A population of 452 was merely a number for Reshma Dai. In December 2011, as the Sarpanch of Advi village in Madhya Pradesh, she knocked on every door to inform her fellow villagers of how the newly installed water purification plant could save their children from fatal health problems. It took her three days, but she made sure everybody was onboard.
Today, this purification plant in Advi village provides about 500 litres of clean drinking water per day.
This was made possible in villages of Chhattisgarh, Bihar and Maharashtra as well by Nagpur-based engineer Abhijeet Gan. An alumnus of BITS Pilani, Abhijeet started work on Rite Water Solutions in 2006 after he read an article on chemical contamination of water in Dongargaon near Nagpur. “The article mentioned severe ill effects on the health of the villagers. So, I visited the village with a few friends. We observed that 60 per cent of the children there suffered from dental problems and bone-related disorders due to presence of fluoride in water,” says Abhijeet. The adults were worst affected due to flouride consumption over a long period. “Within a year we developed a product for fluoride removal and set up our first community water centre there,” he says. “Based on our technology, the state government made a policy to tackle this problem in other villages,” says the 30-year-old MBA graduate who set up Rite Water in 2009.
At present, his team has a mix of young and experienced professionals. Abhijeet himself is an alumnus of BITS-Pilani and SP Jain Institute of Management and Research, Mumbai, and has worked with companies such as Colgate Palmolive. Part of his management team are Vinod, a chemical engineer with over 30 years of experience; Aarti who looks after research; and Dr Thergaonkar, a senior scientist, onboard as the chief adviser.
“In India 80 per cent of rural households depend on untreated water sources, over 40 per cent of which are contaminated. Ground water in around 200,000 rural habitations has been found to be chemically contaminated, which means it has excess fluoride, chloride, iron, nitrates and even traces of arsenic,” says Abhijeet.
Due to lack of awareness and absence of alternatives, villagers continue to consume water from contaminated sources. “Contaminants such as fluoride and arsenic have a severe impact on health resulting in skeletal fluorosis, dental fluorosis and arsenic poisoning. WHO estimates around 87 million Indians (75 per cent of which are children) are affected by water-borne diseases annually,” says Abhijeet.
Today, Rite Water works with local state governments, NGOs and corporates to identify such habitations and sets up community water treatment plants. “In last four years we have set up 140+ community water centres across three states. These centres provide safe water to over one lakh people on a daily basis,” he says.
Their revenue comes in the form of capital cost (from organisations they team up with) for setting up water centres. “A part of our revenue is also generated by selling water treatment plants to industries.” Abhijeet now plans to expand across India. “We have Series-A funding which will help us scale up. Through this we aim to reach 5,000 habitations in next five years thereby providing safe water to more than 1 million rural people,” he beams.