As per Niti Aayog, an estimated 38 million lives are lost due to waterborne diseases yearly in India. 70% of water is contaminated and India is currently ranked 120 among 122 countries in the Water Quality Index. Unavailability and inaccessibility of potable water, highly-priced filtration mechanisms and a lack of awareness lead to a vicious cycle of diseases and deprivation.
Project Asbah: Every Drop, A Promise aims at providing clean drinking water to rural households and urban slums at highly affordable rates. Under this project, we set up contaminant-specific water filtration plants in areas plagued by lack of accessibility or affordability of clean drinking water, such as Reverse Osmosis Plants in areas of heavy metals and TDS, Nano Filtration in areas with physical, chemical and biological contamination and UV in places of bacterial contamination. Asbah is now a zero-waste model, venturing into areas with newer technologies such as biosorption and Coagulation-Flocculation, that eliminate contamination and reduce the wastewater generation to just 1% and run on renewable sources of energy like solar power. Moreover, the minimal wastewater that is generated, is routed to nearby toilet complexes.
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, 163 million Indians do not have access to clean drinking water, leaving them with no alternative but to depend on contaminated water for drinking, cooking and household purposes owing to lack of large scale solutions to combat this nationwide issue.
Project Asbah aims to strike the problem at its roots through a comprehensive model that adopts a necessary strategy as per the need of the area.
Goals and Objectives of Project Asbah
// Provide: To provide clean drinking water at highly affordable rates to urban and rural slum dwellers deprived of this basic necessity.
// Empower: To empower local unemployed women as entrepreneurs who will run the community filtration plant and overlook all operations ranging from the management of customers to the finances of the plant.
// Impact: Create a prototype that is easily replicable, sustainable and scalable across the slums and villages of India, to eliminate the drinking water crisis and maximise impact.
// The Community and the Business Model
a) We begin with identifying areas with heavy contamination, we do this by looking into Government sources such as the Central Ground Water Board and Ministry of Jal Shakti reports. We also connect with the MLA of the area and other local leaders for a better understanding of the situation in the areas.
b) After identifying a potential area, we plan out comprehensive need assessment surveys with the help of volunteers from a local NGO, this helps us in confirming the need of an area and forges relationships with organisations having an established presence in the area, making our intervention simpler. Interaction with locals helps us in figuring out the problems faced by them and if our intervention is required. The water samples are then sent for testing at certified laboratories such as the Shree Ram Labs, Sigma Labs and Delhi Jal Board. This helps us in knowing the type of contamination in water and arriving at a suitable technology to deploy in the area selected.
c) After finalising the area, permissions from the Government by approaching the MLA/MP of the area and competent authorities are obtained. Strong government support enables us to gain rights to use land and water sources without additional costs, and electricity at nominal rates.
d) For strengthening our connection with the community, various community mobilisation activities are undertaken. Street plays, puppetry shows, nukkad nataks and IEC activities are carried out to make people more aware regarding water conservation and safe water practices.
e) We engage 2 previously unemployed women to operate our plants, thus creating entrepreneurs. Our ‘Didis’ take care of day-to-day operations, basic maintenance, managing finances and entering customer and revenue data into the App. They are provided with necessary skill training by the technology provider for operational assistance. In return, they are paid an income of Rs. 4500/month for a 4-hour shift and a 10% surplus on the profits the plant makes. We also have a network of delivery personnel to ensure last mile connectivity.
f) Because of our synergic partnerships with Local NGOs, Government Authorities, CSRs of various corporates etc., it just takes 4 weeks to set up 1 community water filtration plant that can serve 550 families, thereby impacting more than 2,500+ residents.
Each community filtration plant provides clean drinking water daily to 550 families at an unimaginable price of Rs.4/- for 20 litres. A rechargeable card-based system is put in place. With every swipe of the card, 20 litres of water is dispensed and Rs. 4/- is deducted. Furthermore, we have created the Asbah App for paperless integration of data and centralized fund management, thus seamlessly infusing technology with our project. The App is handled by our operators, it is used to record revenues, expenses and track growth. The plants are entirely run and handled by the two women entrepreneurs, thereby empowering them by providing them with employment. Moreover, the walls surrounding the plant have been beautified and painted with social messages as a step taken to spread awareness of the importance of clean drinking water among people.
But Project Asbah does not stop her. For the holistic development of our beneficiaries, we undertake many IEC Activities. We have collaborated with Project Baala for busting menstrual myths. Under this collaboration, 1700 reusable and biodegradable sanitary napkins were distributed to slum women. This initiative has reduced the expenditure on sanitary pads by 97% and has prevented the disposal of 2,44,800 non-biodegradable sanitary pads. With the assistance of Rotary India, health check-up camps are conducted regularly in our slums. We have also joined hands with Nanhe Pakshi NGO and garnered support from construction giant Larsen & Toubro to establish “Asbah Pustakalaya” for providing education to 200+ slum children. For making learning fun, we have collaborated with Fly Higher India and Gandhi Fellowship Programme.
Asbah has successfully established its presence in 13 areas across 3 different states and has generated the following positive impact:
Generated employment for 32 entrepreneurs, including 26 women who receive a salary of Rs. 4500/- per month. Our women entrepreneurs have witnessed a 450% rise in their income.
Reduced expenditure on the water by 84% per family, per month
Enabled savings of Rs. 630/- per family per month on health expenditure, leading to a total savings of Rs 5.5 Crores so far.
Impacted 35,750+ lives every day by providing clean drinking water and hence, eliminating the risk of water-borne diseases.
Improved menstrual hygiene by conducting workshops in association with Project Baala and Niine to impact 1700+ slum women.
Collaborated with Nanhe Pakshi NGO and Larsen & Toubro to establish community libraries open to all, currently providing education to 200+ slum children.
The wastewater generated from our plants is routed to a nearby toilet complex for optimal utilisation of resources, or a recharge well to replenish the groundwater. Every year 37.4 million litres of wastewater is reutilised by us.
This year, we identified and ventured into new technologies that limit the wastewater generation to just one percent!
To align ourselves with the Jal Shakti Abhiyan we are also in the process of setting up rainwater harvesting mechanisms in all of our areas.
To promote water conservation practices, we partner with EcoMist to sell eco nozzles for corporate buildings and households, which reduce water consumption by 95%!
In the forthcoming years, Project Asbah envisions to penetrate the slums and villages in the most remote regions of India so as to eliminate the challenges that a majority of our population faces, which is that of access to clean drinking water. We strongly believe that through the bond and trust that we have built with our community of beneficiaries and through the intimate alliances that we have developed with our partners, Project Asbah is an initiative that is sustainable, scalable and replicable. As a project that started by providing just clean drinking water, today Asbah aspires to run ecologically viable plants and adopt a plethora of technological and entrepreneurial practices within its domain.
Project Asbah thrives on the trust and emotional connection that has been built with our community and strives to innovate, impact and inspire potentially path-breaking solutions in the water sector.
Winner of the World Water Race by Enactus in Silicon Valley, California among 120+ projects from across the globe.
Lauded by the Hon’ble Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Hon’ble Former President of India Pranab Mukherjee
Appreciated by the Chief Minister of Delhi, Mr. Arvind Kejriwal
Appointed as the Central Implementing Authority of Muzaffarnagar by Hon’ble Union Minister and MP Mr. Sanjeev Balyan
Winner of the ‘Health Impact Award’ at the Asia Social Innovation Award 2020.
Recipient of the Boston Consulting Group Grant: 'Because We Care Program.'
Received a Letter of Appreciation from the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation
For more insights, kindly visit: https://www.asbah.org.in/