I had accepted a job at Piramal Sarvajal, a mission-driven social enterprise that designs and executes innovative safe drinking water solutions. Sarvajal manages a network of community-level drinking water purification installations and works with local entrepreneurs to bring safe water to underserved communities in rural and urban areas.
|A Sarvajal employee as a part of community awareness program speaking with a local community member|
Worldwide, more than 1 billion people don’t have reliable access to a clean water source. This is particularly a problem in developing countries, where waterborne ailments account for 80% of disease and deaths. This causes an estimated 2% drag on developing countries’ GDP. Staggering right?
|Two girls collecting water in rural India|
The WHO’s Safe Water, Better Health Report in 2008 suggested that 780,000 deaths in India are directly a result of poor water and sanitation. It is estimated that 37.7 million Indians are affected by waterborne diseases annually and 73 million working days are lost due to waterborne disease each year.
The World Bank’s 2015 report Water Security for All: The Next Wave of Tools speculates that while 1.6 billion people currently live in countries and regions with absolute water scarcity, that number is expected to rise to 2.8 billion people by 2025 thanks to climate change. Yikes – cue more regional instability over a Mad Max-like struggle for basic existence!
But this is 2015! And this is by no means a new issue. Surely we have a sustainable solution already being implemented? To be fair, progress is being made: The Millennium Development Goals target for safe drinking water was met in 2010, and, on paper, over 90 per cent of the world’s population now has access to improved sources of drinking water. That caveat, “on paper,” is because several studies have shown this estimation to be overly optimistic; the reliability and consistent quality of these improved drinking water sources are sometimes diminished over time or even questionable to begin with.
That is why it is dangerous to assume that the water problem has already been adequately addressed, or that investment here should take a back seat in light of other avenues; sanitation and hygiene, the other half of the WASH acronym have been the “trendy” areas to talk about of late and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has boldly put sanitation and hygiene central to his governance agenda. This is very noble and necessary, to be sure, but should not come at the cost of safe water investment. (Water, sanitation and hygiene usually share a budget.)
|Indian women waiting to collect tanker water, which comes irregularly and at unpredictable times|
|Alessandra with Sarvajal Water ATM|
So now I’m on a mission to preach the gospel of clean water. With a convert’s conviction I’m crusading from within a pioneering organization that is making a difference in the lives of over a billion people each year.
[Alessandra is a Business Development Associate Fellow at Piramal Sarvajal. Find out more about us at Sarvajal]