Icon Lifesaver Ltd Sales Manager Stuart Elson fill water from the Beira Lake into a Lifesaver product, as Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake observes keenly
Pic by Pradeep Dilrukshan
By Chandeepa Wettasinghe
Sri Lankans with poor access to clean drinking water will be able to use British military grade ‘Lifesaver’ water filters for an affordable price in the near future to convert polluted water available in their community to clean water, Sri Lanka’s Finance Minister said yesterday.
“A four-member family can have access to clean water at a cost of 50 cents a day for 3 years,” Ravi Karunanayake said.
He said that although the project could run into billions of rupees, and that the Sri Lankan government’s degree of involvement in the project is yet to be determined, the ‘Lifesaver’ would be essential in preventing occurrences of chronic kidney disease (CKDu) and in improving the overall health of many Sri Lankans.
Karunanayake said that every year the Finance Ministry has to commit to battle CKDu through the budget, and spend a staggering amount on the country’s total health bill, both of which could be effectively tackled with the Lifesaver.
“Every budget there’s a need to introduce proposals to eradicate chronic kidney disease. If you see the cost of health for our country, it’s almost 3.6 percent of GDP. It’s staggering. So on that basis, this covers not only a problem day-to-day but also into the future. This is not just giving clean drinking water, but reducing our health bill,” he said.
Icon Lifesaver Ltd, a company based in the UK, will be distributing the ‘Lifesaver’ water filters through its local agent B. R. J. W. Enterprises (Pvt) Ltd.
B. R. J. W. Enterprises Director Darin Weerasinghe said that the British government is likely to provide a grant to the Sri Lankan government to purchase ‘Lifesavers’ at discounted rates, and bilateral discussions are currently underway.
“The UK government is looking at providing a subsidy. There are government to government discussions. Our aim is to give the people safe drinking water. This is not a commercial venture. With ‘Lifesaver’ now in Sri Lanka, arsenic and cadmium in water could be reduced to a very negligible level,” he said.
Icon Lifesaver Ltd Sales Manager Stuart Elson said that the Lifesaver filters any particle larger than 15 nanometres, and noted that bacteria are around 200 nanometres, and the world’s smallest virus, Polio, is around 25 nanometres.
The Lifesaver website claims that the product removes 99.99 percent of viruses, 99.9999 percent of bacteria and 99.9 percent of cysts in the water it filters. The system uses a hand powered pump to push the water molecules through the filter.
Elson said that using Lifesaver is more environmental friendly and healthier than using bottled water.
“The Lifesaver is equal to 30,000 plastic water bottles. Once you use the plastic water bottles, they end up polluting and may end up in lakes or seas. And we assume that water in plastic bottles is clean. Do we ask? No. We think it is,” he said.
He noted that once the filter inside ‘Lifesaver’ reaches the end of its lifespan, which is 15,000 litres of filtered water, equivalent to the drinking needs of a family of 4 for 3-4 years, it shuts itself down, signalling a need for a replacement.
“The cost you incur today will be the only cost for the next 3-4 years. There will be no maintenance costs or other costs involved like other water systems,” he said.
Elson said that although the British military was the initial customer for the 10-year old company, it has now branched out into humanitarian operations in many countries, including Malaysia, Sudan, Haiti, Iraq, Colombia, Brazil, and Africa.
Karunanayake said that the Sri Lankan government became aware of the project when some of his associates presented the Lifesaver as a solution for Karunanayake’s ambition to provide clean water in North Colombo.
“When they presented the idea, I didn’t believe them. I thought it was just another commercial enterprise. But then they began bringing some units down here and testing them. Then I realised that this should not be just for North Colombo or Colombo, but for the entire island since the Prime Minister and the President are keen to eradicate CKDu,” he said.