This Piramal Foundation initiative brings clean water to people

Clean water in dusty, hot Rajasthan is nothing short of elixir. And, if this water can also save people from kidney failure and help avoid dental problems and joint pain, it is godsend.

The Sarvajal project has done just this for the people of some districts in Rajasthan. The people of Alwar district, for instance, were reporting increasing incidence of kidney failure as well as dental problems and severe joint pain. A study by Jhunjhunu-based JJT University showed that the fluoride content in the Alwar groundwater stood between 2 parts per million (ppm) and 7 ppm, way beyond the World Health Organisation’s permissible limit of 1 ppm.

The high fluoride in the water was causing the health problems.

Alwar’s people needed clean drinking water. Piramal Foundation stepped in with the Sarvajal project in Bagad, a town in Jhunjhunu district, in what Paresh Parasnis, head of Piramal Foundation, terms a “grassroots development laboratory.”

Piramal’s solution is slightly different too. Instead of selling water or transporting filtered water to communities, Sarvajal sells a service that provides clean local water for local consumption.

A small entrepreneur-run storefront in villages sells the filtered water. The “local” franchisees get to make money.

The technological initiative is changing the lives of many in Rajasthan, Gujarat, parts of Uttar Pradesh and the remote areas of Madhya Pradesh.

“Sarvajal was founded around the challenge of providing reliable, safe drinking water for the poor. At 30 paise a litre, and with a cap of 20 litres per household, we have pre-set machines for each franchisee, based on the number of households to be served.

Some franchisees operate out of a store with a larger filtration unit, while others manage the water dispensers,” said Parasnis.

BUSINESS MODEL

With its 140 installations servicing 100,000 customers daily, Piramal is looking to scale up its business model with commercial financing. The Foundation is organising bank financing for its franchises. “We want to make it a complete standalone economic business model,” says Parasnis.

The Foundation is also looking at organisations that get a large number of footfalls and has teamed up with some municipal schools in North India, where school children can get around 5 litres of free water every day.

amritanair.ghaswalla@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on March 14, 2013)
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