Among the many water ATMs mushrooming across India, Nagpur Municipal Corporation claims this is the best as it does not cause environmental loss
Nagpur (Maharashtra): Raju Baitule is an autorickshaw driver, who often parks his vehicle along with others at one of the autorickshaw stands in Nandanvanin East Nagpur. Unlike other summers, he says, one good thing this year was the easy availability of clean and cold water for drinking.
It dispenses water for a very reasonable rate and just ahead of summer, the facility also started giving out chilled water. “This is a very good facility. I regularly fill my water bottle from here,” Baitule said as other autorickshaw drivers echoed similar sentiments.
As this correspondent visited the spot where the ATM has been installed, Vinod Yerawar and Moreshwar Patewar, two students who had come from outside Nagpur to appear for an entrance examination at the KDK College, came to fetch water.
“We are here for the first time. But this is such a good facility … we can be assured of water quality,” Yerawar said.
The Transport Committee of the Nagpur Municipal Corporation (NMC) has since February installed the water ATM at the spot linked with the bus stop, a few feet away. This is NMC’s first water ATM – called ZEO Kiosk – in association with Josab India Pvt Ltd., a company that offers ecological water solutions.
The idea is to make available clean and safe drinking water (and chilled water too, if anyone wants) for commuters. But it is not just the commuters that are benefiting with the facility. Rajendra Gotmare is a resident of the BSNL Colony right behind the water ATM. Their colony, although a government colony, does not get adequate municipal water. That is when the residents mix dug well water with municipal water or sometimes, borewell water with municipal water. “When mixing happens, we do not drink that water. It is at times like this that we need clean and safe drinking water. And this water ATM is just too good for us,” Gotmare said.
B D Kuthe, another resident of the colony said that of the 24 families in the complex, at least 15 used water ATM regularly.
There are several other residential areas within a radius of one kilometre from the water ATM from where people come and take water in 20 litres cans. The KDK College is a huge campus and many of the students live in surrounding areas either in rented apartments or hostels. These students too regularly take water with them while going home after college hours.
Dennis Abraham Thazhamon, Managing Director of Josab India Pvt Ltd. (a subsidiary of Josab International AB, headquartered in Stockholm, Sweden; in India based at Pune), said, this is their own patented product. “Josab’s purification is entirely natural – mineral-based, hence best-drinking water quality is guaranteed without loss of minerals, without usage of chemicals or artificial additives, without wastage of water and having low energy consumption. The mineral used in the process is Aqualite,” he said. Subodh Singh of Ecomatrix is the local manufacturer (Nagpur) of the machine that uses Josab’s technology. It is with his company that the NMC has signed a contract to run the water ATM at Nandanvan. “The machine was bought by the NMC, but we run it. We pay the municipality for water and power that we use through a proper connection,” he said. The current collection is approximately Rs 2,000 per day with 150-200 litres water dispensed on an average basis daily. The company will be maintaining the machine for 10 years even as it gets to keep the revenue generated.
There are often some operational problems such as people putting in flattened bottle caps instead of coins or trying to squeeze in a folded note that leads to stoppage of the machine for some time. People have also torn the rate chart pasted on the outside.
Asked as to why is there a need of a machine, water ATM or such paraphernalia when the quality of water provided by the NMC is reasonably good and a large number of people drink it without using ROs or other types of filters at home, Jitendra (Bunty) Kukde, Chairman of Nagpur Municipal Corporation’s City Transport Committee, was prompt to point out how people lacked civic sense and “do you give guarantee that there will be no wastage of water? The people will use the municipal tap without any hassles?”
Same was the lament from the company representative. “No one wants to drink water from open taps anymore. But a neat and clean kiosk selling filtered water is always welcomed,” she said. “Providing safe drinking water and sanitation at our bus stands and bus stops is our responsibility. Gone are the days when people drank from pyaau (charitable water kiosks), now-a-days, they only buy bottled water,” Kukde said, adding, “So, if a common man, who travels by buses, is shelling out Rs 20 for a litre of water, is it not an affordable option? Safe and clean too?”
The feedback from the people is very encouraging and the NMC will now think of getting more water ATMs, the leader said.
There are several other water ATMs across Nagpur, many of them run by Maharashtra government, but almost all of them are RO technology-based. The biggest advantage that the company claims is ‘zero water wastage’ as compared to RO plant-based water ATMs and the reduction in one-time-use plastic bottles. It reduces the dependence of citizens on packaged drinking water, which otherwise is an expensive option.