Hi-Tech vs Low-tech in the rural drinking water sector

June 21, 2011

Ever since Schumacher wrote his now very, very famous book Small is Beautiful (if you have not read it you are so doh 🙂  ) there has in my mind been a question of the appropriateness of the solutions we urban educated types posit for rural ‘problems’.

In the village of Dandiganahalli, very close to Bangalore, is one such example. The village has a problem of high TDS in its water , meaning the water is too salty and brackish. Worse still it has Fluoride  in it.

A 20000 litre sump tank collects rainwater

Here is the detail of the village as given in an excellent website maintained by the Govt. of India


The Govt. with the help of a kind Prof. from a technology college has set up a real snazzy hi-tech solar distillation unit next to the village water tank.

A solar distillation unit - takes months to get operational

Presumably this device will draw the water by gravity from this tank , distill it and the distillate will be free from salts and Fluoride. A board says that up-to 1000 litres of water can be obtained in  a day. Not much for a village with a population of  1561 people in 2001 itself.

Here is a link on the inauguration of the plant


Approximately Rs 40 lakhs has been spent on tube well schemes and it is not clear how much has been spent on the solar distillation device yet the village drinks Fluoride contaminated water,

The trouble too is that the system was not functioning many months after its installation and the villagers had no clue why. In the meantime they continue to consume Fluoride contaminated water.

2 households in the village were slightly different. These people were a bit more affluent and had installed rooftop rainwater harvesting systems into a sump tank. Both the families said that they had rainwater for drinking and cooking and that it was good for the whole year.

The school too has students who are vulnerable to Fluoride. So the school is getting a rainwater tank of about 15,000 litres capacity. The funds for this has been brought from Canada by 4 volunteers who actually physically built the tank.

We will start collecting rainwater and a process of checking the water quality along with the students and ensure that they drink potable water.

In the meanwhile we will also interact with the authorities to figure out how to make the solar distillation system work.

Much more effort will be needed before the village of Dandiganahalli gets clean water but hi-tech does not necessarily seem to be the way.


One comment

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