Bangladeshi villagers inaugurate first water treatment plant

DHAKA, Bangladesh, June 24, 2009 -- A year after setting up a joint venture, stakeholders have inaugurated the first water treatment plant intended for village populations living in remote rural areas of Bangladesh...

DHAKA, Bangladesh, June 24, 2009 -- A year after setting up a joint venture, Grameen-Veolia Water Ltd, 2006 Nobel Peace Prizewinner and founder of the Grameen microdredit Bank Muhammad Yunus, and Antoine Frérot, Chief Executive Officer of Veolia Water, have inaugurated the first water treatment plant intended for village populations living in remote rural areas of Bangladesh.

The plant will eventually supply drinking water to 40,000 people in this village, around 100 kilometers distant from Dhaka, the nation's capital. The water produced from treatment of water from the river running next to Goalmari is compliant with World Health Organization standards. It is distributed via a system of storage reservoirs, standpipes, and deliveries to the farthest-flung locations.

The new plant will be followed by four further treatment plants to provide a total of 100,000 people with drinking water, living in villages in central and southern Bangladesh. Most of the groundwater in this part of the world is contaminated by arsenic, often to a dangerous level to health.

Grameen-Veolia Water Ltd is 50/50 held by Grameen Healthcare, Grameen Bank's health and hygiene subsidiary, and Veolia Water AMI, Veolia Water's subsidiary for Africa, the Middle East and India (with IFC and PROPARCO as shareholders). It can draw on the technical expertise of Veolia Water, which also transfers its know-how to the locally hired Bangladeshi teams. The subsidiary can also count on the Grameen correspondents' network (the Grameen ladies) working with the country's rural populations.

As part of this pilot project, which is based on the economic principles of "social business," drinking water is sold to inhabitants for a price of 0.2 euro centimes per liter, which is 100 times cheaper than locally-available bottle. All profits will be plowed back to drive the development of other water-related projects in Bangladesh.

Professor Muhammad Yunus said: "This inauguration proves that economics can be adapted to the needs of poor people while meeting their basic needs like access to drinkingwater despite their limited financial resources."

Antoine Frérot commented: "With this essential service to health and development, Veolia Water is experimenting with an innovative socio-economic model. We expect the success of this experiment to open up new avenues for achieving the Millennium Development Goal of reducing in half the proportion of people unable to reach or afford safe drinking water and basic sanitation by 2015."

Veolia Water, the water division of Veolia Environnement, is a world leader in water and wastewater services.

###

More in International