Drinking water for marooned communities : need innovation of frugal filter


Floods have stated receding in many parts of the country but as I said last week, new problems are going to arise. Some problems still persist and arise every year. Let me focus on needs for innovations in low cost filter ( like life straw which filters water when you sip through it), which marooned communities can use it to get drinking water. There are no ultra frugal filters available.

Honey Bee Network through sristi and Gian will support college students whether in engineering colleges or ITIs or Polytechnics who develop an extremely affordable water filter. It may be used by travellers too though our primary focus is on marooned communities. NIF will support school children and grassroots innovators who develop such a solution.

Years ago, when I was a member of mentoring team at Launch Accelerator started by NASA, I saw a technology in which sea water passing through a pipe oozed out cleaned salt free water on the surface. One could grow trees on both the sides of such a pipe. May be double walled filters of such pipes could be one answer. But many of these are proprietary technologies. We need to develop open source technologies through wide participation of different sectors of economy.

Dr Sudheer kulkarni, NCL had developed a filter attachable to hand pump which will clean the water with the pressure of hand pump. Debi, ceo, membrane filter located outside Pune had disseminated this filter during super cyclone in Odisha in mid nineties. May be government needs to adopt this technology fr meeting drinking water needs of marooned flood affected communities. It removed even viruses, not just bacteria and minerals. Why should not policy makers be hungry to scout and spread such technologies? Why don’t we create a national mission, Sankalp to solve each of such major unaddressed social challenges.

We need to ensure that we test all drinking water sources in the next three months if we want to avoid the epidemic of water borne diseases. Diarrhoea and intestinal worm load is bound to increase in coming weeks. We need to share both proven traditional technologies as well as modern solutions in the spirit of do-it-yourself. Special supply chain and logistics have to be developed.

Actually we can collect water samples of all the flood affected villages through postmen and then create responsibility structure of labs to test and send report to not only communities but also to the public health department. After a month another sample should be taken to see whether relevant disinfection of drinking water sources has been done or not.

Let 2017 register minimum incidence of post flood human and animal health problems. Unless we create new benchmarks of performance of public delivery systems, we will not be able to make tangible difference in the lives of poor people.

Let each Sankalp be accompanied by precise measurable and monitorable indicators. Let us remember what I realised first in 1984: a change not monitored is a change not desired.


Visiting Faculty, IIM Ahmedabad & IIT Bombay and an independent thinker, activist for the cause of creative communities and individuals at grassroots, tech institutions and any other walk of life committed to make this world a more creative, compassionate and collaborative place