Water business

By Dolonchapa Bhattacharyya
Published: Monday 15 September 2008

-- (Credit: SURYA SEN)the Department of Drinking Water Supply (ddws) on July 20 invited private standalone water purifying companies to showcase latest technologies and equipment. The government wants to install 30,000 water purifying systems in rural schools to provide children with safe drinking water. About 84,000 schools in rural India do not have access to water that is safe to drink.

The water purifier exhibition was part of a Rs 200-crore project initiated under the Rajiv Gandhi National Drinking Water Mission. It was jointly organized by the Confederation of Indian Industry (cii) and the Department of Science and Technology (dost) at Gurgaon, Chennai, Mumbai and Kolkata. Over 100 companies participated.A high level technical committee was set up under the chairmanship of T Ramasami, secretary of dost, for identifying appropriate systems and recommending them to the ddws. The committee formed an independent jury to evaluate the exhibited systems.

While ddws is yet to come out with a decision, experts doubt the evaluation procedure, because there is no set standard for stanalone drinking water purification system in the country.

Ramasami told Down To Earth that the evaluation was done based on the Bureau of Indian Standards (bis) for water purifiers. bis, however, has standards only for water purifiers like ultra violet (uv) filters and candle filters. These standards were developed between 1979 and 1999, when it was believed that water purifiers were meant to remove only bacterial contaminants and hence apply only to water free from chemicals and suspended matter. ddws advisor R M Deshpande says the other parameters for the evaluation were bacterial contamination, chemical contamination and sludge disposal.

Sources reveal that the jury did not assess any of these technical aspects. "Technology was not our prime concern. We tried to feel the market pulse for the available products and their usability in the rural areas," said Y P Kumar, advisor to the dost, also a jury member at the Gurgaon exhibition.

Officials are yet to recommend which company should install water purifying systems in the rural schools. Will ddws and dost recommend the cost-effective water purifying systems developed by scientists from organizations like csir and iit Delhi, instead of turning to private companies?

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