Heriot-Watt University

Providing clean water to rural communities in the developing world

Millions of people around the world are exposed to high levels of arsenic in water, which carries a risk of developing various forms of cancer.

At least 137 million people in 70 countries consume groundwater laced with arsenic. An EU-India team led by Professor Bhaskar Sen Gupta from Heriot-Watt University installed the world’s first chemical and waste free water treatment plant in the arsenic belt of India for the benefit of rural people living on less than 1 US$ a day.

A fully autonomous and solar powered plant based on this technology was subsequently set up in an arsenic-affected area in Metangor, in the Comilla District of Bangladesh, by Professor Sen Gupta in January 2007.  Arsenic concentration in the ground water in Metangor exceeds 200 micro-grammes per litre, 20 times more than guidelines from the World Health Organisation.

The plant, which serves a population of approximately 600 people, has been a lifeline to this community. Since the process neither requires any chemicals nor produces any waste, the community has been enjoying free drinking water for more than two years now.