GRAMEEN VEOLIA WATER LTD - SOCIAL BUSINESS BRINGING SAFE DRINKING WATER TO RURAL BANGLADESH

Millions of Bangladeshis drink water contaminated by arsenic on a regular basis. Veolia and Grameen Health Care Services Ltd have joined forces to provide villages with drinking water that meets the World Health Organization (WHO) standards, at a price villagers can afford.

 

THE WATER ISSUES IN BANGLADESH
In the 1970’s and 80’s, millions of shallow tube wells were installed throughout Bangladesh to supply bacteria-free water to rural populations. However, in the 1990’s, the first analysis revealed a high concentration of arsenic naturally present in the groundwater provided by the tube wells.
The regular intake of arsenic contaminated water can lead to a range of health issues problems which include skin discoloration, cardiovascular and neurological complications, various types of cancer and sometimes can lead to death.
Many solutions to solve this problem have been tried, such as digging deeper wells and removing arsenic from the groundwater with filters, but none of them showed sufficient reliability to be considered as safe long term solutions. In 2010, the Health Effects of Arsenic Longitudinal Study (HEALS) assessed that 34 to 77 million of Bangladeshis present a risk of illness due to water arsenic contamination.

Percentage of water wells contaminated with arsenic - Human Rights Watch, 2016

 


PROVIDING SAFE WATER FOR ALL THROUGH SOCIAL BUSINESS MODEL
To fight arsenic contamination of water in Bangladesh, Veolia and Grameen Health Care Services Ltd have formed a joint venture company in 2008: Grameen Veolia Water Ltd., a company built upon on social business principles (see box below). The two companies combined their skills to deliver safe drinking water to the underprivileged inhabitants of rural Bangladesh, using state-of-the-art water treatment techniques.


"With charity, when you donate money, that money is spent and you achieve something, but if you want to do the same thing again, you need
to raise more money. With a social business, once you’ve created the business you don’t need more money to keep it going."

Muhammad Yunus
 

GOALMARI AND PADUA UNION
Bangladesh is one of the most densely populated countries in the world, it is prone to flooding, natural disasters and has poor infrastructure. The project was set up in the villages of Goalmari Union and Padua Union, located in a rural area at 50km from the capital city of Dhaka. Goalmari Union and Padua Union make up a group of villages with a combined population of 40,000 inhabitants. Each year, monsoon rains flood two thirds of the villages’ surface area for three months of the year. The river next to the village is used for washing and disposing of waste and sewage, so its water is not fit for drinking. As 83% of the groundwater was contaminated by arsenic, Grameen Veolia Water chose to build its water treatment plant in this area.

 

 
What is Social Business?

The goal of a social business is to provide solutions to real-world problems and to improve people’s lives. Social businesses are self-sustaining in the long term and use market mechanisms to pursue social goals first. Although owners and investors gradually recoup the money they have invested, social businesses do not pay dividends and their profits are reinvested to expand and widen social benefits. This is what makes social business sustainable, they are self-financing and therefore very different to corporate philanthropy.
Following the ‘‘Social Business model’’, Grameen Veolia Water Ltd. is a «no-loss, no-dividend» venture, with all profits being reinvested for further expansion and improvement of the rural water distribution network.


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