Flood, drought or storm-storm, whatever form the disaster comes, brings with it devastation. In such a situation, the biggest problem in front of people comes in the form of clean drinking water. In the scene of destruction, bacteria, chemicals, animal filth and many impurities make the water dirty.
The risk of spreading diseases increases and this is enough to make any crisis bigger. Therefore, in such situations, the first task of disaster management is to arrange for clean water.
This company gave a permanent solution to the problem
However, many NGOs provide packaged drinking water to the disaster affected people. But it is not a permanent solution to the problem. Sometimes the water supply takes days and months. On the other hand, the problem of plastic waste from packaged water comes to the fore.
The Pune based company Aquaplus Water Purifier (Pvt) Limited thought about this and went ahead to solve the problem. The company, since the last 17 years, has been manufacturing unique water filters that are not only economical but also have the capacity to clean thousands of liters of water in a matter of hours. It is easy to take them to remote areas of the country and install them there.
The company, through its water purification system, has rendered its services in the event of more than 50 natural calamities. At present, they have made such a water purifier, which can work even without electricity.
Accidentally started business
The company never intended to be involved in disaster relief operations. Even his beginning was quite simple. The Better India Rahul Pathak, the founder of the company says, “I was doing engineering in Pune. Then I felt that there is no place for argument here. Calculation and theory both combined to complicate the solution of the problem. In my view, the society is not going to benefit much from experiments. Rather, it would be better if a simple solution to the problem is found in a logical way.
Amidst a tussle between heart and mind, he dropped his studies midway in 1993 and decided to market water purifiers. He said, “I got the inspiration to do this from my father’s business. He used to make and sell filters using ceramic technology. However, the recession in the 90s affected his business as well and his marketing strategy did not succeed.”
Rahul’s father suggested him to improve his marketing techniques and thus Rahul entered the business of selling water filters, but this was just the beginning, it had to end with something else.
Learn how to make water filter
In 1994-95, he founded the company and then started learning to make filters himself. He explains, “I was marketing a household water filter. I decided to take this business forward. Although many companies were working on it. The concept of membranes used in water filters was also becoming more common. I understood that if I want to survive in this competition then I have to come up with some different products. Then I decided to make a mobile water filter.”
“The membrane used in a water filter is a thin sheet of paper, which purifies the water in four stages – microfiltration, ultra-filtration, nanofiltration and reverse osmosis. This process cleans up to 99 percent of all types of bacteria, viruses, germs, salinity, minerals and impurities present in the water.
Earlier the membrane was imported from China, but after a few years, Rahul learned to make it himself. He also made a machine in collaboration with a scientist from ‘The Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR)’. This product of his was now completely indigenous.
when for the first time New technology used in relief work
The first opportunity to use the water filter made by Rahul came during the 2005 earthquake in Jammu and Kashmir. Rahul and his team had reached there to assist the defense officials. He says, “Portable water filters were a new concept. We offered to donate it to the army. The army had established it in relief camps in Uri and Tangdhar areas.”
For the first time, when this unique water filter of his was used in disaster relief operations, it also caught the attention of ‘Register Engineers for Disaster Relief (REDR)’, a group of professional engineers. Rahul explains, “He had also given a place to the filter in the list of essential things for the disaster. Later some experts from OXFAM, an international organization working for Water Sanitation Hygiene (WASH), also contacted us. They asked us to make a filter that can purify 4,000 liters of water in an hour.
Rahul explains, “Our mobile water filter was so useful that it was used even in remote areas of flood-affected Bihar. Impressed with the filter, OXFAM started placing orders and we exported it to the UK.” Rahul said the company worked closely with experts to modify the water filter according to the company’s ‘Sphere Handbook’. However, their efforts to upgrade and improve the portability of the filter never stopped.
powerless water filter
Rahul said, “After years of innovation and use of technology, we have been able to create a cost-effective, portable, low-maintenance water filter. This filter is easily accessible to the far flung areas of the country. It can clean water even without electricity. The filter has a 0.01 micron membrane that cleans the water using gravity, a hand pump or a fuel-powered motor, depending on the availability of resources.
“There are four models of such water filters with different purification efficiencies. The AP700CL model was developed during the Uttarakhand floods. It was easy to carry it in hilly areas. It has proved to be a game changer in many national calamities. Its capacity is to purify 7,000 liters of water in ten hours. After the floods in Uttarakhand, Jammu, Kerala, Assam and Chennai, this filter was installed at 1500 places.
Sarabjit Singh Sabota, an emergency specialist at UNICEF, explains, “Water filters are essential to deliver clean water to the people. Due to their low weight, they are also easy to carry. They come in handy during an emergency. In case of emergency where there is no electricity, it can be operated by hand pump. UNICEF used about 200 water filters during floods and cyclones in Kerala, Maharashtra, West Bengal and other states.
Cheaper and economical than traditional water filters
There is another feature of this water filter and that is its cost, which is much less than the rest. Rahul says, “The cost of innovative filters is one-third less as compared to the cost of traditional filters. The company makes them at a very low cost, using its own technology. We don’t want to make much profit. Our aim is to help the needy.”
This water filter has proved to be very useful in Nepal, Sri Lanka, Mongolia, Lagos, Fiji Island, Bangladesh, New Zealand, Zimbabwe and many other countries. It has helped provide clean water to millions of people in these countries during natural disasters.
Sharing his challenges, Rahul says, “It has always been a challenge to reach remote areas with bad roads, understand the needs and estimate the intensity of the crisis. Moreover, it is also not easy to collaborate with the organization and the local people and reach out to them at the earliest.”
To be recognized around the world
Rahul says, “I had no experience in this business, everything was new to me. Banks were not completely convinced to give us loans. My business was not a startup or an app that could attract capitalists. That in itself was a big problem.”
According to him, water filters should be made a part of disaster protocol. He says, “There are floods every year at many places in the country. Instead of waiting for the damage to happen, if prepared in advance, it will help a little in dealing with the crisis in a timely manner.”
At present, Rahul’s eyes are on the world market. He wants Indian products to reach most of the world’s disaster relief operations. Click here to contact Rahul Pathak or for more information about the company.
Original article: Himanshu Nitnaware
Editing: Archana Dubey
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