For the past six months, Deven Patel, who runs a grocery shop in Talavli Chanda village near Indore, has been buying two 20-litre cans of drinking water every day for his home and shop for a paltry Rs 18.
Like Patel, people in 18 villages of the state now have access to clean drinking water at affordable rates, thanks to a few young rural entrepreneurs, who have a set up reverse osmosis (RO) water treatment plant at those villages.
The water is supplied in 20-litre cans to the houses and shops in Talavli Chanda village and neighbouring villages on demand.
Patel is one among those who don’t mind paying for clean water as he believes it would cost him more if someone in the family fell ill from drinking untreated tap or well water.
The cheap clean water comes from a company Piramal Water which, under the brand Sarvajal, supplies drinking water to these 18 villages in the state.
According to industry estimates, around 71 crore people in India still lack access to clean water.
Diseases such as diarrhoea, caused by drinking untreated water, claim thousands of lives annually.
“The idea is to provide access to clean drinking water priced between 33 paise a litre and 50 paise a litre to the rural population in the state,” Piramal Water chief operating officer Anuj Sharma said.
A small filter plant range starts from Rs 2.5 lakh and has a capacity of processing 250 litres per hour.
Out of 18 villages in the state where the RO water filter plants have been installed, local entrepreneurs have set up the facility in 15 villages while Piramal Water has set up the facility in two villages and another private company has set up a facility under a corporate social responsibility initiative.
“The response has been good in Madhya Pradesh and we have big expansion plans,” Sharma said.
While a majority of the community water projects are funded by the government and remain subsidised, this model aims to make clean water for the masses a self-sustaining business proposition.
The water undergoes reverse osmosis and ultraviolet treatment before it is supplied.
By not using complex purification methods and saving money on advertising and distribution expenses, the Sarvajal franchises are able to sell water at a much lower price than most other water distributors.
Encouraged by the response, the company plans to expand aggressively in rural Madhya Pradesh.