RO Systems in Urban Areas Should be Banned, Says This Jalpreneur
"Everybody is applying the RO technology for treating all kinds of water irrespective of where the water is coming from; thereby the water is getting wasted"
There is a fine line between water and safe drinking water, which Indians are yet to recognize. More than 680 million people in India don't have access to safe water, leading to 2 lakh deaths each year. The World Bank estimates that 21 per cent of communicable diseases in India is linked to unsafe drinking water.
As far as the safe drinking water is concerned, the standard option comes at INR 20 per liter, which a common man cannot afford. Going deeper, we understand that out of 20, INR 14 is the cost of packaging, labelling, distribution, logistics, reseller margins and taxes, paying for which is of no real benefit to the customers.
It was important to eliminate the unnecessary costs in making safe drinking water available to people at an affordable price. Understanding the landscape of demand and supply of safe drinking water services, Parag Agarwal thought of creating water ATMs where people can come with their own bottles and collect safe drinking water for as little as INR 5/liter.
Parag Agarwal, Founder & CMD, Janajal
An Initiative for Better India
In 2013, Agarwal with his brother Anurag Agarwal started JanaJal, a social initiative of the Supremus Group to provide clean and safe drinking water. It is essentially a national undertaking to deliver clean, safe drinking water through automated hybrid water ATMs. Janajal has received funding from US-based Tricolor Cleantech Capital for $5 million.
Till date, the initiative has benefitted more than 36 million people in India with an approximate consumption of 10 litres per capita per day as has been prescribed by the erstwhile Ministry of Drinking Water & Sanitation in India. Janajal's year-on-year revenue has increased from INR 2.3 Crore in FY 2018-19 to INR 8 Crore in FY 19-20. Agarwal is eyeing the revenues of INR 20 Crore in FY 2020-21.
JanaJal is building the world's 1st technology enabled safe-drinking-water-sharing economy. Its technology-agnostic water ATMs supervised and managed through IoT technologies and cloud-based architecture ensure that water is safe till the last drop. The company has also enabled cashless payments and offers Aadhaar-based dispensing capability.
Assessing the Water Quality
India has unique and complex geographic dynamics in terms of water. As a popular saying goes - Water and language changes every few kilometers in India, which is why there was a need for customized approach to retrieve the safe drinking water at various locations.
"We assess the condition of raw water available on every site and decide upon a water treatment technology, system configuration and accordingly allocate the most suitable method for water conservation," Agarwal said. Surprisingly, Janajal's water ATMs installed in NDMC don't use RO technology because RO is not required for municipal water.
Agarwal mentions that RO is only required at places where direct groundwater with certain parameters beyond tolerance level is supplied. "Everybody is applying the RO technology for treating all kinds of water irrespective of where the water is coming from; thereby the water is getting wasted," he said, adding, RO systems in urban areas should be banned.
Can Janajal Resolve the Water Crisis?
No. Water ATMs cannot resolve the lack of water problem in any environment. Major Indian cities are at the brink of reaching zero groundwater levels but Agarwal affirms that making water available in these places will also not solve the issue unless the resource is managed in a sustainable manner. "Only way to create more water is to conserve it because there's no technology that can make water."
Water ATMs can however play an important role in water conservation if people are asked to get rid of their household systems like RO equipment and procure water from water ATMs at an affordable price. Agarwal assures that Janajal is treating and making water available to people in an efficient manner to avoid maximum water wastage during the treatment process.
NDMC Water ATM
Having reached people across various states in India, JanaJal is now building dense clusters of water ATMs in Mumbai, Delhi NCR, Surat and Ghaziabad. They have also installed water ATMs in various railway stations. "At Mumbai and Goa railway stations, the wastage of water is only 2 per cent whereas in some cases, the wastage goes up to 90 per cent," Agarwal stated.
Managing Water via Technology
Water needs to be managed but that cannot happen without proper data as it is not possible to physically monitor and build a bank of information which is accurate and reliable otherwise. "We use technology for supervision and remote management of all systems." Janajal has built a unified technology platform which collects accurate data - qualitative and quantitative.
That data can be analyzed to draw specific inferences to help in water management and planning. "Nobody ever thought about using technology to manage water," Agarwal stated. Janajal focuses on technology-based solutions in integrated water and waste management, agriculture logistics & post-harvest infrastructure, drinking water & sanitation and homeland security.
Janajal has launched an electric vehicle platform called Water on Wheels, which is monitored by a central dashboard. The service is used for extended delivery. A water ATM fixed in one area is not 100 per cent available to everyone. To mitigate the issue of accessibility, "WoW becomes a mobile solution that can go deeper into communities and deliver water."
Saving Water – A Social Responsibility
In comparison to water treatment plants which require timely maintenance, water ATMs is becoming more reliable, viable, feasible, profitable, thereby the sustainable operating model for not only the individuals but also for the government and corporate organizations. JanaJal has several CSR partners, charitable trusts and foundations as associates.
Traditionally, CSR meant that some company will pay for the system and water will be made available free to people. Now, CSR has gone into a sustainable mode where companies are not making water available for free but at a subsidized price to ensure that maintenance of the plant is taken care of.
Companies associated with Janajal such as Hindustan Coca Cola Beverages Ltd, Essar Group of Companies, Anarde Foundation, Hans Foundation, My Home India, Continental Warehousing Corporation (Nhava Sheva) Ltd, among others are utilizing this facility to make clean drinking water available inside their premises and outside.