It’s not like she was always concerned about water as a child, but eventually reading about failed monsoons, drying rivers and dams, people consuming contaminated water started affecting her. It created so much discomfort in her as to why there was no action taken to mitigate the situation and find a long-lasting solution?
In an exclusive conversation with Life Beyond Numbers, founder of WaterMaker, Meher Bhandara shares the precarious condition of water quality in India, saving man-hours when it comes to collecting drinking water from distant places, and how the initiative is changing lives for better.
It was in 2003, that this 66-year young woman came to know about this method from her brother- to Create Water from the Air. “My brother came across this unique technology due to a chance encounter with an American scientist and inventor who said he made water from the air,” says Meher.
Being overwhelmed by the idea and on further questioning the scientist about his work, he explained the process as following Nature’s Cycle. She says, “Instantly, my brother realized that this could be a part of India’s solution to safe drinking water problems and so we tied up with the scientist.”
How to Create Water from Air?
According to India Water Portal report, about 37.7 million Indians are affected by waterborne diseases, 1.5 million children die of diarrhea and 73 million working days are lost annually, leading to an economic burden of $600 million a year. The worst affected states are West Bengal, Assam, Rajasthan, Bihar, and Punjab.
Atmospheric Water Technology uses optimized dehumidification techniques to extract and condense moisture in the air to produce healthy purified drinking water. They require a power source and function best in coastal areas that are hot and humid. Temperatures between 25 degrees C to 32 degrees C and RH levels of 70% and over are ideal climatic conditions for our WaterMakers to perform as per their capacity. If conditions are higher, more water will be made and vice-versa.
While there are 10 members in the organization, it is their distributors who handle the maintenance services. “We have no volunteers, but lots of well-wishers who spread the word and help us out from time to time,” says Meher. “We manufacture all our machines in India. Maintenance is relatively easy and requires regular cleaning of air filters and water tank, change of purification filters every 6 months and UV lamps once a year,” she adds.
Till date, the organization has set up many projects using the atmospheric water generators in India and have also exported them to several countries.
The machines installed by them are not only used by corporate houses, factories and for their CSR programs but can also be installed in private homes and most importantly in villages. Meher says, “They are all ideal for decentralized uses and do not require any piping as water is dispensed from the machines. They can be set up relatively quickly.”
The organization has set up their own CSR project in Jalimudi village in Andhra Pradesh to provide clean drinking water to 500 villagers in 2009, which became the world’s first rural atmospheric water installation, and the second village to get its own water from air is in Gujarat’s Gandhigram.
Over the years, the organization has supplied over 3000 WaterMakers worldwide. The machines are installed in Gujarat, Maharashtra, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, and many more coastal regions as well.
The overall impact is the availability of clean drinking water, saving of man-hours wasted in collecting water from more than 1 or more km away, better health due to better water quality and more importantly, conservation of existing water resources as the technology requires no water source.
On asking what’s next on the list, Meher says, she wants to increase the sales and production of the organization, install more machines for people who need it the most, so that it can benefit more people.
“Funding for the projects come from companies, NGOs, socially responsible entities and individuals. The organization is slowly receiving support from the Government as well as they have now realized the value and contribution of our technology towards water conservation, safe water provision, and sustainability,” she says.
Generation of Excellence
While her great grandfather founded the 119-year-old Jeena & Co, one of India’s leading global logistics solution companies, her grandfather founded India’s first Indian owned travel agency called Jeena Tours and Travels. Her father was also one of the founders of TCI – Travel Corporation India Ltd.
But, WaterMaker is owned by a part of the Katgara family consisting of Meher’s two brothers, her sister and herself. “I guess we are the pioneers in atmospheric water technology,” says Meher with a smile.
When asked by LBN about her source of inspiration, she says, “The biggest impact I felt was when we set up the very first Air Water Station in the world, as part of our own CSR activity, when an old lady touched my feet (much to my discomfort) and blessed me saying ‘You have given us water from the Gods! Thank you!’ I still think of her and the happiness we brought to the village just by providing clean drinking water and this is what inspires me every day.”
Water is a basic necessity and still many people are deprived of it. “I feel everyone should be concerned about people who are not as privileged as themselves. If there is any way they can help to make someone else’s life better they should.”
Her message to the world is quite clear- Every drop counts. NO water, NO life. Save water!