IFC to loan $25 million to WaterHealth India for rural drinking water

Clean drinking water is in my opinion the most critical issue that must be addressed in any area suffering from poverty. So any news like this one gives me hope and a smile on my face. WaterHealth India has recently received a $25 million loan to install more than 600 water filtration systems throughout India. This issue cannot be understated as, 

[m]ore than 25 percent of India’s population does not have access to clean drinking water. Unsafe water is often the cause for waterborne diseases such as cholera and diarrhea. As more villages are included, the WaterHealth project will have important health benefits as well as help generate local employment and provide training, which could significantly improve earnings for people in rural areas. [Source: Sreelakshmi24’s Blog]

WaterHealth India has already installed 200 such systems in Andhra Pradesh and so hopefully their experience will result in a significant improvement to clean water access.

[TC-I Call to Action]: Job Opportunity with Piramal Water

For those interested in social enterprise, water, or addressing health issues, Piramal Water is looking for a Chief Operating Officer.  A quick overview of the organization:

Piramal Water Private Limited develops sustainable drinking water solutions for rural and urban populations where the quality of water is often the cause of more than 60% of common health ailments.  Our business is designed around scalable innovations, technical/process improvements, ensuring livelihoods for local entrepreneurs, and developing customized community water filtration systems that can produce ultra-affordable drinking water for the masses.

To learn more about this fantastic opportunity, please click here: Piramal Water COO

Water Profits

WaterHealth International, a private company and Acumen Fund investee, was covered in last week’s online BusinessWeek, which also includes a video featuring the founder, Tralance Addy (tipped from Acumen Fund’s blog).  The company aims to “provide sustainable access to clean, safe water to all, including the poorest communities. ” Their work in India includes over 200 WaterHealth Centres, mostly in Andhra Pradesh, and they are expanding to meet the demand from this pressing problem.

The BusinessWeek article notes why this venture is interesting:

WaterHealth typifies one of the latest trends in social entrepreneurship. A new generation of leaders believes it can do more for poor people if they operate as profit-making businesses rather than donor-backed organizations. WaterHealth has designed both a proprietary purification process and a simple facility for housing the equipment. It sells the systems to villages, helps secure financing, and runs the plants. After eight years, when the villages pay off their loans, the money they make from sales of water goes straight to their coffers—available for village improvements.

The article quickly touches on a debate about WaterHealth’s business model, as opposed to Byrraju Foundation’s model.  WaterHealth requires its communities to invest in the system through loans, whereas Byrraju provides subsidies and the water plant is a shared investment. The debate highlights the staple question of sustainability – what is the best approach to ensure long-term feasibility? More specifically, is there a finance scheme that works better than others in achieving the intended goal?

Access to Safe Drinking Water, the Sustainable Way

PepsiCo Foundation has awarded two grants, totaling $76 million, to sustainable water and sanitation efforts by WaterPartners and Safe Water Network. The PR release describes each program. WaterPartners will use the award to implement their WaterCredit program:

The WaterCredit program in India has two main components: first, to provide traditional grant funding directly to local non-government organizations to install pipes, faucets and storage cellars in impoverished communities, reaching some 60, 000 people. The second component is to establish a loan fund that will empower communities to expand access to safe water for an additional 60, 000 people over the course of the three-year project. This model produces a “multiplier effect” for impact based on a single source of funding and is the first time PepsiCo Foundation has applied micro finance as a strategic vehicle to advance water and sanitation improvements.

The idea of building community-based water supply projects through a combination of grants and loans is new to the water sector. Until now, nearly all water projects facilitated by other organizations have been funded entirely by grants, even when the individuals served by the project have the means to share costs.

Bridging microfinance and water is a topic that NextBillion.net covered earlier this year, so this is a connection that is working well in some regions and with the support of different organizations, such as ACCESS Development Services and Hindustan Unilever Limited. The vision behind this is that communities may not be able to afford methods that purify water and make it safe for drinking, but using microfinance models allows them to collectively take a loan and repay until they eventually purchase the system. Continue reading

The Size of India’s (And Your) Water Footprint

While reading an article called “Water Footprints Make a Splash,” I was immediately intrigued by the concept of a water footprint. What exactly is a water footprint? Author Ben Block uses coffee to illustrate:

If the full water requirements of a morning roast are calculated – farm irrigation, bean transportation, and the serving of the coffee – one cup requires 140 liters of water.

Water footprints measure the complete cycle and at all levels of a water’s use. The Water Footprint website explains that

the water footprint is an indicator of water use that looks at both direct and indirect water use of a consumer or producer. The water footprint of an individual, community or business is defined as the total volume of freshwater that is used to produce the goods and services consumed by the individual or community or produced by the business.

And how does India’s water footprint fare? Block’s article reveals: Continue reading

Rural Ingenuity: The H20 Pied Piper

Rainwater from the roof goes to an old open tank that was fortunately already placed at a desired height. The bottom of this tank is six feet above the ground. This tank, with a height of seven feet, has a capacity of about 14,000 litres. Water is allowed to fill up to 5.5 feet and then it starts overflowing. The excess water gets filtered in a locally made filter and pours into the open well. In this process, the tank holds upto 11,000 litres of water. As the rainwater is used for non-potable purpose, it is not filtered.

Explaining how one family’s rainwater collection system operates to provide both potable and non-potable sources of water for six months out of the year. The full article can be found on India Together.

Man vs. Water

An article in The Economic Times blames India’s water woes on human activity, as detailed in a report released by the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Assocham). The secretary-general of Assocham, D S Rawat, said:

India’s water crisis is predominantly a manmade problem. Extremely poor management, unclear laws, government corruption, and industrial and human waste have caused this water supply crunch.

Not to mention poorly construction solutions, such as dams, and controversial approaches with privatization. Water woes are also linked to many other issues:

Conflicts over water mirror the most vexing changes the country is facing. The competing demands of urban and rural areas, the stubborn divide between rich and poor, inter-state differences and the balance between the needs of a thriving economy and a fragile environment are just a few examples

As this article suggests, mankind’s struggle with progress and development (and the exploitation that occurs in the process) often leaves necessary resources like water in danger. To learn more about water issues in India, check out the country profile at WaterPartners International.

Pedal Your Way to Clean Water

Stories on water are either on the rise or are more likely to catch my eye – either way, another interesting design innovation to contribute to water issues is critiqued by NextBillion.net. A YouTube video on the site also explains the Aquaduct, a tricycle that aims to provide a means of transportation and simultaneously filter water.

Developed by Ideo (an extremely successful design company), the cycle uses energy from pedaling to filter two gallons of water from a 20 gallon tank- supposedly enough for a day’s worth of water for one family. Derek Newberry points out:

As with any shiny new BoP innovation, it’s important to remember that just because the product is inarguably cool doesn’t mean it will actually be applicable in the specific context of local consumers. Has research been done to confirm that the Aquaduct would be cost effective and functional for the BoP in different regions as compared to other available means of water filtration and transport? And I didn’t understand the idea of storing 20 gallons of water but having only two gallons filtered – is this really enough for a family? Does the user have to pedal around every time they want an additional two gallons of filtered water?

All insightful questions. I personally also take issue with the design itself. When I used to bicycle to my project every day in India, I realized that cycling was no simple joy ride – I needed to utilize the basket installed in front and the small clip in back to carry my daily necessities with me or throw in some fruits and vegetables I might purchase from the street vendor on the way home. With that removable tank put in the front, the Aquaduct might have to be a separate purchase for a family, in addition to their other bicycles.

At the same time, the creation of designs aimed for the developing world can be really useful social innovations, once they have been properly priced and adapted. The Aquaduct is another one to watch and see if it moves past the prototype phase.

From Basic Elements to Useful Technology

Raja Sekhar Malapati shares a piece on water technology that is not as popular or known in the quest for safe, accessible drinking water everywhere. A company known as Aqua Sciences developed a way to extract water not from the ground, but from the air – even in dry regions. According to a Wall Street Journal article published last year, “the technology uses a blend of salts to collect water, then employs a combination of heat, chemistry and mechanics to extract the water from the salts.” Employing a 40-foot trailer, the generator can produce about 1,200 gallons of water a day from moisture captured in the air.

Currently, the company’s products are in use by the U.S. government for emergency situations and troops in Iraq. Malapati wonders if this technology could be implemented in India, with its vast dry regions and serious water issues in rural areas. The 40-foot trailer may be a bit of an eyesore, but the technology is nonetheless exciting and certainly one to watch and see in which ways it can contribute to solving water challenges.

Global Water Challenge Winners

I previously posted about voting in the Global Water Challenge – well, the winners are in, and all three are from India! (There must be something in the water there… ) The projects are highlighted below for their groundbreaking work in water and sanitation.

The water and environmental sanitation infrastructure in turn stimulates massive community investment in its own shelter. We have demonstrated that the `poor’ can, in conducive circumstances, mobilise huge resources, especially when coupled with constructive partnerships with the government and the private sector. This latent strength is tapped to remove aid dependency. The knock on impact on health, education and incomes is substantial and rapid.

  • Naandi Foundation: Their project uses a public-private partnership model that focuses on behavioral change, technology, and user fees to stimulate community buy-in.

Naandi Foundation has developed and is implementing a holistic model that recognizes that demand for quality water and sanitation services exists and that by capitalizing on communities’ willingness to pay, accountability can be enforced through a contractual relationship between service providers and the local government.

  • Swayam Shikshan Prayog: This work is based on grassroots and participatory mechanisms. Through capacity building of community members and working with local leadership, the organization is able to empower communities to enact change themselves.

SSP’s work follows a grassroots participatory development model, whereby grassroots rural communities, especially women, are mobilized and given tools to develop their own as Total Sanitation Communities.The innovation is in the approach which SSP takes to achieve the goal of ensuring safe and reliable access to water and safe sanitation standards for all.

Congratulations to all three winners for their innovative approaches to a pressing crisis.

Transporting Water the Traditional Way

A human interest story by InfoChange India puts the spotlight on tribal women in Orissa who decided to take water woes into their own hands, rather than waiting for the government to finally recognize them.

Over a hundred women from the five villages embarked on a project to cut, polish and join bamboo pipes that would transport water from the stream to the villages. The plan was successful. Soon, water began to flow to the villages through the pipes and the arduous trudge up the hill stopped.

Government projects often focus on large development infrastructure, like dams. These projects do not always reach interior tribal areas, leaving rural needs neglected. On their own, these women were even able to take this initiative a step further:

During summer, however, the bamboo pipes could not supply enough water to the villages, even though the stream had sufficient water flowing in it. The women then began on the second phase of their project. They collected dry wood from the forests, cut the pieces into two equal halves and carved them into the shape of a boat. After joining the logs together, they were able to divert all the water from the stream to the villages. They built tanks in the villages to collect the water, and then transported it to their homes using bamboo pipes.

Social innovation does not always need technology – sometimes, all that is needed is a new take on a traditional approach, determined initiative, and a collaborative effort.

Vote in the Global Water Challenge

The Global Water Challenge, a competition put on by Ashoka Changemakers, is taking votes right now on their selected finalists. Titled “Tapping Local Innovation: Unclogging the Water and Sanitation Crisis,” voting for the projects is open until Sunday, May 11.

Ashoka’s Changemakers and Global Water Challenge have partnered to open a worldwide search for ideas and projects that, when scaled-up, have the potential to transform the provision of sanitation and water.

We have covered the lack of access to safe drinking water in India before. There are three finalists out of nine from India – Naandi Foundation, Swayam Shikshan Prayog, and Himanshu Parikh Consulting Engineers. This is an issue that affects many countries, and the project finalists are working on some innovative approaches, from community based initiatives to leveraging technology to working on mechanisms that encourage behavioral change.

Three winners will receive $5000 for their projects. Go here to cast your vote.

TC-I Tidbits

Your daily dose of headlines:

A Must See: For Love of Water (FLOW)

A new documentary entitled “FLOW” (For Love of Water) has recently gained critical acclaim at the Vail International Film Festival and the Flagstaff International Film Festival, and is now gaining traction within the United States. The film has been called “infuriating and incredible” for its evocative approach to the global water crisis:

FLOW: For Love Of Water, a new film by Irena Salina, highlights the local intimacies of an emerging global catastrophe: African plumbers reconnect shantytown water pipes under cover of darkness to ensure a community’s survival; a Californian scientist forces awareness of shockingly toxic public water sources; a ‘Big Water’ CEO argues privatization is the wave of the future; a “Water Guru” in India sparks new community water initiatives in hundreds of villages; a Canadian author uncovers the corporate profiteering that drives global water business.

With an unflinching focus on politics, pollution and human rights, FLOW: For Love of Water ensures that the precarious relationship between humanity and water can no longer be ignored. While specifics of locality and issue may differ, the message is the same; water, and our future as a species, is quickly drying up. Armed with a thirst for survival, people around the world are fighting for their birthright; unless we instigate change, we face a world in which only those that can pay for their water will survive. FLOW: For Love of Water, is a catalyst for people everywhere: the time has come to turn the tide and we can’t wait any longer.

Highlighted in the film are three notable Indian personalities: 1) Dr. Ashok Gadgil, who “invented an affordable, effective and robust water disinfector” which is now in use by 500,000 rural Indians for 2/10 of a US cent per liter; 2) Shri Rajendra Singh, a much-honored Indian leader in rainwater harvesting and water conservation; and 3) Vandana Shiva, a physicist, ecologist, prominent environmental activist, editor and author.  For more detailed biographies, go here.

Included here are a few clips for your viewing pleasure – enjoy!

Source: Sonal Singhal, Indicorps Fellow 2006

The Unintended (and seemingly unrelated) Effects of Climate Change

India’s coastlines extend a distance of 7,500 kilometers and are contiguous with 8 states, including Orissa, West Bengal, Andra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Goa, and Maharashtra. In 2 recent posts entitled, “Predicting a Shift: Climate Migrants” and “Mumbai in 2100: Underwater“, we spoke to the displacement risk faced by coastal inhabitants as a result of rising water levels – predicted around 15 to 38 cm, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Well, it seems there are other, more unintended risks associated with climate change as well – pregnancy and childbirth. According to the IPCC, rising sea levels will create a “severe problem of potable water,” and as a result, people will be forced to drink salty water. Pregnant women and their unborn children, in particular, will suffer from this change:

“The extra intake of salt through drinking water will lead to high blood pressure mainly during the last three-four months (of pregnancy). It has the potential to make deliveries difficult. Salt is associated with heart problems as well and the sea water exposure may affect the normal life cycle of an unborn baby. The baby may develop complications after birth.”

According to Anthony J. McMichael of the Australian National University, India needs to “develop research capacity to tackle the climate change issue.” In fact,

“Environmental changes will cast an increasingly long shadow over future population health unless we effectively communicate these health risks and help society shape a sustainable way of living.”

Source: Sify News