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SWN announces a new intervention programme for self-sustaining Water ATMs to urban poor

Pritam Kashyap
Pritam Kashyap

In an exclusive interview with Poonam Sewak, Vice President of Programmes and Partnerships of Safe Water Network (SWN), said:“Safe Water Network has recently announced a new intervention programme called ‘SEWAH’ (Sustainable Enterprise water Alliance) with USAID (United States Agency for International Development), wherein Safe Water will commission self-sustaining water ATMs for the urban poor.”It will be a three-year flagship programme of SWN which aims in safe water drinking along with the capacity building.

1.Can you introduce us to Safe Water Network; when and how did it begin?

Ans.Safe Water Network has been working alongside communities in Ghana and India since 2009 to establish decentralized and locally owned community water purification systems that provide affordable, reliable and safe off-grid drinking water. Over the past ten years, Safe Water Network India has established about 300 safe water stations called ‘iJal stations’ in the Indian states of Maharashtra, Telangana, and Uttar Pradesh providing access of safe water to over one million beneficiaries and 800 livelihoods.

1. Who are your partners and helped in setting Water ATMs?

Ans. Yes…They are Honeywell India, Pentair Foundation, Underwriters Laboratories, PepsiCo, Tata Trusts, BHEL,Cisco India etc. They have helped SWN in providing technologies, laptops, automatic voltage machine and remote monitoring systems.

2. Oh Great … So in Partnership with Honeywell, how many Water ATMs were set up?

Ans. Honeywell has funded 180 water stations – 150 in Telangana and 30 in Maharashtra out of the total 300.

According to Akshay Bellare, President, Honeywell India recently said, “Women in Telangana have shown the way by embracing technology and taking on management roles, moving away from traditional livelihoods centred on agriculture and artisanship. They have changed the traditional top-down patriarchal approach to water provision, opening up opportunities for women’s participation in income-generating roles as SWE entrepreneurs, operators, managers, mobilisers and field functionaries.”

While the technical input and training were provided by the Safe Water Network, the funding came from Honeywell Hometown Solutions India Foundation, he said.

3. What is the cost of setting up Water ATMs?

Ans. The basic cost of Water ATMs is 3.5 lakh to 4.5 lakh rupees and with technologies, electricity etc. it costs around additionally 8.5 lakh rupees which cost it 12.5 lakh rupees

4. Any difficulties facing during the time of COVID-19?

Ans. Till now, we are not facing any of the difficulties and we believe that the community should get water in all circumstances.

5. How you work in India apart from SWN and partnerships?

Ans. We have worked along with local governments (Panchayati Raj Institutions) and enable self–help groups, local communities &entrepreneurs by providing training, tools and support to enable financially sustainable iJal stations. We have launched the Small Water Enterprise Alliance, a multi-sectoral partnership for sector collaboration and advancement of affordable safe drinking water for poor.Working with government and other stakeholders, our priority is to document the success of this approach and, working with other entities, reach millions in need of safe water through its broad-scale replication. We regularly publish the India Sector Review, share best practices in the sector through our field insights and spotlights that are disseminated nationally through our ‘Beyond the Pipe’ forum and internationally at the Stockholm World Water Week. We work with urban local bodies for city water delivery assessments and are the key resource centre of Ministry of Drinking water and Sanitation or Jal Shakti Ministry.

Poonam Sewak brings over 25 years of experience, having had consulted pharmaceutical industry on medico marketing, and working with the United Nations Asia Pacific Center for Technology Transfer on tools to promote women entrepreneurship in the past. A recipient of the Indian Drug Manufacturer Award and with over 70 publications in marketing and the water sector to her credit, Poonam is currently a Member of the Bureau of Indian Standards Committee and a Guest Speaker at national and international forums. Apart from this she also holds a Master’s degree in Pharmacy from the Nagpur University with a Gold Medal in her graduation. This interview was conducted via telephonic conversation by Pritam Kashyap on June 24, 2020.

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