In India, an estimated 38 million lives are lost due to waterborne diseases yearly. Unavailability of potable water, highly-priced filtration mechanisms and a lack of awareness lead to a vicious cycle of disease and deprivation.
Project Asbah is a custom-fit approach to provide clean drinking water to rural households based on the type of contamination present in the water. For areas with majorly bacterial contamination, the Asbah Purification Solution Bottle is used, which is a solution that works as an efficient disinfectant and kills majority of the pathogens in contaminated water. In other areas having chemical contamination and high Total Dissolved Solids(TDS), a Community RO plant is set up.
In most developing regions, drinking water contains a significant amount of microbial pathogens. This pathogen-riddled water is the cause of diarrhoea and various other water-borne diseases, responsible for around 1.7 million deaths a year. Furthermore, 63 million Indians do not have access to clean drinking water, leaving them with no alternative but to depend on contaminated water for drinking and cooking purposes.
Project Asbah aims to tackle the issue of lack of access to clean drinking water by adopting the necessary strategy as per the need of the area.
The first strategy involves a solution which effectively treats pathogen-riddled water. This solution, called the Asbah Purification Solution Bottle, is a diluted version of Sodium Hypochlorite, which can be used as a disinfectant by rural households to treat their water.
The other strategy, adopted in areas where the TDS of water is extremely high, is setting up of a Community RO plant through which clean water can be provided to hundreds of people at affordable prices.
Goals and Objectives of Project Asbah
To provide rural households and urban slum dwellers access to clean drinking water through our contaminant-specific strategies.
To empower local unemployed women as entrepreneurs who will be producing the sodium hypochlorite solution and overseeing the operations of the Community RO Plants.
// The Community and the Business Model
Providing a Sodium Hypochlorite solution
Our purification solution, in collaboration with Pristine Water Services, is currently used in two areas. The water from both areas has been tested to show a very high degree of bacterial contamination. The on-ground implementation was done in collaboration with World Vision India, a notable NGO reputed for its humanitarian work.
The first identified area is A.C.Nagar, an urban slum 40 kilometres away from Delhi, which has a population of around 6000 families. The water there contains biological contaminants which are substantially higher than the limit prescribed by the Bureau of Indian Standards 10500(BIS10500). Their main supply of water is a bore well, through which water is consumed without any treatment or filtration, thus causing a lot of water-borne diseases all around the year, especially to the children.
Seeing the success in AC Nagar and to benefit from economies of scale, we expanded to Nehru Colony, an urban slum 5 km from AC Nagar. With similar demographics, it was the perfect area for our intervention.
The Asbah Purification Solution Bottle is produced by a female entrepreneur and sold to the residents of A.C.Nagar and Nehru Colony who don’t have access to clean drinking water. A cap-full of this solution can be added to about 20 litres of contaminated water, thus removing most of the pathogens from it. Each bottle is priced at Rs.30 and can last for about 2 months. 5 women are currently employed through our intervention, one for production and packaging and the other four for marketing and feedback. They receive a commission on sales.
Setting up of a Community RO Plant
On the other hand, if an identified area contains a high level of Total Dissolved Solids, which is found by conducting comprehensive water tests, an RO Plant is set up.
Till date, Community Reverse Osmosis (RO) Plants have been set up in Lal Bagh and Kabir Nagar, both urban slums in Delhi. Owing to high TDS in the groundwater in the areas, water-borne diseases like Cholera, Typhoid and Diarrhoea were extremely common, because of which residents had to depend on irregular Government tankers, which often failed to provide water to every household. Left with no option, the slum dwellers were often forced to buy filtered water, which remained a significant issue for them, given their purchasing power.
TO set up the RO Plants in these areas, we received support from the Delhi Jal Board and Model Town MLA Mr. Akhilesh Pati Tripathi. We also collaborated with CSRs of various corporates as well as 20 schools across different cities in the country. Thus, by creating a synergistic network of partnerships, we inaugurated our first Community RO Plant in 2018.
These plants provide highly affordable RO water on a daily basis to 1000 families at Rs.4 for 20 litres. They work on a card-based system, through which these families receive 20 litres of clean drinking water every day. The RO plants are entirely run and handled by the two female entrepreneurs, thereby empowering them by providing them with employment. Furthermore, the four walls surrounding the plant have been beautified as a step taken to spread awareness of the importance of clean drinking water among the rural people.
Project Asbah adopts the following business model:
As part of our IEC Activities, the walls surrounding our Community RO Plants have been beautified by painting them with messages of awareness about the adversities of drinking contaminated water. We plan to intervene in schools and villages and conduct health and hygiene sessions, workshops, general counselling and other kinds of interactive sessions where villagers would get better educated about the importance of drinking clean water as well as general hygiene. We also plan to conduct health check-up camps and cleanliness drives in these areas.
In 12 and 4 months of its operation respectively, the entrepreneur selling the purification solution has been able to earn Rs.3500 per month, and the entrepreneurs handling the RO Plants have earned Rs.4500 per month, which will only increase in the near future owing to our IEC activities. Drinking clean water will also reduce the health costs undertaken by rural people.
Project Asbah has impacted 5000+ lives by removing contaminants from water and reducing the risk of waterborne diseases.
The production of the solution is an eco-friendly process. On the other hand, our RO Plants are set up in a way that the wastewater generated is used up in a nearby toilet complex, and efforts are taken to stop high-TDS water from entering the groundwater. Moreover, we plan to spread awareness among people about the ill-effects of disposing of garbage on the roads.
// Our Vision
Through Project Asbah, we aim to penetrate villages and rural slums across India so as to eliminate the challenges that a majority of our population faces in acquiring clean drinking water. This can be done by spreading awareness and increasing demand for our solution as well as by setting up Community RO Plants, so that these people may be able to get affordable, uncontaminated water.
In the near future, we are looking to expand our RO network to Chowki No. 4, Dhobi Ghat, Om Nagar, Bhalswa, RK Puram, Wazirpur and Sarai Peepal Thala, thus impacting a total of 17,500+ lives.
In the long term, we aim to impact as many people as possible, thus enabling humanity to easily access one of its most basic necessities.
Asbah has been applauded by our Honourable Prime Minister Narendra Modi, former President Pranab Mukherjee and Mr Ramesh Bithudi, Member of Parliament. It has been appreciated by the Chief Minister of Delhi, Mr Arvind Kejriwal. Enactus SRCC has also received a Letter of Recommendation from the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation for this project.