US govt’s OPIC commits $12.5 m loan for clean drinking water in India

PTI New Delhi | Updated on March 26, 2018

The loan will be used by WaterHealth India Pvt Ltd to install 900 decentralised plants to purify water on site and sell it at price three to four times lower than bottled water alternatives. In Picture: A shopkeeper arranges packaged water bottles in his shop in Kerala (file photo)

In Picture: Local women on their way to fetch drinking water at Sampla village in Haryana

The US government development fund arm OPIC has committed $12.5 million loan for a project to deliver affordable clean drinking water to low and middle-income groups in India.

The loan will go to the Indian subsidiary of California-based WaterHealth International Inc — WaterHealth India Pvt Ltd — to install 900 decentralised plants to purify water on site and sell it at price three to four times lower than bottled water alternatives currently available in the market.

The $12.5 million (₹80 crore) loan from the Overseas Private Investment Arm (OPIC) will go to a project that will expand access to affordable clean drinking water to millions of low and middle-income people in India, OPIC said in a statement.

The clean water vending machines are to be installed at places like railway stations, bus stations, shopping malls, public and private institutions or any high footfall location where consumers are able to purchase purified water ranging in amounts from 300 ml to 5 litres.

Most consumers carry their own bottles and WaterHealth refills them but consumers may also purchase reusable bottles.

“This project offers an innovative approach to making safe water more available and affordable and illustrates how businesses can develop new solutions to long standing global challenges,” said Ray W Washburne, President and CEO, OPIC.

Health hazards

Citing limited access to safe drinking water a major health and economic challenge in most parts of the world, OPIC said India alone is estimated to have 16.3 crore people who do not have access to safe water, a major cause of diarrhoeal illnesses that results in 500 deaths of children under the age of five each day.

In addition to this massive health cost, insufficient affordable water supplies pose a significant economic and overall quality of life cost, particularly for women, whose time spent gathering water often takes away from time spent on other household tasks or with family or earning income outside the home, it said.

“Built around the latest quality and operational monitoring technologies, this platform allows anyone the ability to sustainably and affordably provide safe drinking water to consumers in urban and rural areas and in weeks instead of years,” said Sanjay Bhatnagar, CEO of WaterHealth International.

OPIC’s loan to WaterHealth was committed under OPIC’s new 2X Global Women’s Initiative to mobilise $1 billion to invest in women and unlock the economic opportunity they represent.

In addition to expanding the availability of safe water, the project is projected to create more than 1,300 jobs in India and introduce advanced technologies and business models for providing potable water.

Published on March 26, 2018

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