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Two Birds with One Stone – A Multifaceted Approach

Our idea tackles the two key issues – safe water and hygienic sanitation – in one comprehensive plan.

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While there are many ideas that tackle the current problem of constructing toilets in rural households, our idea is more visionary in that it aims to tackle the problem of handling the potentially increasing sewage directed at current waste-water treatment plants.

It is safe to assume that the wastewater treatment plants constructed in rural areas are exempt from considerations of toxic and/or industrial wastes. Thus, the challenge becomes to address only the increasing amount of waste generated by people in the villages. Given our experience being Indian citizens, it is a well-known fact that the water from sewage treatments plants is directed towards water bodies. If it should happen that expansive seas or oceans are far away, wastes are released into local water bodies. These are the same water bodies used by people living in houses with inadequate facilities to bathe, wash, and drink from marking the starting point of water-borne diseases and other issues related to poor hygiene.

Sewage, more often than not, is dumped in water bodies that are used by people to sustain themselves.
Our idea is to use market-based approaches to improve the capacity of wastewater treatment plants and expand their services to as many villages as possible. Our key innovative solution to direct the excess slurry generated by them to community bio-digesters where they will be converted into biogas and manure. The biogas will be supplied to that very community for a monthly tariff, making the entire operation profitable for its investors, while the manure will be directed to farms. This would impact our farmlands and groundwater resources by reducing the dependency of farmers on chemical fertilizers, thereby decreasing groundwater pollution due to such toxic chemicals. Our idea has the potential to reduce the eutrophication load on local water bodies, creating opportunities for other start-ups and technology innovators to tackle the underlying water pollution issues.
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Market-based approaches:

  • Involving lending organizations to help the government build wastewater plants
  • Utilizing current water credit system to generate revenue to build community bio-digesters

How would you describe the stage of development of your idea?

  • Conceptual Development

Explain the sustainability aspect of your idea

There are two aspects to the sustainability of this idea: 1. Amount of sewage disposed in local water bodies will be reduced thereby improving cleanliness of water available for other hygiene-related uses. 2. The sludge from the wastewater tanks will be used as manure for farmlands and planting of trees in general to improve environmental sustainability.

What types of financing would be required for your idea to be successful?

While new wastewater treatment plants will be constructed, the current plants will be expanded to accommodate approximately 60% of water. Money required to construct new plants will mainly come from taxes and investments from private investors and/or companies. The return on investment will be received once new plants are established and have been running. The biogas and fertilizer produced by the plants should ideally be sold by the government as people will more likely buy it from them.

In-country experience

  • Yes, for two or more years

Is your organization currently legally registered in India?

  • No

Tell us a bit about yourself.

We are a group of three students born and brought up in India and currently studying at Cornell University. Since our childhood, we have always wanted to improve the unhygienic living conditions of the poor. We are passionate about the growth of our country and we would be glad to be a part of something that would improve the quality of lives of the people in India. Team Members: Rishika Prasad Shreya Cullopulli Aditi Khattar

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Hi Rishika, interesting post! Any chance you could find an image to go along with it? Images help grab attention and tell a story with higher impact. You should be able to use the Edit Contribution button on the top of your post and follow the instructions to add images from there. Looking forward to seeing more of your inspiring insights on OpenIDEO.