Project Asbah, initiated by Enactus-SRCC, works towards providing clean drinking water to villages. In order to achieve this, Enactus is promoting the use of custom-made clay-based water filters in the villages of Noida.
This is the story of two different communities in the National Capital Region (NCR) of Delhi. The villagers of Sadhopur village in Greater Noida were facing many health problems caused by drinking contaminated drinking water. At the same time, a community of potters in Uttam Nagar, Delhi, was looking for work that would not be seasonal. Enter Enactus SRCC (the Shri Ram College of Commerce chapter of Enactus), a college student-run not-for-profit organisation, which tied these two groups with complementary needs together through Project Asbah.
Project Asbah’s mission is to provide clean potable water in rural areas like Sadhopur. In order to do this, the organisation helped the community of potters from Delhi manufacture clay-based Terafil water filters.
The idea was to provide a low-cost solution to the problem of contaminated drinking water in Sadhopur by putting to work the potters of Uttam Nagar.
“The objective is to promote social entrepreneurship. It has to be sustainable and beneficial to society in some way,” says Sarthak Goyal, the president of Enactus SRCC, which was set up in 2007. “With that in mind, we identified the potter community, which was facing the issue of irregular seasonal income.”
Enactus decided to adopt the Terafil technology developed by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), a premier national research organization. The filters in CSIR’s model are made from plastic but Enactus decided to customise these filters and make them clay-based. “Clay pots have more acceptance in rural areas. These clay filters cost less and they don’t need electricity. Also, clay-based filters keep the water cool,” says Sarthak.
To ensure the success of the programme, Enactus sought to partner with other NGOs working on water issues in villages surrounding Delhi. It is now collaborating with Shodh and Soul, two organisations that work on water problems in Greater Noida.
“Before implementation, we needed to conduct testing and check if the filter could work in Sadhopur,” says Sarthak. Sadhopur had reported cases of cancer, cholera and skin ailments over the years. However, Terafil filters out only biological contaminants found in water, it doesn’t cleanse it of industrial and chemical effluents. Enactus sent samples to their technical partner, a laboratory based in Gurugram, to analyse if the water filtered with Terafil met the IS 10500 drinking water standard.
The laboratory places test filters in a village and the water is tested before and after using the filters. If the water has chemical contaminants, the filter doesn’t work and the village is dropped from the project. In the villages where the filter is able to clean the water, Enactus starts promoting the filters.
Since the filters proved to be successful in Sadhopur, Enactus went ahead with its plans for the village. These included door-to-door marketing, targeting the weekly village markets, and conducting health camps in collaboration with Max India Foundation to communicate the importance of clean drinking water. Over a period of four months, the students were able to sell 26 units of the filters in Sadhopur village.
At Rs. 500, the filters were made available to the villagers at half the price they would pay for other similar products.
Enactus is now planning to implement the project in two more villages of Noida – Khairpur and Jaunti.
“In Khairpur, the testing process is almost done; we’ll get results very soon. In Jaunti, we will soon begin the testing process,” says Sarthak. “We’re trying to take it slow, as we want to focus on one village at a time. We have a team of around 65 volunteers working on two projects, so it’s certainly important to do focused work.”
Though the project is still nascent, Sarthak can already see it expanding in the future. “Through our project, we will also try helping the potters set up a cooperative and taking charge of their own business. As we expand and the production increases, we would definitely help them become a sustainable business and help them secure finances by taking loans from the banks.”
Another plan is to target urban slums with similar drinking water problems. However, the urban contamination levels are higher and, more importantly, cities have more chemical and industrial contaminants that won’t be filtered by Terafil filters. “We are currently looking for a different technology, which would be cost-effective and would help people in backward urban areas tackle the problem of contaminated drinking water,” says Sarthak. “Once we figure that out, we are planning to start the work in slums in Delhi as well,” he concludes hopefully.