Fluoride-contaminated water poses a serious threat to affected communities. Excessive fluoride content (exceeding the WHO-recommended guideline of 1.5 mg/L) cause serious health issues like skeletal and dental fluorosis, debilitating bone diseases, infertility, skin infections, and so on.
There are a number of water purification solutions. However, many of these solutions do not address the issue of fluoride; and all existing de-fluoridization solutions (such as household reverse-osmosis filters) are out of reach of populations who need it most. The problem is not technology; it is affordability and reach.
Vrutti, in collaboration with Swasti has partnered with the Gram Panchayat of Thimmampalli, Karnataka, to create a community-owned solution to the problem. Swasti has invested in a water de-fluoridization plant and the Panchayat has granted access to a raw water source. The aim is to distribute the water at a minimal processing charge affordable to all. These charges will pay for the plant, at which point ownership will be turned over to the community. This is envisioned to be a sustainable solution, independent of regular outside funding.
The water plant, launched on 12 January 2013, covers 24 villages in Bagepalli talukka (Chikkaballapur district), with a total of 2,061 households located within a 10km radius. The region was chosen for its high fluoride content, which is among the highest in India. The Panchayat suffers from extreme poverty, and lacks even basic facilities. The water is provided at a charge of 20-30 paise per litre. In less than three months, the water plant has begun to supply over 200 households (over 10 per cent of the area’s population).
More recently, under a fund from GAP Foundation, 4 water plants in the area are being planned, with the frist one being launched on 28 November 2014.