HOW TECHNOLOGY IS MAKING SAFE DRINKING WATER AVAILABLE FOR JUST 30 PAISE PER LITRE
Piramal Water uses Water ATMs to deliver safe drinking water to villages using a combination of RFID, cloud management systems and customized ERP solutions
How crucial or important is water or the quality of water in the life of ordinary citizens? While some of us are used to see serpentine queues for water in movies or even in small towns or villages, the problem of safe drinking water is much more acute. Consider these stats: UN estimates predict that water borne ailments account for 80 percent of diseases and deaths reported in developing countries. 97 million in India lack access to safe drinking water which results in close to 1,600 deaths daily due to diarrhea alone. 73 million work days are lost every year to water born ailments, which according to certain reports, creates a notable drag on the country’s GDP.
To address this vexing issue and provide safe drinking water to everyone, a company christened Piramal Water (under the guidance of the Piramal Foundation) was established to find mass-market solutions to India’s drinking water crisis. This initiative was appropriately christened ‘Sarvajal’. But the challenges for providing safe drinking water on a massive scale that was financially viable were huge.
“The voluminous and heaviness of water makes centralized treatment and distribution impracticable. For it to be ‘water for all’, it had to be affordable and accessible everywhere. Hence, it was decided that the consumer should not pay for the purification machine but only for the service and hence a ‘pay-per-use’ design was agreed upon. With these constraints in mind, a decentralized community level water treatment plant, which could cater to the daily drinking water requirements of up to 500 households was envisaged. The history of similar purification installations made it clear that instead of just appointing an operator it needed to have a local entrepreneurial ownership so that incentives were aligned to cover as many households as one could,” explains Paresh Parasnis, Head – Piramal Foundation.
THE ROLE OF TECHNOLOGY
Technology forms the backbone of Sarvajal and has played a primary role in effectively managing the field operations of its dispersed installations. Piramal Water appoints an entrepreneur and provides a state-of-the-art purification machine. This is connected to solar powered cloud-connected Water ATMs in a hub-and-spoke model. The Water ATMs are equipped with a software solution called Soochak. This software solution leverages communication technologies to enable the firm’s engineers to remotely monitor the health of the Water ATMs and proactively take up maintenance in order to reduce machine downtime.
Water ATMs are unmanned, solarpowered, RFID-enabled automated water dispensing units which have in-built attributes for quality assurance and individual user tracking. Customers can buy prepaid water cards and use these at the ATMs. An Enterprise Management System receives and processes communications from Soochak Controllers and Water ATMs. This can be used by the firm to monitor the quantity of water sold by franchisees and the consumption of water by customers. The firm also uses SEMS, an in-house ERP tool, which gathers the data sent across by all the Soochaks and ATMs and analyzes it in order to generate customized water reports, which aid in strategic decision making.
Thanks to the firm’s innovative way of using technology, the foundation has succeeded in providing safe drinking water to approximately 190 villages, with close to 1 lakh customers being served on a daily basis. Considering the fact that 97 million people in India lack access to safe drinking water, which is the cause for a huge number of deaths, Piramal Foundation’s initiative has the potential to be a model solution for being rolled out across the country.
“We have succeeded in providing safe drinking water to approximately 190 villages, with close to 1 lakh customers being served on a daily basis” Paresh Parasnis Head – Piramal Foundation