Clean option

Published: Saturday 04 July 2015


"Since its introduction in 2000, pur has provided 260 million litres of safe, clean water in many countries including the Tsunami-ravaged region of South Asia, where 15 million sachets were delivered," said Greg Allgood, director of the Children's Safe Drinking Water Programme, p&g.

pur is available in a single-use sachet that can purify 10 litres of water. Its ingredients include ferric sulphate (flocculant) and calcium hypochlorite (disinfectant). When the powder is added to water and it is stirred for 5 minutes, flocculation occurs, followed by precipitation. The water is then filtered through a cloth to remove the precipitate. The powder leaves residual chlorine in water for continued disinfection.

Besides organic matter and microorganisms, the powder even removes heavy metals such as arsenic, chromium and lead from water, p&g claims. The residue should be discarded out of reach of animals and children, the company advises.

To promote pur, p&g worked closely with non-governmental organisations (ngos), local and national governments and health organisations like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (cdc) (in the us), International Federation of Red Cross and Red Cresent Societies, unicef and the Johns Hopkins University (also in the us). Says Allgood, "We plan to expand beyond the current social markets of Haiti, Uganda and Pakistan at the rate of 2 countries per year."

The company claims pur- treated water meets the standards of the World Health Organization (who) for drinking water (see table: Pure aqua). Clinical trials conducted by cdc and Johns Hopkins University showed significant reduction in diarrhoea in Guatemala (40-72 per cent), Kenya (17-42 per cent), Liberia (59-64 per cent) and Pakistan (87-95 per cent). Besides, pur- treated arsenic contaminated (130 to 430 parts per billion (ppb)) well-water samples from Bangladesh, contained less than 10 ppb (who guideline value) of the toxic element, according to the company.

Costly? "In the us, a pur sachet costs us $0.03. In countries like India it will cost us$0.08 (Rs 3.50) due to customs duties and taxes. Our effort is to manufacture the product locally so as to cut down the costs," says Chris Smith, p&g, uk. So far, p&g's strategy had been to supply pur through governments and ngos to the needy.

Allgood explains the challenges, "Market surveys showed repurchase rates (5-13 per cent) are not sufficient for sustainable commercial approach by p&g. This calls for a change in consumer habit and hence necessitates broad partnerships with public health groups."

Will this product be used in India? Says Paul Deverill, unicef India, "The product seems to be impressive. However, given the regional diversity and magnitude of problems in India, unicef in collaboration with a leading water testing laboratory will study its effectiveness and user friendliness. If results are satisfactory, we would take up the matter with the government of India." Besides costs, there also is a concern about the contaminant-laden residues and their disposal.

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