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People-powered rig designed to help developing countries

ENGINEERS AT Cranfield University have produced a human-powered drilling rig for excavating shallow, small-diameter wells in developing countries.

The 'Pounder rig' is the result of a research project which aims provide water supply technology for small private sector contractors in African countries.

Developed with funding from the UK Department for International Development, the Swedish and Danish overseas development agencies and Unicef, the rig is based on traditional Asian technology known as 'sludging'.

It uses a human-powered version of reverse circulation, without rotation, a method used to build low-cost wells in the soft alluvial plains of the Indian subcontinent.

'We have developed and modified this technology for drilling in African regolith, where layers of laterite with rock fragments, as well as clays, silts and sands are found, ' explained project leader Dr Richard Carter.

The prototype underwent field trials in Uganda. The aim is to place the rig in the hands of small contractors there, where it will be used for domestic and small-scale agricultural projects in which local people work alongside small private contractors, with the support of local government.

'The long-term aim is to reduce the dependency of developing countries on aid funding for basic water supply infrastructure, ' said Carter.

The Pounder rig is available commercially from Eureka UK ( but the spec and drawings have been published in the public domain, to encourage local manufacture or part-local manufacture in developing countries (

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