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Arsenic in groundwater is a serious health problem affecting over 100 million people in 70 countries. To address arsenic contamination of drinking water in rural areas, the United States Embassy and India’s Department of Science and Technology (DST), supported by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), convened the “Rural Drinking Water Roundtable: Thirst for a business model.”

Senior scientists from DST joined engineers, social scientists and financial experts from eighteen organizations, including engineering firms, non-governmental organizations, and financial investment organizations to develop concrete business plans to mitigate the chemical contamination of drinking water in rural areas, with a focus on arsenic.

Tim Neely, co-moderator and the U.S. Embassy Chief of Environment, Science and Technology opened the event noting, “We have here in the room today decades of business experience, science research, and organizational skills. The social science experiment for today is to combine this enormous pool of talents into concrete planning on how to improve the lives of the millions of people.”

Through productive deliberations, participants selected multiple innovative iron nanotechnologies and a business model to implement in 25 villages in need of clean drinking water. The U.S. Embassy, DST, NGOs, tech providers, and others are developing detailed plans for handling financing, site selection, social, and regulatory issues related to implementation. The 25-village scale of deployment will put into place an ecosystem for expansion of the solution to other affected regions.

“I am very happy to see that the latest technologies will be deployed to address the complex and endemic problem of arsenic contamination in certain parts of India. At DST we are constantly striving for various technology based solutions to address challenges related to water availability and quality affecting various geographies and topographies of the country,” said Dr. Sanjay Bajpai, Scientist at the Department of Science and Technology, and the co-moderator of the roundtable.

Nilesh Shah, Science and Technology Officer at the U.S. Embassy and the roundtable’s facilitator said “Our collective decision to deploy the latest arsenic mitigation technologies to provide safe drinking water initially to a “cluster” of villages in an affordable, sustainable and scalable manner will be a challenge, but very much doable and we are very happy to be a part of the solution,” he added. “We hope to see broader deployments immediately following the initial thrust.”

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