In the 1970’s and 80’s, millions of shallow tube wells were installed throughout Bangladesh to provide rural populations with bacteria-free water. 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 contamination water can lead to a range of health problems which include skin discoloration, cardiovascular and neurological complications, various types of cancer and sometimes can lead to death.
To fight arsenic contamination of water in Bangladesh, Veolia and Grameen Health Care Services Ltd formed a joint venture company in 2008: Grameen Veolia Water Ltd., a company built upon on social business principles.
The two companies combined their skills to deliver safe drinking water to the underprivileged inhabitants of rural Bangladesh, using a water treatment method based on state-of-the-art water filtration techniques. 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.
Grameen Veolia Water ltd. is a Social Business and thus, follows the «no loss-no dividend» model defined by Prof. Yunus. All the profits are being reinvested for further expansion and improvement of the model.
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.
Grameen Veolia Water Ltd operates and maintains a water treatment plant that provides safe drinking water to nearly 7000 people in the villages of Goalmari Union and Padua Union, where the groundwater is naturally contaminated by arsenic. It distributes drinking water through a 13 km network of standpipes throughout Goalmari Union and Padua Union with 55 tap points being set up in different locations in these villages. At each of these taps, a lady dealer is in charge of selling the treated water at the rate of BDT 2,5 (approximately USD 0,03) per 10 litres*.
In the villages of Goalmari and Padua Union:
* Data to be compared with the BDT 25 (0.3US $) price of a 1.5L bottle of water
Price defined after a price acceptability survey in the villages