Saurabh Saraf's New Entry

This Entry has been submitted.

Saurabh Saraf's New Entry: WaterHubs: water & sanitary infrastructure for high-density urban slums.

Year Founded:
Organization type: 
Project Stage:
$250,000 - $500,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Water & sanitary community infrastructure solution for high-density urban slums that can modularly scale to serve 1.000-50.000 people.

WHAT IF - Inspiration: Write one sentence that describes a way that your project dares to ask, "WHAT IF?"

What if urban slums could be served with basic infrastructure services like sanitation, water, energy and social provisions just like in a developed urban area. What if it this could be developed without conventional methods and high investment costs?
About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Over 800 million people live in urban slums with little or no access to basic infrastructure services. Urbanisation will add some 400 million more to slums in the next 30 years. Conventional infrastructure, especially in developing countries, isn’t appropriate for dealing with this influx and thus for long-term sustainability of cities, we require an innovation. Else we will witness abject living conditions in slums.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

WaterHub, is a modular infrastructure solution that enables slum community members get access to basic services in a decentralized fashion. We focus on closing the urban water, food, waste and energy loops by integrating novel technologies in a highly efficient system It therefore combines the following functions in containerised modular blocks: - Community services (toilet, shower, public kitchen, healthcare, education etc) - Access to affordable water (by sewage recycling) - Nutrient recovery from organic waste - Energy recovery from sludge and organic waste The product is a systemic solution that tends to utilise resources to the maximum. One Hub can serve 1000-50000 people.


- Unilever Foundry Ideas: Grad prize in the category “improving access to sanitation” - Among the 100 finalist from over 3000 in the Falling Walls Lab, Berlin - Part of Climate-KIC, Europes largest climate innovation organisation, Accelerator program.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

We are designing a sewage recycling unit for a community sanitation block in a dense slum of Mumbai. It serves 1600 people daily with sanitation and social amenities. Working women, men and children who don’t have toilets in home get access to these services here, and can easily avoid the stigma of open defecation. The facility has 24 toilet seats separated for male and females, along with provision of urinals and few bathrooms. A team of community women run commercial initiatives in the form of making handicrafts, milling flour and teaching, from this block. Regular society events are also organised here, and thus it has become a meeting place for the residents. We envision this block to meet 80% of its water needs from sewage recycling.

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

A WHO study concluded that every dollar invested in sanitation reaps benefits of $9. These benefits are quantified in terms of health care costs saved, productive hours gained, increased number of days for going to school among other advantages. Due to rampant open defecation in developing countries, it leads to severe societal and environmental implications. Millions of lives are lost due to contamination in water. In fact water risks are ranked in top 10 by World Economic Forum, as risks that face the world. Most of the sewage is discharged into river bodies without proper treatment, which causes damage to marine life as well as exposes human population to vulnerabilities. The project will enable urban slum populations to get access to sanitary provisions along with affordable water, in order to curtail open defecation. Alongside the project will help enhance the metabolism of cities

Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling impact?

We want to reach 100 million urban slum residents by 2035 and roughly 100000 in the next 10 years. We will be focusing on innovating and improving our products & services, while identifying channel partners through which the solutions will be implemented in individual countries. In the next 5 years we will be installing demo projects in 3-5 slum locations (different locations characterised by culture, geography as well as climate), for learning and improvising. By the end of 5 years we will begin the global roll-out.

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

We have already raised some money (60.000 EUR) for developing the product and invested personally in business development efforts. The solution (technology design & consultancy, product) will be offered to sanitation service providers and municipalities who are working for urban slums. This will be our revenue stream. With respect to the financial sustainability of the solution itself, the user fees will cover the opex.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

We have found many enterprises, organisations and even NGOs that are working in slum development and sanitation sector. They cater to different parts of the problem but none holistically deals with urban sanitation and water infrastructure the way we do. Other approaches, to our assessment, are piecemeal solutions to significantly bigger issues. The idea to integrate resource flows into a bundled infrastructure product, based on biological manufacturing, is unique and has only been a subject of discussions in high level meetings of multi-lateral organisations.

Founding Story

Istvan Kenyeres, the co-founder of Biopolus has had 30+ years of experience in water & biotech sector. After building up a successful wastewater treatment enterprise, he founded Biopolus Institute in 2012 to develop integrated water-energy-food solutions for urban areas. We got in touch in 2013 and then began discussions for moulding the Biopolus concept to suit an urban slum context. Having personally worked in the social impact space I felt this is a great opportunity to make bring about a significant and global change.


Istvan Kenyeres: Istvan has over 30+ years of experience (as a researcher, inventor and entrepreneur) in water recycling, biological manufacturing and biorefinery technologies and solutions. After building up a successful wastewater treatment enterprise, he founded Biopolus Institute in 2012 to develop integrated water-energy-food solutions for urban areas. Saurabh Saraf: Saurabh co-founded “Reap Benefit” in April 2011, in India. The initiative started as an environmental empowerment & awareness movement that was profiling academic sustainability disclosures and also developing environmental curriculum for academic institutions. He has also supported and worked with other start-ups working in the clean energy, rural development and impact investing space. Ferenc Hazi: Ference has over a decade experience in waste water technologies and system design. He leads Biopolus efforts in technical domain. Isolde van Meerwijk: She is handling marketing & communications, also helping develop partnerships with international institutions.