NIRDPR conducts study of RO Plants in Gram Panchayats of 7 Indian States
Study recommends RO plants to be set up only in GPs with water quality problems so as to avoid the high cost and maintenance burden.
National Institute of Rural Development and Panchayati Raj (NIRDPR) undertook a study on the setting up of Reverse Osmosis (RO) Plants in Rural India. The RO plants were set up as a technology solution to address quality related problems in drinking water.
The study focused on discovering if RO plants are set up only in those villages where quality of water is unfit for drinking or if it was coming up as a fashionable infrastructure. The study covered 21 Gram Panchayats (GPs) in seven States where the highest number of RO Plants had been set up, as per the data provided by Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation, Government of India.
The study looked at three GPs with RO plants in four Southern States, two from West India and one from North India that was surveyed.
Reflecting on the findings of the study, Prof. P. Sivaram, Head, Centre for Rural Infrastructure, NIRDPR, said, “Our hunch was that possibly, a GP President feels elated to say that he provides RO treated water to his voters, (when in reality the quality of the water is potable). Empirical verification revealed that we were right in every third case. In other words, out of 21 cases studied, about 8 units have come up where it was not required; where there is no quality-related problem in water. This has several cost implications not only to the State but also to the GPs in terms of maintenance.”
Chemical contamination in water is known to cause physical ailments and diseases. From the 21 GPs studied, it was found that while 13 of them had set up RO plants to address issues related to quality of water, the rest had set them up despite the water quality being well within permissible limits (as per BIS norms). In 16 of the 21 GPs, the RO plants are operated by the GP whereas in the others, they were found to be operated by private players for profit or by NGOs as part of their rural development programmes.
The study further revealed that in terms of the cost, people were paying for the water in all the GPs, with the costs varying between Rs. 50 to Rs. 150 per month depending on usage. There have been certain unique modes of payment introduced such as swiping the ATW card, coin-operated systems, water coupons etc. which are easing the burden on the GPs. Yet, challenges continue to persist in their uptake since several families feel the taste of RO-treated water is bland, or that it is not affordable, and they preferred piped water supply. Thus, in all the states under study, there are households that do not use RO water.
In several of the study States, it was found that the levels of calcium and magnesium fell drastically after the RO treatment, which could potentially cause calcium deficiency in the body. In rural areas, however, which continue to struggle with contaminated water, the reject water resulting from the RO systems can be utilised by being channelled for other uses such as in school/ anganwadi toilets like it is being done in some of the study villages in Rajasthan.
The study concludes that while drinking water is a basic service that the GPs must provide, in areas where there are no quality related problems or there are issues of negligible nature, setting up of RO systems adds a cost burden on GPs for their maintenance. Additionally, since the RO Plant tends to extract the essential minerals depriving the consumers of the same, efforts must be made to ensure the RO Plants are set up only where there is a water quality issue, and not because it is a fashionable infrastructure for a GP to have.
Study States and Villages
|1||Telengana||1.||Gantlavalli (RR District)|
|2.||Andra Pradesh||4||Akividu (West Godavari)|
|3.||Tamil Nadu||7||Utharagosamangai (Ramanathapuram)|