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Reinventing the Wheel
Dawn Danby, 16 Mar 04


Another clever South African water innovation - like the PlayPump, the Q-Drum eases the load of hauling water overland. Hans and Pieter Hendrikse's invention is simply a cylinder with a doughnut hole for running a rope through.

"At present water is mainly fetched by adult women in discarded plastic containers carried on their heads," notes Hendrikse. "Bear in mind that in some cases these containers have an unstable weight, when filled, of 10 kilograms. The long-term result is invariably damage to the neck vertebrae."

"The Hendrikses set out to design an easy-to-move container that could be manufactured economically. It needed to be "as simple, repairable and replaceable as possible" so that it could be used in rural areas, and should not have to be lifted at all."

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Another cynical attempt by the plastic container industry to destroy age-old traditions.

Posted by: Stefan Jones on 15 Mar 04

This is so damn smart, it could make a person cry!

Posted by: Emily Gertz on 16 Mar 04

Sorry, Stef or is that Alex? But its not a joke. Your 'hip' cynicism is not funny but terribly sad. When was the last time you walked on a beach and saw the tidewash crud of assorted plastic products washed up there? When the plastics industry matures enough (like you) to take responsibility for the consequences of their actions - or even thinks about them - then we may get lucky. This is another band-aid solution!

Posted by: Stefan Thomas on 17 Mar 04

Actually, Stefan, I think it's a very timely innovative solution. That plastic can be recycled. Necks can't.

Posted by: Taran on 21 Mar 04

And, in a hundred or so years, our descendents are going to be mining all of that landfill plastic as a huge natural resource - probably the best source of petrochemical molecules available because everything else was burned.

Really, I don't mind all that junk plastic. It's going to come in handy later!

Posted by: Vinay on 21 Mar 04

of course, better not to use the oil at all, but you know what I'm saying? Better to store it in the ground again for later than burn it off into CO2.

Posted by: Vinay on 21 Mar 04


Glad you love plastic. Also glad you have a tap and don't have to carry water. The question is why are we are talking about a band-aid solution to women having to carry water this way? Do you know anything about the history of South Africa? I am sick of 'first world' solutions invented for 'third world' peoples. And I think they are to ... its just like imposing American democracy in Iraq. Your mentality NOT mine.

Posted by: Stefan Thomas on 22 Mar 04

Stefan: We know of too many instances in which foreigners attempt to design for people in developing nations, only to cause more harm than good. In this case, however, the designer is South African, and I myself wouldn't challenge his knowledge of his nation's history.

Posted by: Dawn Danby on 22 Mar 04


Thank you for your correction. But are they sure about what they are doing? Are you?

Posted by: Stefan Thomas on 22 Mar 04

Stefan- I think you outrage is mistargeted here and your tone a little inappropriate. Please recognize that this is all about people working to make better deeply screwed-up situations. The designers of this solution didn't create the social and environmental inequities in SA, and no one on this site is part of any conspiracy to destroy the developing world with plastics. Please keep your tone collegial and your mind open, and we'll do the same.

Posted by: Alex Steffen on 22 Mar 04


Finally, both censure and censorship from you! I would like to remind you that you began this with a rather crude attempt at cynicism (talking about armed guards, etc.) in response to my legitimate and appropriate concern about exploiting children with energy-harnessed playgrounds. It was you who set the tone with your smart mouth response.

I am someone who is actually qualified to talk about child development. These playgrounds raise serious issues about treating children as "producers", (as does this water carrying device - take a second look at the picture at the top of this column). This the counterside to the other serious issue of treating them as "consumers". Both are totally inappropriate models for childhood development.

Rather naively, you say these playgrounds are better for kids than playing amongst the rubble. If you knew anything at all about children, you would realise that this is what kids like to do too! Have you ever heard of the 'Adventure Playground' movement? It was born with the same spirit that leads directly through the last forty years to sites like this on the Internet.

I would hope that education, child labor laws and conditions for children, even today, in places like India are deeply relevant to this site. (And,I'm not even talking about children growing up in Iraq, Afghanistan and parts of the Holy Land).

Nor do I appreciate your smearing use of words like 'outrage' and 'conspiracy' in your response. To confuse my impatient bemused despair as 'outrage' is a symptom of your shallowness and "cool" disconnect from other people's reality. As for 'conspiracy' - haven't you heard? Paranoia is the true reality.

Come down from your Ivory Tower, Alex and smell the heady stink of life! I strongly recommend you and your girlfriend sell your Toyota and head out to somewhere in Asia, South America or Africa for a couple of years of reality check! If you want directions, email me (you have my address) and I'll gladly get you started...

Posted by: Stefan Thomas on 23 Mar 04

Um, Stefan Jones, while a smart and nice guy, is not me, nor I him.

Posted by: Alex Steffen on 24 Mar 04

All of you who are complaining about this idea likely have never had to carry buckets of water any significant difference. You likely drive a car or at least ride a bike to get around, which, last time I checked goes against age-old traditions (one of the arguments you had made).

I think it's a great idea -- and like some of the other people posting, I'd rather see broken plastic bottles (which can be recycled) than broken necks (and broken communities without water). Yes, it may be a band-aid solution, but until more people step up to the plate to solve the underlying issues, would you suggest something else? btw... women will benefit... does that bother you?

Posted by: Heather on 24 Mar 04


What bothers me Heather, is that quick-fix solutions often create more problems than they solve. Nor do they take into account the frailties/traditions or realities of indigenous culture. People have been carrying water since time began, not just women - children and men do it too. Look at the photograph! Have people suddenly developed neck problems? Also, truth be told I do not use a car or a bicycle.

I am not talking about machines but the exploitation of kids in the context of child development...

Posted by: Stefan Thomas on 25 Mar 04



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