RO plants set up where they were not needed, says study

Hyderabad : A study by city-based National Institute of Rural Development and Panchayati Raj (NIRDPR) on setting up reverse osmosis (RO) plants in rural parts of the country has found that some gram panchayats set up the RO systems despite having no quality-related problem in water.

The NIRDPR conducted the study of the RO plants covering 21 gram panchayats in seven states where the highest number of RO plants had been set up, as per the data provided by Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation, a press release said here.

The study found that only 13 out of 21 gram panchayats had set up the RO systems due to water quality issues, the release said.

The study focused on discovering if RO plants were set up only in those villages where quality of water is unfit for drinking or if the plants were coming up as a fashionable infrastructure.

From the 21 gram panchayats studied, it was found that while 13 of them had set up RO plants to address issues related to quality of water, the rest had set them up despite the water quality being well within permissible limits (as per BIS norms), the release said.

On the findings of the study, Head of Centre for Rural Infrastructure, NIRDPR, professor P Sivaram said,”Out of the 21 cases studied, about eight units have come up where it was not required; where there is no quality-related problem in water.

This has several cost implications not only to the state but also to the gram panchayats in terms of maintenance.

In 16 of the 21 gram panchayats, the RO plants were operated by the gram panchayats whereas in the others, they were found to be operated by private players for profit or by NGOs as part of their rural development programmes, the release said.

According to the study, challenges continue to persist in their uptake since several families feel the taste of RO-treated water is bland, or that it is not affordable, and they preferred piped water supply.

Thus, in all the states under study, there are households that do not use RO water.

It was also found that the levels of calcium and magnesium fell drastically after the RO treatment, which could potentially cause calcium deficiency in the body.

The study further recommended that RO plants be set up only in gram panchayats with water quality problems so as to avoid the high cost and maintenance burden.

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