Over the past 15 years, over 200 sustainable arsenic removal systems for affected communities (SARSACs) have been installed and have operated in rural communities of West Bengal, Bihar, Cambodia, Laos and Nepal by several Universities and NGOs (Sarkar et al., 2010, 2012). Over time, these efforts have been assisted and coordinated by A.N. College (Dr. Ashok K. Ghosh, Patna, Bihar); Bengal Engineering Science University (Dr. Anirban Gupta, BESU; Howrah, West Bengal); Institute of Technology in Cambodia (Dr. HUL Seingheng, ITC; Phnom Penh, Cambodia); Technology with a Human Face (Mr. Prasun Sengupta, THF; Kolkata, West Bengal); Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Project in Western Nepal (Guneshwar Prasad Mahato; Nepal) and the Tagore-SenGupta Foundation (Dr. Arup K. SenGupta, TSF; Pennsylvania, USA). Commercial systems in the USA provide safe water to over 300,000 people using HAIX technology. Additional HAIX-based treatment has provided safe water to people in several other countries. HAIX has also been used for tertiary waste-water treatment (e.g., phosphate), uranium removal, and industrial waste clean-up (e.g., Fukushima Nuclear Reactor in Japan).
Past efforts pushed by governmental and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in South Asia have often not had appropriate feedback cycles for ensuring long-term use. Countless arsenic systems have had technical or social failures within one year of installation with no consequences for the responsible party (Hossain et al., 2005). The regular operational expenses of any water treatment system are not negligible and are often the reason systems become dysfunctional. But, with proper technology and enough number of users, a system’s operational expenses are borne by the water consumers. If the treatment company and community are financially committed to safe water production they are more likely to operate it properly: both the water treatment company and the community should earn profit based on the volume of water purchases to incentivize long-term system use. In the past, THF required a local water committee of male and female water consumers to observe and oversee new arsenic treatment system use. The water committee was responsible for maintaining the satisfaction of the local community who is paying a small water tariff. To meet the user’s demands, a caretaker was hired through the water tariff whom is responsible for managing the treatment system and bank account per the instructions of the water committee. Strong financial obligations through a seller-buyer relationship between the caretaker-community of a quality health product are seen as more powerful forces than voluntary behavioural suggestions for the masses from absent organizations that the community doesn’t trust. This latter behaviour has been common amongst failed water treatment schemes by NGOs and governments. Utilizing the local trust in community members and businesses, a water franchisee is able to increase safe water access by meeting the people in their situation to maximize his/her own profits. Generating revenue and maintaining local employment through safe water sales creates much greater benefit than subsidizing water bottles for families.
- The easy-to-operate system provides safe drinking water through use of a resin-based regenerable adsorbent that can be started or stopped with no real time lag. Whereas current solutions use Reverse Osmosis (RO) technology that wastes 40-60% of input water, THF plants wastes only 1% of water.
- Improved health outcomes due to access to clean water (households no longer at risk for cholera, diarrhea, arsenicosis, and other water-borne diseases).
- Productivity and economic gains through time savings (women particularly spend 2-5 hours a day procuring water on a daily basis, valuable time that could be spent in school or engaging in income-generating activities).
concept of "sarsac" operation
Through this arsenic mitigation technology, we have been able to transform the health crisis into a revenue generating business while drinking safe water.
~ Sakti Sadhana Club Member (Ashoknagar, West Bengal, India)