Solar-powered ATMs to dispense clean water in Pakistan

Signal of change / Solar-powered ATMs to dispense clean water in Pakistan

By Alex Caldwell / 10 Jun 2015

In Punjab, Pakistan’s most populous province, a new form of ATM will soon be dispensing a daily allowance of clean water to the people of Bahawalpur, Rajanpur and Faisalabad: all areas with serious water contamination issues.

The collaboration between Panjab Saaf Pani (Clean Water) and Innovations for Poverty Alleviation Lab (IPAL) will aid the government’s target of providing clean drinking water to 35 million people by 2017.

Currently only 13% of people have access to tap water, and sanitation-related diseases are estimated to cost Pakistan’s economy US$1.1 billion a year. The initial project will involve the installation of 20 machines that will supply water to more than 17,500 families. Each family will have a unique identity card that allows them access to 30 litres of guaranteed clean water per day, and will each contribute a small fee to a community fund to the filtration plants and the vending machines.

The machines will also allow the government to monitor the amount of water being dispensed in each location in real-time will be gathered through a central server.

So what?

There has been a surge in low-cost water purification technologies in an attempt to reach the 783 million people worldwide who do not have access to clean water. Recent advances in wireless sensors, alongside the availability of mobile (GSM) networks in developing countries, now make it possible to remotely monitor the quality and quantity of water being dispensed.

Monitoring Punjab’s communities’ water use will allow the government to produce new policies and management plans to combat water wastage.

Nazir Ahmed Wattoo, an environmental expert with the Punjab Anjuman Samaji Behbood (Organisation for Social Welfare) said “few water conservation systems are in place in Pakistan, resulting in waste both in daily use and in agriculture”. Giving families a set amount of water per day is also likely to embed water-conservation behaviour for the next generation, supporting them to see water as a valuable resource that needs to be managed.

The Asian Development Bank describes Pakistan as one of the most “water-stressed” countries in the world. Its storage capacity is currently only 30 days, well below the 1,000 days recommended for a country with such a dry climate. Moreover, with an expanding population and an increased incidence of drought, the situation is likely to deteriorate. 

Sources

Reuters (2015, May 14) http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/05/14/pakistan-solar-water-idUSL5N0Y51MO20150514

American Pakistan (2014)  http://www.americanpakistan.org/#!pakistans-biggest-challenge/cai3

UN Water Day (2013) http://www.unwater.org/water-cooperation-2013/water-cooperation/facts-and-figures/en/

What might the implications of this be? What related signals of change have you seen?

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