In the depth of the desert in Sudan's western Darfur region, a local villager has been waiting for four hours to fill his small plastic bucket with muddy spring, the only source of drinking water he and all the other villagers have depended on for generations.
However, all families in the village, even people in the long lines for the spring, are excitedly talking about sacrificing a sheep for the arrival of a Chinese company, the only foreign company in the Darfur region which can bring them clean drinking water.
Li Kunpeng, director of the Sudan Branch of the North China Construction Engineering Corporation, told Xinhua Sunday that his company currently has four well-drilling groups working in remote villages in Darfur. All these villages are tribes far away from cities, one of which is located more than 100 km away from Nyala, capital of South Darfur State.
Up to now, Li's company has drilled more than 140 wells in the Darfur region, which can meet the daily demand of a 300-people village.
Whenever a Chinese team came to the tribe, the leader of the tribe camp would go to collect water and food from door to door for their Chinese friends. Although the food was quite simple, sometimes even hard to swallow, the Chinese workers always enjoyed it and spent many heart-warming nights in the villagers' shanties.
In recent years, the arrival of a Chinese drilling group has always brought joy to every Darfur village. Before the Chinese team finished their work in a village, a greeting parade from another village has already been waiting for them.
When the Chinese arrived at a tribe, a grand ceremony would be held with a sheep slaughtered at the scene as a sacrifice. While the Chinese were going to leave, all the villagers would gather around to wave them goodbye.
Because of the drought caused by a long period of low rainfall, the wellheads in the Darfur region usually hides about 200 meters underground. With the lack of geological information, it is very difficult to find a well.
Under such harsh weather and working conditions, the Chinese workers can only get an opportunity to reunite with their families back in China more than a year.
Sometimes, the Chinese drilling team felt quite sorry when they found that a well with clean drinking water could never be found in some villages.
However, the Darfur people often showed much understanding. They said, "It doesn't matter. We have got used to days without water. Please go on to other villages and people there have been looking forward to your early arrival."
Last year, local rebel groups staged several attacks on vehicles with drilling materials, interrupting the supply for the Chinese side. After the reserve materials dried up, the North China Construction Engineering Corporation was forced to pull out of the Darfur region.
According to Li, the Chinese and Sudanese governments have signed a deal on well-drilling in Darfur. The Chinese company has won the tender for a new project and will return to the region in the upcoming months, he noted.
Li Chengwen, Chinese ambassador to Sudan, said that the Chinese government has been encouraging Chinese enterprises to engage in the economic development in the Darfur region.
Currently, another Chinese company is working on a water-supplying project in Nyala, capital of South Darfur State, which will meet the demand for drinking water for hundreds of thousands of people after the project's completion in 2009.
(China Daily March 4, 2008)