Scaling up Successful Kanchan Arsenic Filter Dissemination from Nepal to Bangladesh, Cambodia and other Affected Asian Countries

Scaling up Successful Kanchan Arsenic Filter Dissemination from Nepal to Bangladesh, Cambodia and other Affected Asian Countries

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

Invention, research and development, laboratory and field-testing, entrepreneur training and supporting distribution of a low-cost, locally constructed, household filter that removes arsenic and microbes.

About You
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Your idea
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Year the initative began (yyyy)


Positioning of your initiative on the mosaic diagram:
Which of these barriers is the primary focus of your work?

Public information alone doesn’t change behaviors

Which of the principles is the primary focus of your work?

Value-added services mean added business income

If you believe some other barrier or principle should be included in the mosaic, please describe it and how it would affect the positioning of your initiative in the mosaic

Low visibility world-wide of the magnitude of the problem of arsenic contamination of drinking water. We estimate that 160 million people are at risk of arsenic poisoning in 82 countries world-wide.

What is your signature innovation, your new idea, in one sentence?

Invention, research and development, laboratory and field-testing, entrepreneur training and supporting distribution of a low-cost, locally constructed, household filter that removes arsenic and microbes.

Describe your innovation. What makes your idea unique and different than others doing work in the field?

(1) Uses locally available materials (nails,sand and gravel) and can be constructed by local masons with minimal training.
(2) Effectively removes both arsenic and bacteria

Delivery Model: How do you implement your innovation and apply it to the challenge/problem you are addressing?

First step is to conduct small pilot study with local partner(s) in a country to verify performance under local conditions. Next step is to conduct a larger study with more filters. As part of these steps training is provided to local entrepreneurs relative to construction methods so that they can set up small businesses.

How do you plan to expand your innovation?

Cambodia – working with partners CAWST and Institute of Technology-Cambodia as part of a field pilot study underway in 2008. CAWST will provide trainings of local NGOS after pilot study is completed.
Bangladesh – MIT and CAWST are working closely with local NGO partner (LEDARS) to train a number of NGOs in Bangladesh to construct the Kanchan Arsenic Filter. We will begin formal Bangladesh sponsored certification testing of our filter in Bangladesh in August. Receiving certification will allow for wide distribution of the filter in that country.
Other countries – With sufficient funding the use of our filter can be expanded to a number of other countries such as Vietnam and China.

Do you have any existing partnerships, and if so, how do you create them?

Existing Partnerships:
Environment and Public Health Organization (Nepali NGO)
Centre for Affordable Water and Sanitation Technology (CAWST)
LEDARS (Bangladeshi NGO)
UN Habitat (Nepal)
Institute of Technology-Cambodia (Cambodia)
Partnerships are created by meeting with local NGOs and universities and identifying the most committed potential partners that have a proven track record in successful implementation of projects. MIT will seek new partners as it works in new areas and expands implementation of the project to other parts of arsenic-affected Asia.

Provide one sentence describing your impact/intended impact.

Providing safe drinking water to households in high arsenic areas via the Kanchan Arsenic Filter. It is high-performance, low-cost, easy to maintain and user-friendly.

What are the main barriers to creating or achieving your impact?

Chronic rural poverty creates affordability issues.
Filters need to be pilot studied in new countries.

How many people have you served or plan to serve?

Nepal – over 50,000 served in the first phase of dissemination (2003-2007), another 60,000 to be served in the next phase in Nepal (2008-2009)
Bangladesh – large potential demand for filters. UNICEF estimates that 20 million people are potentially affected, while the World Bank estimates 35 million people are potentially at risk.
Cambodia – estimated 320,000 people are at risk and in need of arsenic remediation
There are 82 countries in the world affected by arsenic in drinking water, so considerable potential exists to expand to other countries.


Nepal – over 50,000 served, another 60,000 to be served in the next phase
Bangladesh – depends on availability of funding support.
Cambodia – estimated 320,000 people are in need of arsenic filters. Goal is to serve half this number over a period of years.


CAWST specializes in training of NGOs and other interested individuals in filter construction methods. This "train the trainer" concept leads to large numbers of filters being constructed and to indirect impacts that go significantly beyond the specific project impacts.

Please list any other measures of the impact of your innovation?

in Nepal, we have trained entrepeneurs to build and make a profit from sales of filters.
Through a Kanchan Arsenic Filter technology Reference Center, we have produced training materials, brochures, posters that have led toincreased awareness of safe drinking water issues.
We have helped to support the expansion of several NGOs working in the water and sanitation field in Nepal and Bangladesh.

Is there a policy intervention element to your innovation, if so please describe?

Our partners in Nepal, ENPHO, have been among the founders of the National Arsenic Steering Committee (NASC) in Nepal, which has been a key player in establishing national policy.
Bangladesh has created a arsenic treatment system certification program (BETV-SAM). Our project team is participating in that process. In addition in Cambodia formal pilot testing is proceeding using Asian Development Bank funding. Bangladesh’s policy of only allowing use of proven technologies with rigorously independent, third party verification, is model that many other countries lack. Participaing in that process and demonstrating efficacy under independent testing conditions has positive impacts for implementation in other countries.

Exactly who are the beneficiaries of your innovation?

All age groups that drink well water that is highly contaminated with arsenic. The Kanchan Arsenic Filter is unique insofar as it removes not only arsenic but also pathogenic microbes. we are unaware of any other household treatment system for arsenic remediation that accomplishes both.

How is your initiative financed (or how do you expect your initiative will be financed)?

Our initiative is financed by a mix of grants, voluntary contributions, volunteer work and award funds. Entrepreneurs who construct the KAF earn a 10% subsidy on each unit sold. A 50% "discount" is necessary for villagers who earn < $1/day and that amount is provided by grants and awards.

Provide information on your finances and organization:

Nepal: $115,000 (2005), $85,00 (2006), $85,000 (2007)
Although several entrepreneurs trained by ENPHO/MIT/CAWST are earning a 50% profit margin per filter, entrepreneurs typically gain a profit of 10% per filter sold (about $2/filter).
The principal partners who have invented and implemented the KAF innovation have not earned income from this work.

Cambodia - won a $50,000 ADB grant for pilot testing

Bangladesh - LEDARS budget of $2,600 covers one full time person engaged in the Bangladesh technology verification process since early 2007.

What is the potential demand for your innovation?

Bangladesh - 20 - 35 million
Cambodia - 320,000
Nepal - 15,000 household remain currently unserved by any arsenic remediation solution, but will obtain Kanchan filters or other options in 2008-2009.

Susan Murcott (MIT, part time)
Tommy Ngai (CAWST, full time)
Bipin Dangpol (ENPHO and UN Habitat, Nepal, part time)
Tom Mahin (MIT, long-term volunteer)
Mohan Mondal (LEDARS, part time, Bangladesh)

What are the main barriers to financial sustainability?

Because of chronic rural poverty in Nepal, Bangladesh, Cambodia, it is difficult for many families to afford even a relatively low cost treatment option for arsenic. This situation also pertains to other arsenic-affected countries where we are interested in implementing our innovation.

The Story
What is the origin of this innovation? Tell us your story.

The principal inventor of the Kanchan Arsenic Filter is Tommy Ngai, now of CAWST, but at the time (2002), he was a graduate student of Susan Murcott's in the Master of Engineering Program, Civil and Environmental Engineering Department, MIT. Tommy's invention derived from then-current work by classmate, Heather Lukacs, who was studying the biosand filter, and from earlier work of MIT M.Eng. students (Jessie Hurd, Tse-Luen Lee, Nat Paynter). The invention would not have been possible without the advice and guidance of our MIT partner organization in Nepal, ENPHO, and subsequently, our partner organization, CAWST of Canada. In every sense, this was Tommy's invention and a team achievement.
Central to this invention was the "discovery" of the efficacy of rusty iron nails as an arsenic adsorption media. This was an insight originally gained by Jessie Hurd and Susan Murcott when Jessie was testing some earlier arsenic remediation options in 2001. One of those options - the 3-Kolshi system - was effective at removing arsenic, but it clogged readily. Moreover, the arsenic adsorption zero-valent iron filings media used in that system, was brought to the Nepali village all the way from the USA. This village, Parasi, was located 10 hours by bus from Kathmandu. It had one dirt road that was the "center" of village commerce. Jessie and Susan walked through that village to find locally available iron products to test as an arsenic media. We found small iron nails and they worked!

Please provide a personal bio. Note this may be used in Changemakers marketing material

Susan Murcott is a Senior Lecturer at MIT. Her work is dedicated to providing safe water to 1 billion people. For the first decade of her environmental engineering career, her focus was on innovative wastewater treatment for megacities, with projects in Mexico City, Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Budapest, Beijing and Hong Kong. Since 1997, she has been a leader in the emerging field of household drinking water treatment and safe storage, with projects in Ghana, Nepal, Bangladesh, Cambodia and China.