Wednesday, March 29, 2017

To the Next Water Quality Frontiers- Beginnings with Small Steps

India  is  facing  new  kinds  of  drinking  water  problems  with  growing  dependence  on groundwater  and  changing  landscapes  of  agricultural  and  industrial  pollution. Beyond microbial problems of drinking water, problems like Fluorosis, Arsenicosis and nitrate contamination are threatening our drinking water sources.  These are complex problems that interact with nutritional and healthcare issues – especially in the child and maternal health context. 

Water Quality Awareness session in a school
These ‘new drinking water problems’ that are emerging will play themselves out concurrently – making them new public health problems of high complexity. The new  drinking  water  problems – such  as  is  already  discovered  in  the  case  of  fluorosis,  a condition resulting from prolonged consumption of drinking water contaminated by excessive  fluoride content – also tend to have strong nutrition, child and maternal health linkages. The nexus between Water and Sanitation (watsan), Nutrition and Health in this new context will be particularly critical. The solutions will need to view  and  address  these as  public  health  problems  rather  than  merely  watsan  problems.

While visiting affected habitations in Kolar and Chikballapur districts helped us understand such complexity associated with Fluorosis. I and my Colleague Shreyas S put down our observations in the field which gave us an inspiration to develop a program for Fluorosis Mitigation in affected districts in Karnataka. The basis of the program is that Fluorosis is not a standalone problem, but a result of multiple factors. Hence, a plan to mitigate Fluorosis should be integrated rather than sectoral. Understanding the problem and evolving simple  solutions, that  the communities  can  be  empowered  to  seek,  adopt  and  adapt will be vital. The Program is being conceived and developed during the phase of the Fluoride Fellowship with our advisors, mentors and incubators- Biome, The Fluoride Knowledge and Action Network (FKAN) and INREM Foundation, which is the secretariat of FKAN. 

To seek support for the program, we had applied with Wipro- one of the leading tech firm in the country. We are glad to inform that we have won the Wipro Sustainability Seeding Fellowship 2017. The Fellowship is for the duration of two years. This is our small step in building the program. We are currently pitching the idea of the program with other potential funders to support other components of the program.

Kiran Kumar Sen,
Wipro Sustainability Seeding Fellow

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