Clean drinking water is indispensable to human survival. Yet,the grim statistics about accessibility to clean water in India force one to wonder whether it is a basic human right or a luxury. According to figures published by water.org, 97 million people lack safe water and 814 million have no sanitation services.
The good news however is that people around the world have realized that this problem cannot be solved if we leave it as a sole responsibility of the State. Several organizations are now ready to get their hands dirty to make clean water available to all
Sarvajal is one such company that has come forward with an innovative solution. What’s unique about it is that it uses cloud technology to provide water via filtration stations and solar-powered ATMs. In smaller villages it installs the water dispensing machines that use prepaid (or pay-as-you-go) smart cards that can be topped up just like a mobile phone. The machines send data to a central server via SMS, which helps Sarvajal ensure regular supply of clean water.
The ATMs are supplied with water from larger villages where Sarvajal has built filtration centers operated by local franchisees. At 50 paise a litre, it is cheaper than other options available in the market. The company grew from one pilot location in 2007 to more than 200 filtration station-ATM combos in villages of at least 5,000 people each across India.
Anand Shah is the CEO of Sarvajal, that was founded in 2008 by the Piramal Foundation. Shah is a CalTech and Harvard-educated Indian-American who grew up in Houston, then spent 13 years in India after college.Most of the 120 employees at Sarvajal are Indian nationals. His team of 25 engineers developed the filtration system’s monitoring device, coined the Soochak.
Water.org is a nonprofit organization that works towards providing access to safe water and sanitation in Africa, South Asia, and Central America. It was co-founded by Matt Damon and Gary White. They work with local partners to deliver innovative solutions for long-term success. Their microfinance-based WaterCredit initiative is already a big hit in several parts of India. Women who were forced to walk for miles to fetch water, have used the loan to get their own water connections. Local organizations also help people set up toilets in their houses thereby saving them from the horrors of open defecation.