Safe Drinking Water For The Indian Cities

Access of safe drinking water remains a challenge for urban India. Depleting ground water, lack of proper rain water harvesting and rising contamination in the ground water is posing fresh challenge for the Indian cities, especially in low-income or resettlement colonies, which are struggling to get safe and affordable water. While affluent class depend on the water purifier or the bottled water, millions are still dependent on piped water access and other unreliable water sources. Piramal Sarvajal, is an initiative under the aegis of Piramal Foundation, to provide safe drinking water to all. Anuj Sharma, COO, Piramal Sarvajal shares his thoughts with BW SmartCities

How has been Piramal Group working on providing clean and safe water across cities?

Piramal Sarvajal is an initiative to provide safe drinking water to all through its innovative and technology-centric solutions. We has been a pioneer in deploying remotely tracked and community-level drinking water purification systems by bringing accountability to day-to-day operations.
With its path-breaking hub and spoke model and solar powered, RFID enabled Water ATMs, Piramal Sarvajal is providing access to clean drinking water to over 3,80,000 people on a daily basis in 16 states of India.

Urban India, especially in low-income or resettlement colonies , continues to face challenges for drinking water. Millions are beyond piped water access, while others depend on unreliable water sources. Similarly, commuters in most cities have no choice other than expensive bottled water to quench their thirst, on the go. Urban water woes hence, call for customised and revolutionary solutions. Today, when policy makers are identifying opportunities for ‘smart’ solutions for upcoming urban spaces, Piramal Sarvajal, becomes an apt solution for creating cost effective, community level drinking water solutions that can be integrated into urban plans.

How do you plan to reach maximum number of cities for the same?

Sarvajal believes in innovating and demonstrating sustainable decentralised drinking water solutions under the ‘Smart Cities’ program. Providing safe water is an integral element in Smart cities. With demonstrated experience of serving urban communities in partnership with the Delhi Jal Board and Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation, the company plans to bring the issue to relevant decision makers.

Building on conversations with like-minded bodies that are interested to dig deeper in understanding the drinking water scenario, Piramal Sarvajal plans to undertake secondary data analysis. On the basis of secondary data, Sarvajal will undertake detailed study across cities in collaboration with local institutions and community-based organisations. The purpose here is to identify the need in areas that are beyond the piped access. Understanding city-specific nuances of drinking water challenges will enable Piramal Sarvajal to propose appropriate solutions to solve them.

In addition, the challenge of access to safe and affordable drinking water for a common commuter remains persistent across cities. Piramal Sarvajal looks forward to partnering with government bodies in order to bring reliable, safe, affordable and round-the-clock drinking water solutions for Smart Cities.

How has been the response of the state governments as well as central government towards providing clean water?

The response has been mixed. At the conceptual level, there has been warm reception. Quite a few Municipal Corporations have also shown interest in the cause. However, approach of state level bodies has remained mostly rural-oriented. Since, multi-layered decision making at this level comes with its own challenges, decentralised drinking water solutions have not emerged in terms of prioritising them over patchwork arrangements, such as tankers. Hence, while much remains to be done to solve the drinking water challenge in the cities, Piramal Sarvajal is confident that with collaborative partnerships, sensitisation around the extent of the challenge and adapting to multi-layered local decision making, decentralised water solutions will soon emerge for urban areas.

How do you plan to connect with Ministry of Urban Development for this initiative of Piramal Group?

In Piramal Sarvajal plans to connect Ministry of Urban Development towards this initiative through studying the urban under served phenomenon and showcasing some of our solutions addressing the same problems. Firstly, one needs to address the question of whether this issue is acknowledged, identified and accepted. The other question is, whether scalable, replicable and sustainable models are seen as solutions to meet the need.

The solutions that emerge out of some of these partnerships provide access to safe drinking water at an ultra-affordable price, others provide water free-of-charge, while remaining may seek to charge at prices that are at par with market prices. The discretion of the price of the water stays with local decision-making authorities on case to case basis. Piramal Sarvajal, being adaptable and flexible in its models, welcomes partnerships of such varied kinds.

Any new technology to be launched in coming days?

Piramal Sarvajal’s approach has remained purification-technology agnostic. This enables us evaluate inputs for modifications which can be implemented depending upon scalability of that particular technology. We have recently launched an integrated, web-monitored, solar-powered, purification-chilling-dispensing unit that is ideal for public places for providing common commuters with round-the-clock access to safe drinking water at affordable prices.