As part of a mass effort to bring clean drinking water to over 5,000 villages in India, 31 college students from 13 universities in Japan and 12 social work students from Amrita’s Amritapuri campus participated in the Jivamritam project from February 16-26, 2019. Over a 10-day period, the Japanese and Amrita students fabricated water filtration systems, designed according to the local needs of people, and installed the systems in 30 villages across 18 flood affected panchayats in the districts of Alappuzha and Pathanamthitta. Deployments were partnered with awareness programs in community centers and schools to prevent contamination of drinking water as well as a pilot study to assess a community’s readiness to address the challenge of water contamination. The deployments and awareness sessions aimed to benefit approximately 10,000 villagers. Through the institution’s Live-in-Labs® program, the Japanese and Amrita students jointly worked with 20 Amrita faculty in deploying water purification systems, assessing community readiness levels, and conducting interventions for enhancing water awareness.

Live-in-Labs® provides experiential learning opportunities for youth to understand ground-level challenges faced by rural communities in India and, subsequently, develop sustainable solutions. Led by a multidisciplinary team at Amrita, the Japanese and Amrita students worked towards building water-wise communities with respect to classifying water contamination levels, fabricating modular water purification systems, and designing community-based awareness programs and interventions to enhance community readiness to adopt technological solutions.

This project also enabled an intercultural exchange between the Japanese and Amrita students. The Japanese students interacted with over 150 Amrita students during cultural programs at the Amritapuri and Kochi campuses. The program at the Kochi campus was presided over by Swami Purnamritananda Puri. Before heading out to the field, the Japanese students had an opportunity to meet with the Chancellor of Amrita, Sri Mata Amritanadamayi Devi.

Hiroto Tahaku, a sociology student from Hosei University, Japan, said, “I have taken many classes at my university, but I really wanted to do something in the field. Water is something that everyone needs, especially clean drinking water. I am very happy that I was able to work as part of a team and deploy a water filter that will now give clean water to everyone in the village.”

Vahida Rahim, 1st Year MSW student, spoke about her experience saying, “We had a wonderful time working on the project, especially with the Japanese students. It was fantastic to collaborate with them on all project activities such as deployment and awareness programs. We learned a lot from them and shared with them some aspects of our culture as well. We also had a great opportunity to put into practice what we have learned in class. We really enjoyed interacting with the villagers.”

All students received an orientation and training on how to fabricate and assemble the water filtration systems. The installed systems will be handed over to beneficiary committees and sustained for operation and maintenance through the participation of villagers under the leadership of local administrators. Till date, over 200 Jivamritam water filtration systems have been deployed across Kerala. 

“For the current project, water contamination levels were analyzed in 100 villages and out of those 100, 30 villages were selected as deployment sites.” said Dr. Maneesha V. Ramesh, head of the Jivamritam project. Dr. Maneesha added that the Jivamritam system is “modular,” as the quality of water available in every village is different. As each village will have different needs, variations in the system will occur. The modular water purification system was designed by faculty and students at Amrita by considering the relevant water contamination levels obtained from water analysis reports. 

Amrita is currently engaging in multidisciplinary research in the area of water with the goal of building water-wise communities. Research areas include water quality with classification of villages with respect to water contamination levels, designing modular water purification systems, water resource management, designing awareness programs and interventions to enhance community readiness to adopt technological solutions, and developing community-based business models for sustainable social change.  Research has also has been initiated to study and understand socio-economic characteristics of affected populations in the context of water epidemiology.  

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