Tata launches low-cost water filter for rural poor

Tata launches low-cost water filter for rural poor

Mumbai: Tata Group on Monday unveiled a new low-cost water purifier, which it hopes will provide safe drinking water for millions and cut the toll of deadly diseases.

The Tata Swach - named after the Hindi for “clean" - is designed to be used in rural households that have no electricity or running water, using ash from rice milling to filter out bacteria, the company said.

The device, which will cost under Rs1,000 ($21.5) according to one newspaper report, also uses tiny silver particles to kill harmful germs that can lead to water-borne diseases like diarrhoea, cholera and typhoid.

R. Gopalakrishnan, executive director of Tata Group, said the Swach was the “first step in a nationwide public effort to offer the consumer and the common citizen his right to have safe drinking water".

“It’s a right that public policy has sought to fulfil but not very successfully so far," Gopalakrishnan, who is also vice-chairman of Tata Chemicals, told reporters in Mumbai.

According to the UN, more than one in six people worldwide - 894 million - do not have access to clean water for their basic needs, with diarrhoea the leading cause of illness and death, particularly among children.

Nearly 90% of deaths from diarrhoea are due to lack of sanitation, unsafe drinking water and water for hygiene.

The UN World Water Development Report published in March said that better water supply, sanitation, hygiene and management of water resources could cut the burden of disease around the world by nearly one tenth.

Tata’s device, based on a larger one that was supplied to areas affected by the December 2004 Asian tsunami, has been in development for three years and is targeted at the 85% of Indians who do not currently filter their water.

It has the capacity to filter 3,000 litres, which would last an average family of five for 200 days, Tata Chemicals managing director R. Mukundan said.

Tata has invested Rs1 billion in the project and aims to sell three million units in the next five years.

The filter, which Mukundan said meets the highest US Environmental Protection Agency standards, has been tested in 600 rural households in four Indian states.

Mukundan said the company would eventually look to sell the device in sub-Saharan Africa but “first we want to address the Indian market because the potential is quite huge".