Takeaways from NEERI brainstorming workshop - Water technology developers and other stakeholders

Engaging better with different stakeholders involved with bringing scientific innovation in the water sector to reach large numbers of people who need the innovations.

The National Environment Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) is a premier CSIR laboratory. On September 7th, NEERI held a brainstorming workshop entitled "Interface between water technology developers and other stakeholders”.  The purpose of the workshop was to engage better with other players involved with bringing scientific innovation in the water sector to reach large numbers of people who need the innovations.  Attendees included scientists from many CSIR laboratories involved with water research, senior central government officials from the Rural Water Supply Department and the Dept of Science and Technology, State government officials, representatives from leading corporate houses including Eureka Forbes and Unilever and NGOs.  

Mr. Bharat Lal, Director, Water Quality, Dept of Water Supply and Sanitaiton, GoI, made a presentation. His presentation showed that rural habitations affected with Fluoride, arsenic and salinity had increased significantly from 2006 to 2009, but those affected by nitrate had decreased significantly. Some important current initiatives from the government include: 

Strengthening of water quality testing regime,   Water quality testing laboratories upto sub-division level;  R&D – thrust areas identified & new R&D projects;   Setting up of ‘Professor Chairs’ in 5 major universities;  Block Resource Centres (BRCs);  TNAs – Training & Capacity Development Plan;  Integrated Management Information System & its impact ;  Preparation of Strategic Plan of DoDWS;

Dr. Pawan Labhasetwar of NEERI made a comprehensive presentation running through a whole panopoly of technologies that CSIR labs have developed. These include treatment of contaminants: arsenic, fluoride, iron, brackish/saline water, bacteriological contamination. NEERI-ZAR and TERAFIL are two low-cost technologies for bacteriological contamination and turbidity. For arsenic and fluoride multiple technologies have been evolved at different labs: ceramic membranes, chemical-based, electrolysis-based etc. A hand pump-attachable iron removal plant has been developed. There are a number of membrane-based technologies. Besides they have also worked on other areas including greywater treatment. The presentation is very eye-opening for the sheer range of activities that CSIR labs has undertaken and the number of technologies they have developed in the water treatment area. CSIR needs to devote huge effort and energies to marketing these technologies so that they are scaled up by interested parties and prove useful to the country. 

Dr. Nimish Shah of Unilever R&D in India presented on the role of Industry. He focused on the problems related to contamination in supply chain involved in bringing piped water supply to the home. Besisdes that there is in-home and near-home contamination. Even after boiling water at home it was found that in a significant number of cases the stored water after boiling had microbial contamination. 

I made a presentation on Arghyam's experiences in water quality. The presentation questioned the appropriateness of high-technology solutions for rural areas and highlighted some low-tech and traditional solutions that we have come across. One example is the H2S Strip test which is a very simple and cost-effective test for bacteriological contamination that can be performed by anyone but that has not seen wide adoption. Why is this the case, and if this is the fate of an extremely simple technology, what can we say about hi-tech solutions ?

The following were stated as the desired outcomes of the Workshop:

  • Develop database of technologies – success stories and failure analysis
  • Depository of IEC tools for community mobilisation
  • Evolve process with stakeholders for technology development – consultation before initiating technology development/ modifications
  • Improved technology logistics Approach for validation of technology claims
  • Synergy among various technology development programmes/ agencies/stakeholders

While a good beginning was made, we hope that NEERI and the participants will follow through to achieve these important goals. 

Click here to access the presentations and other documents from the workshop



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