An atmospheric water generator (AWG) which condenses water vapour present in the air to provide pure drinking water was inaugurated at the Ghoom Girls' Higher Secondary School in Darjeeling on Friday.
The relatively new technology was introduced by CSIR-Indian Institute of Chemical Technology (CSIR-IICT) and Maithri Aquatech, which are based in Hyderabad. The technology is being introduced in an educational institute for the first time in the eastern region.
“When I came to know about this technology, I requested the CSIR- Indian Institute of Chemical Technology (CSIR-IICT) head Dr D. Srinvasa Reddy to allocate this plant in Ghoom Girls' Higher Secondary School in May 2023. I am so thankful that within four months, the plant has been installed at the school,” said Darjeeling MP Raju Bista, who inaugurated the project on Friday.
The Darjeeling school which was set up in 1929 faces acute water scarcity. “We need more than 1000 litres every two days. We have to buy water from tankers at a price between Rs 650 and 700 per 1,000 litres,” said Pramila Karkee, headmaster of the school.
The school has around 500 students.
“The school had been pursuing the water scarcity issue with various officials and public representatives for many years. It so happened that the machine was installed during my tenure,” said Karkee.
The plant uses state-of-the-art technology to generate potable water which is enriched with a proprietary mineral solution and passed through an intricate filtration process to ensure potable water standards.
The AWG has exhibited strong potential for utilization in coastal regions, hilly areas, or water-scarce regions as long as the relative humidity is more than 25 per cent and the temperature is greater than 15
degrees Celsius, said sources.
Darjeeling, especially Ghoom, has high humidity throughout the year.
“My vision is to ensure that this technology is installed in every school and villages across our region, so that there is no shortage of water even during the water-deficient dry months between November and March,” said Bista.
Different AWGs have the capacity to produce different quantities of water. The plant set up in Darjeeling has a capacity to produce 500 liters of water per day.
Sources said that during the dry period, the Darjeeling civic body can at some days supply only around 1.5 to 2 million gallons of water against a requirement of 8 million gallons.
This is because the 22 streams from where water is drawn to reservoirs at Tiger Hill supply around 650 gallons of water during dry days.
On such days the civic body relies on pumping water from the Balason river. Every hour of pumping provides around 3,30,000 gallons of water, said a source.
Many in the hills, however, maintain that the biggest bane in Darjeeling is the uneven distribution system.
“Some people with influence have a number of water connections that provide running water through most parts of the day while others have to wait for two days to get an hour of running water,” said a resident.