Clean water is the basis of health. In the geographic area in which we work, not only do the rural poor drink highly contaminated water, but many even have no awareness that the water is the reason for illness and death. To date, there has been no access to reliably clean water at an affordable price and no efforts made to address and open up markets for the rural poor. Commercial clean water costs 20RUP/litre (circa 0.3$ ) but with a daily wage of around $2 and large families, clean water at that rate is not affordable.
According to doctors in the Kushinagar District (the area of our pilot project in UP), lack of clean water accounts for every second patient. This problem is compounded by the occurrence of arsenic in groundwater. Deaths due to WASH related illness is the biggest killer in the underdeveloped districts of Uttar Pradesh & combined with some of India's lowest literacy (and therefore educational rates) & sanitation ownership rates, we are presented with a silent toxic cocktail of poverty, disease & lack of awareness ever-present in the homes and communities of the rural poor.
As an NGO (based in both Europe & India) whose mission is to radically transform the face of India’s villages, United for Hope takes a holistic approach and a core pillar of our work is water & sanitation. We have already lowered the open-defection rate in our pilot village from 87% to under 50%, undertaken extensive WASH education and launched our first clean water enterprise.
We charge a nominal price of 0.5RUP per litre to cover costs and enable job creation, selling 20L jars at 10RUP from a mobile tank. Water is home delivered (as well as available onsite) because rural women are rarely allowed to leave the home and these societal norms must be taken into consideration in terms of bringing clean water to families.
In cases where open water (Reverse Osmosis – RO - water) has been made available, it has been done so on a maximum-profit basis and general hygiene standards as well as widespread corruption have led to local people being suspicious of the real cleanliness of the water. This causes further barriers to adoption. We are operating on a for-profit basis but the profits will go back into social projects, pay for maintenance and create local jobs.
As an NGO who has already brought benefit to the locality and who are trusted as a reliable partner, we are in a unique situation to become a credible seller of clean water and undertake quality and best-practice awareness campaigns to further increase the numbers of those seeking out clean water for health and wellbeing. Our good government and media contacts also allow us to expand quickly and without administrative barriers.
We strongly feel that technology (no matter how innovative) is not the answer to providing clean water to India’s poor, rather developing and scaling realistic, long term awareness and GTM strategies which work with communities to change behaviour and strengthen business abilities. Our current experience is that challenges arise not through technology but through willingness to purchase the product (even at a minimal price) and reliable staffing who ensure professionalism and have the necessary skills to scale, expand and improve operations from a rural base. Finding solutions to these challenges is the base of our work.
WATER PURIFICATION SYSTEM
In cooperation with Clean Water E.v, a German non-profit organisation dedicated to promoting safe water supplies in rural areas, we installed a water filtration plant that produces up to 10,000 litres of drinking water daily
The water plant uses UV and UF filtration. Water is drawn from the land at a depth of 120ft where arsenic and other pollutants are not present. We chose this technology, despite RO being the common technology in the region for several reasons
The main advantages of this solution are:
- Essential minerals are retained in the water
- Lower power usage
- Very low water wastage (RO has up to 60% water wastage which can cause flooding without proper drainage)
- No toxic run off (RO plants often run the excess pollutants into the land)
- Lower technology upfront costs
There was initially some opposition to the choice of technology because the locals are led to believe that RO and only RO is safe water. This was compounded by malicious rumour mongering from RO commercial sellers. However, with one-to-one conversations and the distribution of explanatory material, the locals now understand the differences in the water and the reasons we chose the technology.
Our launch was preceded by extensive education and awareness programs at the district (media and government), local (panchayat, community and schools) and family (door-to-door) level. As we move into new villages, we continue with this approach and extend ongoing programs into stable structures such as schools and the panchayat by implementing hygiene routines around hand washing, toilet use and the drinking of clean water. Our pilot project directly employs 3 local people as well as educational and awareness support from our 3 school teachers.
- Jan-May 2015: construction of water house, installation of water purification plan, purchase of water delivery vehicle.
- June 2015: Launch of the pilot project.
- December 2015: up to 100 families have signed up as customers. Started providing free drinking water to the local government school with accompanying program via our self-financed teachers there.
- January 2016- June 2016: Expansion of Clean Water Project to the nearby villages.
- Beyond June 2016: Scaling the project at the district level.