We all know that water is integral to our survival, and yet, did you know that 63 million rural people in India do not have access to clean drinking water? It’s a horrifying statistic. And that’s where JanaJal comes in. This for-profit organisation is trying to change these numbers around by making clean and safe drinking water available in every corner of India.
Origins of JanaJal
Parag Agarwal, founder and CMD of JanaJal, started the organization in June 2013 along with his brother, Anurag. Their vision was to fulfill the common man’s quest for water with nominal charges paired with environment-friendly techniques – no mean feat.
After crossing every milestone in their path, they came up with the concept of water ATMs. These units are a perfect combination of vending machine, water treatment system, and cloud based IT remote monitoring system. They make water available and accessible at a nominal cost. Now, JanaJal is planning to install 1,000 water ATMs by the end of 2018.
Their remarkable mission has earned the organization plaudits in the unpackaged water industry, but as importantly, has inspired many people to step forward and contribute. We spoke with Parag Agarwal for some insight on JanaJal’s journey:
Can you tell us about your journey, and what led you to JanaJal?
For almost 10 years, I have worked in and handled projects related to the water management space. Somewhere in between all these projects, my attention was drawn to drinking water, and I realized how most of the Indian households do not have access to clean water. And no one in the public and private sector was doing anything to address this problem.
But being from the same sector, I knew it was easy to address this issue, and that we could find simple ways to provide clean drinking water.
Less than 5% of people in India consume packaged or bottled water, and the other 95% just can’t afford it. So, we chose to cater to the remaining 95% people who most likely consume water directly from the tap or borewells.
However, tap water causes water-borne diseases, and borewell water contains impurities such as fluoride, arsenic, and iron. So, the need for sustainability of water treatment plants led us to develop water ATMs. These ATMs seemed like the best option as long as the water was affordable and safe for drinking.
What milestones did you face in the initial days?
When we started contacting people for water ATMs, they actually laughed at us.
Nobody was aware of this concept and everybody thought that it would just not work. And when we proposed our idea to administrative departments and other institutions to adopt this technology, we received a lot of hostility.
The situation stayed the same until Mr. Modi launched ‘Swachh Bharat Abhiyan’ in 2014 which spread the awareness about sanitation and clean drinking water. People started accepting the concept and realized that water ATMs were the best way to provide safe and clean drinking water.
What are the unique features of JanaJal water ATMS?
The ATMS are embedded with IoT devices that we have developed ourselves to remotely monitor their functioning, and the quality and quantity of water. We are able to regulate the system, manage collection system, handle inventory system, and TDS level through them.
However, the condition of water changes every 10 kilometers so it is not possible to use a single technology to treat water at every place. So we conduct raw water tests at a particular site and then use suitable technologies to treat it to ensure that the processed water is safe to drink.
Also, every water ATM is managed by an operator who ensures that the system is working properly, surrounding is clean, water ATM is clean, and dispensing unit is functioning without any issue.
What is the nominal charge for drinking water dispensed from water ATMs?
Normally, a bottle of 1 liter packaged water costs around Rs. 20, but we charge Rs. 5 for 1 liter of chilled water.
This amount reduces to Re. 1 per liter if anyone buys 20 liters of water which is not chilled as it will probably be used for drinking, cooking and household needs. According to our data, even the poorest of the poor purchase water very happily from our ATMs.
Tell us about JanaJal’s Water-on-Wheels (WOWs) initiative
Water on Wheels is a battery-operated e-vehicle for delivering safe water that is currently under development. These JanaJal WOWs will be filled from the ATMs to deliver water to various households and offices. Anyone will be able to utilize this service from our mobile app and place the order using any digital payment method. We’ll start the roll-out of WOWs from Ghaziabad in the coming months.
And how does your water credit system work?
We encourage people to support the cause with whatever amount they can contribute, even if it is Rs. 100. The contributor can decide the area in which he/she wants the water to be delivered.
We use this money to provide water, and then we give the contributor a summary of how the amount was used and how much water was given to people. It helps us enable complete transparency and visibility in our system.
What message would you like to convey to our readers?
This is the only message that I would like to convey because we can increase its availability by conserving it. We cannot make water in any way, so the only way is to avoid water wastage. To leave enough water for our future generations, we have to take the responsibility.
Each one of us has to take a step forward and support the cause.
We are still a long way from providing clean drinking water to everyone, but JanaJal has taken the first step. That’s the beauty of innovative ventures: you do something simple, yet extraordinary. To support the cause or contribute, visit their website and follow them on Facebook or Instagram to stay updated.
Written by Vaishali Parnami
Images Credit: JanaJal