Probably the best… water desalination project in India?

Image of proposed sustainable desalination project in the Sundarbans, West Bengal (CGI)
Proposed sustainable desalination project (CGI)

The planet might be blue, but maybe not in the way you think. Whilst roughly 70% of the world’s surface is covered in water, only 1% of that is accessible, fresh and fit for drinking. The result is water stress, shortages and scarcity. In response, the world’s first solar-thermal sustainable water purification tech is partnering with a famous Danish beer brand on a desalination project to create clean drinking water and protect shared resources in India.

This partnership between pioneer Desolenator and brewer Carlsberg shows how corporates can embrace disruptive collaborations with tech ventures and innovators to create exponential and sustainable climate solutions.

It comes at a time when one in three people still do not have access to safe drinking water. A 40% shortfall in freshwater resources by 2030, coupled with a rising world population, means the world is heading towards a global water crisis.

As a brewer, Carlsberg is committed to creating community partnerships that go beyond reducing water use at its breweries to help safeguard shared water resources around them. Through an assessment made working with WWF, using the WWF Water Risk Filter online tool, Carlsberg identified its highest-priority sites and the water basins that they draw from, including all seven of its Indian breweries. 

The Sundarbans, West Bengal, around 120 km from Carlsberg’s Kolkata brewery, and home to around 4.7 million people, is at a critical point. The area lies surrounded by salt water, suffering the immediate consequences of rising sea levels.

The last remaining aquifers are being polluted with salt water and arsenic, with climate change causing changing weather patterns and more extreme events. In 2020, Cyclone Amphan swept through West Bengal, causing devastation in an area already hard-hit by the pandemic. 

Desolenator’s sustainable water purification system is 100% solar-powered, harvesting thermal and electrical energy to distil water. This allows it to create high-quality water from the most complex sources, delivering transformative impact for communities without damaging the environment. 

Key to the project’s success is to understand how people will access the water created. A community-led distribution model is being designed through a global, multidisciplinary partnership including the local expertise of NGOs WaterAid and the Sundarbans Social Development Centre, leading researchers from Strathclyde University in the UK, and grant support from the Netherlands Enterprise Agency.

Tailored to the lives and needs of the people of South 24 Pargana’s district, the distribution model will create employment for female micro-entrepreneurs, empowering people and families within the community. 

This transformative approach enables the long-term supply of clean drinking water, setting the foundation for all other development goals to thrive — health, education, income generation and rural female empowerment.  

Site of proposed sustainable desalination project in the Sundarbans, West Bengal
Site of proposed sustainable desalination project

Highlighting the aims of the company’s sustainability programme, Cees ‘t HartCEO, Carlsberg Group said:

“Through Together Towards ZERO, Carlsberg is committed to developing partnerships to protect shared water resources in our high risk areas. Water is one of the four main ingredients in beer and healthy communities with access to clean and safe water are a prerequisite for our breweries around the world.”  

Rishi Chawla, Vice President Corporate Affairs, Carlsberg India added:

“India is already experiencing the global water crisis. This collaboration has huge potential both in creating a sustainable solution to the crisis and at the same time providing the opportunity to engage women from the local community to lead and manage the distribution of this precious resource.” 

Bringing the local perspective of an influential NGO, VK Madhavan, CE, WaterAid India said:

“In the South 24 Pargana’s district, high levels of salinity make the water unfit for human consumption, placing a huge burden on families. The ebb and flow of the water from the rivers leads to huge daily variations in the levels of salinity making purification a challenge. This desalination plant is designed to handle such variations and by virtue of its reliance on solar energy makes this an attractive and sustainable option. Success, not just of the technology but community-based management of the infrastructure could inspire expansion into other flood-prone areas with a similar challenge with regard to water quality”.   

On behalf of the tech innovator, Louise Bleach, development and Impact Lead at Desolenator, concluded:

“We are proud to partner with Carlsberg, a company whose 2030 goals are setting the standard for corporate sustainability. As project manager, it’s been a privilege to work with such incredible cross-sector organisations, as well as the women entrepreneurs in the Sundarbans.

The impact of this collaboration goes beyond the provisioning of clean water. It is a demonstration to the transformational potential of convening partners around a shared vision of the future. When it comes to global sustainability, we are all stakeholders and it is a goal we can only hope to achieve together.”  

Carlsberg Group sustainability programme, Together Towards ZERO  

Together Towards ZERO is the Carlsberg Group’s vision for a better tomorrow at a time of serious challenges such as climate change, water scarcity and public health concerns. It consists of four ambitions: ZERO carbon footprint, ZERO water waste, ZERO irresponsible drinking and a ZERO accidents culture. Each of these is underpinned by individual measurable targets leading to 2022 and 2030. This includes targets to cut water use in half at its breweries globally by 2030, and to develop partnerships to protect shared water resources.

Desolenator: From water purification to water security

Desolenator is the world’s first technology to harness solar thermal and electrical energy for water purification. The impact is to turn complex water sources into high quality drinking water at scale, at no environmental impact. 

Its technology helps businesses take effective corporate action on addressing our shared water challenges, helping to create more water efficient operations and value chains. 

Desolenator also provides water security for communities at the forefront of the water crisis, driving climate resilience, improving health outcomes and setting the foundations for economic growth. 

WaterAid: Working in India since 1986

WaterAid is an international not-for-profit, determined to make clean water, decent toilets and good hygiene normal for everyone, everywhere within a generation. Only by tackling these three essentials, in ways that last, can people change their lives for good. Working in India since 1986, WaterAid has successfully implemented water, sanitation, and hygiene projects, extending benefits to some of the poorest and most vulnerable communities.

WWF Water Risk Assessment 

Carlsberg Group worked with WWF to survey all 82 of its breweries across 24 countries for water risk using the innovative WWF Water Risk Filter tool. This included conducting scenario analysis of water risk to Carlsberg’s operations through to 2030, to provide a complete picture for both themselves and the local communities. Carlsberg will use these findings to prioritise its work on water.

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