. We found that most of the water sources were contaminated and are not safe for drinking. In response, we supported communities to develop water security improvement plans that identified key hazards and risks to their water safety and security and an action plan to ensure that their water is safe to use. Plan International’s Water for Women project is supporting communities to implement their action plans, increasing the number of improved water sources and supporting catchment level water committees.

Within households and communities, women and girls often carry a disproportionate WASH workload and yet, are mostly excluded from decision-making processes and forums. In prolonged dry seasons, women are the most impacted as they are often responsible for ensuring their family has enough water. To improve community and household consciousness of WASH-related gender inequalities, we have been implementing Plan’s Gender WASH Monitoring Tool, which helps men and women realise each other’s daily roles and responsibilities and open discussion about shared roles and decision-making.


Joyce Samno Tanun Ward Member in North Bougainville Papua New Guinea
“In the past I did all the household chores, but now big change has happened… my husband can now do or share all the household chores such as fetching water, cooking… and cleaning.”

Tanun Ward member.

(Plan International)

Building community resilience

Through WASH activities, the project aims to reduce the number of water-borne diseases in rural communities. Noel Rekas, Secretary of the Biruat WASH Committee says: “I would like to tell you that in the Biruat community, I am seeing that diseases here have been decreasing. So, I am happy with how Plan has improved our standard here, especially with water and toilets.”

Ruby Tohiana, Sister-in-Charge, Gagan Health Centre says: “there was a high number of referrals from the community to the hospital, and now we have seen the numbers go down and down.”




In this video from Plan International in PNG, hear more about this project from Water for Women partners and community members who are working together to strengthen climate-resilient water management and WASH in the Autonomous Region of Bougainville. 



This story was first shared as part of the This is Water, WASH & Climate: Stories from Practice, on 22 June 2022 during the Water, WASH & Climate Virtual Symposium. It has since been edited with permission.


An inclusive community is an essential building block of a climate resilient community. In an uncertain and rapidly changing world, there is no greater priority than ensuring that water and WASH systems are future-proofed for climate resilience, social cohesion, accountability and wellbeing. Embedding the voice of women and marginalised people in water and WASH systems is one of the most effective pathways to strengthen equity and inclusion, so that the ‘invisible’ becomes visible, and valued. Valuing diversity, and diverse perspectives, strengthens prospects for a more climate resilient and socially cohesive future.

For more information about the session and Water & WASH Futures events visit https://washfutures.com/. Key Water and WASH Futures partners are the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the International WaterCentre, Water for Women, the Asian Development Bank and the Australian Water Partnership.

To learn more and continue the discussion on how to achieve SDG 6 in a changing climate, join us in Brisbane at the Water and WASH Futures Conference 13-17 February 2023.


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