India Finds Answer for Clean Water

Water has been the basic necessity for a good quality of life. Over the years, I found drinking water as popular bottled commodity available in almost all corners of the country, be it Badrinath or Nalanda. Is it one of the visible indicators of the India’s stepping in the twenty-first century? All coming from the developed countries today feel relieved with the easy availability of the bottled water.

Bharat Nirman also has a plan to provide drinking water in every habitation. Will that be a safe drinking water or just the water from hand pumps?

Interestingly, K. Anji Reddy, founder-chairman of Hyderabad-based Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories thought of providing safe drinking water to every Indian household by 2020. Business World has his story.

Reddy pumped in $1 million in a California-based company called WaterHealth International that was in business of water purifying plant – licensed from University of California – that used ultraviolet light to kill harmful organisms in water. A study conducted by Naandi. Reddy’s not-for-profit organization, in the districts of Andhra Pradesh had shown that farmers were drinking water contaminated with faeces.

WaterHealth’s plants were perfect for the job, but expensive – $50,000 each. Reddy arranged the finance from ICICI Bank agreeing to loan another $30,000 for each plant. The balanced was paid by the villagers. Some NRIs also contributed to set up plants back in their village.

The first water plant was set up in February 2005 in Bomminampadu in Krishna district. Water was pumped from the ground, processed by the plant and stored in 5,000-litre tanks, from where villagers came to collect it every day. For every 10 litres, Naandi collected Re 1, which went towards repaying ICICI Bank’s loan. Today, Andhra Pradesh has 350 plants.

Reddy was trying to expand the project to Giddarbah in Punjab, the constituency of Punjab’s finance minister that. The project team faced a different challenge. WaterHealth’s ultraviolet technology only killed pathogens, and could do nothing about pesticides and fertilizers that were present in the water there as the farmers used a lot of it in the cotton fields. Solution came from Tata Projects and that too for just $20,000. The plant could eliminate chemicals as well as pathogens.

Today, Punjab and Haryana have 300 and 50 water plants, respectively. Naandi has also set up 20 plants in Rajasthan, with another 20 plants planned in Karnataka. The families used to pay far more to the doctor every month than what it pays now for the purified water.

While Tata Projects provide the plants, Vadodara-based Permionics and a Norway-headquartered firm, Malte Winje service the plant. Reddy is hopeful of covering 2,000 villages within 12 months and, in another 11 years, the rest of India.

I wonder instead of discovering the wheel again and again, why can’t the Reddy’s solution of pure water be supported by all the states and the centre. Let some more philanthropists or industrial houses or the NRIs come forward to solve at least the critical problem of drinking water in the rural India.

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