As per the US National Library for Medicine, an estimated 3.86lakh people die of water-borne diseases each year in India-and this number in itself, as on date, is three times the deaths caused due to the novel coronavirus. With a burgeoning population that is expected to touch 1.5billion by 2050, India
has a dual problem at hand-one, an acute water shortage and two, access to safe drinking water. Glitzy water purifiers promoted by cine stars make us believe we are in safe hands or perhaps “safe waters” but that is far from reality. No, neither those expensive purifiers nor those 20-litre cans can provide us safe drinking water-and for long.
India’s population is three times that of the United States, but lives on a landmass that is one-third of its size, which implies a higher population density and therefore higher chances of contamination from human and other waste, given the poor sanitation systems in most parts.
But fortunately, there is a ray of hope. In fact, there are several of them! With India’s encouragement to entrepreneurship, an increasing number of youngsters are jumping into the bandwagon and starting up ventures in both the for-profit and social development space. Incubation centers such as NSRCEL at IIM Bangalore even encourage and nurture start-ups working on off-beat ideas, led by smart social entrepreneurs.
Here is a list of 9 start-ups that are on zeal to help you, your neighborhood, city, and country in fighting the water crisis:
1. URAVU LABS
Uravu’s core principle works on using solar energy, another renewable source, to generate clean water. The best part of Uravu-it does not depend on any existing system to derive water. The Uravu equipment has solar panels that heat up during the day and releases saturated vapour that is filtered and then condensed into liquid. The size of the panel is the only downside as each panel can collect approximately 3-4 litres of water for every square metre. However, being a modular design, the structure can be quickly scaled to meet customized requirements.
Uravu has a solution for recycling used water too. Stand-alone washbasins that quickly treat and disinfect used water can be installed in schools, factories, hospitals, and communities prone to water shortage.
Drinking water contamination has several underlying issues. The problem is not straight forward enough that it can be solved using only a filter bought from the neighbourhood store or by boiling the water. The sparkling clean, filtered water served to you in a silver vessel may not be so clean after all. Foods and water contaminated with arsenic are extremely harmful and can cause cancer and this required a custom solution.
Arsenic and Metal Removal by Indian Technology (AMRIT), an indigenous initiative by Dr.Pradeep of IIT Madras, uses nanotechnology to destroy microbes, absorb arsenic, remove metals, and downgrade pesticide content found in drinking water. AMRIT does not work on electricity and can be implemented in any community to offer safe, clean drinking water at an affordable 4 paise/litre.
While treating, recycling, and generating water is important, what is equally critical is the conservation and optimal utilization of this resource. Kheyti’s Greenhouse-in-a-box (GIB), launched in 2015, addresses this and helps farmers save 90% water and grow almost 7% more food. Besides occupying only 2% of the land, this box is light on the farmers’ pockets as it costs 50% of that for regular greenhouse solutions. The founder of Kheyti, a Chartered Accountant by qualification, believed that technology alone can not solve farmers’ problems. GIB did save money and resources, but Kheyti went one step further by signing an MoU with a public sector bank to offer loans at 8.6% per annum, to farmers, as against the normal 22% prevailing at that time.
4. AGUA WIRELESS SYSTEMS
What Kheyti is to farmers, Agua is to the urban populace. The upwardly mobile professionals living either in villas or gated communities have to no longer worry about increasing maintenance bills or wastage of water. Apartments can install compact devices that give access to water tanks, motors, and meters from anywhere and everywhere. The mobile and web application-based monitoring helps control and set desired water levels in underground or overhead tanks. This smart solution also helps large gated communities to record water consumption in individual flats thus making the billing process fair and transparent.
5. VASSAR LABS
This one rises above all solutions-literally! Their Smart Water Management tool sources data from satellites and creates analytical models to aid in decision making. This helps local governing bodies even at the town or village level to assess situations regarding available water resources, rate of depletion, expected changes in weather, etc and decide on usage in households, businesses, or farms. Their solutions can help to the extent of effectively predicting drought, flood, rainfall, etc
Swajal stands for the concept of Water for all. Anyone can access water from Swajal’s “Water ATM” installed at public places, railway stations, hospitals, or communities. These kiosks run on solar energy although they are designed to function on electricity as well. These Water ATMs are designed locally in Swajal’s Department of Science & Industrial Research (DSIR), Government of India, accredited R & D labs, and offer water at Rs.5/litre. The quality is monitored remotely through a centralized process thus maintaining consistency and making the process effective and sustainable.
7. ECOSTP TECHNOLOGIES
Humans made it to space before they could even understand and relate to organisms down on earth. The ecological balance could be maintained by doing things that are much simpler than rocket science. The cow’s stomach breaks down grass and transforms into milk through its digestion process. A Bangalore based start-up is trying biomimicry as a way of paying forward to Mother Nature. ECOSTP Technologies mimics the functioning of a cow’s stomach to treat wastewater. This equipment has no motor, needs minimal maintenance & zero power, and incurs 85% lesser operational expense as compared to conventional treatment plants.
Adopted first by Cognizant in all its India Offices, EARTHFOKUS products save about 95% water by converting it into a fine mist. This is an easy to fit device requiring no more than 30 seconds for installation and is projected to give an ROI within 2 months. No wonder, top corporates such as HCL, Accenture, TCS, Wipro, Zoho, Schneider Electric, Google have installed this device in their offices.
Drink Prime is all set to disrupt the urban household and could be a potential challenger to the legacy business model of Aquaguard. Besides zero upfront costs and maintenance charges, Dark Prime offers free replacement every 3 years. The customer pays only a monthly subscription fee with no strings attached to the tenure. Drink Prime is unique for another reason. Upfront costs and expensive maintenance made good quality purifiers beyond the reach of the lower middle class. With Drink Prime, this segment will now have access to quality water on a reasonable pay-as-you-go model.
With increasing awareness, more traction in private equity investments, support from government bodies, there is a surge in research and innovation to conserve one of the most important resources for human survival: Water.