Water management social enterprise is the first local company to win UAE sustainability award

Engineers at Ecosoftt's Madhya Pradesh branch installed water reclamation systems in the drain network to intercept the sewage and feed clear water to the Narmada River, which runs through the city of Omkareshwar and was heavily polluted. PHOTO: ECOSOFTT

SINGAPORE - A local water management company, which made a mark on dozens of villages in India, Indonesia and Hong Kong by bringing them clean drinking water and sanitation, has won an international award.

Ecosoftt became the first Singapore organisation to receive the Zayed Sustainability Prize, which is awarded by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in recognition of innovative and sustainable solutions in the areas of health, food, energy and water that benefit communities in developing countries.

Founded in 2012, the social enterprise embarked on one of its first overseas projects two years later in the state of Madhya Pradesh in central India.

The Narmada River, which runs through the city of Omkareshwar and was heavily polluted with sewage pouring in from over 200 drains, supports the water needs of almost 75 million people who live in the state, from agriculture to drinking, said Mr Stanley Samuel, founder and chief executive officer of Ecosoftt.

He spoke to the media on Tuesday (May 14) on the sidelines of an event to publicise the Zayed Sustainability Prize.

Many Hindus would also dip into the river to complete religious rituals. During festive periods, two to three million devotees from across the country would flock to the waters.

To clean up the waterway, engineers at the social enterprise's Madhya Pradesh branch installed water reclamation systems in the drain network to intercept the sewage and feed clear water to the river.

Water from the Narmada River (background) in 2018, four years after the installation of the water reclamation system. PHOTO: ECOSOFTT

The project cost about $500,000 and was collectively funded by the local government, corporates and the local community.

Four years later in 2018, the river water reached potable quality and was safe to drink, said Mr Samuel.

"That was absolutely stunning, from brown water to crystal clear water. The river not only serves the holy city, but it also serves cities upstream and downstream," he added.

Using technologies such as rainwater harvesting, drinking water treatment and solid waste management, the company has reached out to villages to help them meet their clean water needs.

Ecosoftt's global headquarters is in Singapore, and it has one regional branch in Hong Kong and three in India.

In January, the organisation received the award under the water category, earning US$600,000 (S$821,000) in funding.

The annual award, which started in 2008, is open to small and medium-sized enterprises, non-profit organisations and high schools worldwide.

Previously known as the Zayed Future Energy Prize, the award expanded its scope to health, food and water in 2018 to align with the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals.

Minister for Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli attended the Zayed Sustainability Prize award ceremony in Abu Dhabi in January.

With the prize money, Ecosoftt is aiming to upscale its business around the world.

The organisation has also been working with national water agency PUB to ramp up water use efficiency here.

It was the first company to recycle and reuse waste water within a building. With PUB's support, Ecosoftt installed a treatment system at the ground floor of a JTC CleanTech Park building in 2015.

Over four years of test-bedding, the treated water has been found suitable for toilet flushing, landscaping and other non-potable uses in the building.

"If you use and reuse every drop of water within the building, you can take less water from PUB and discharge less waste water into PUB's network, thereby reducing the demand on the national infrastructure. You don't have to pump the water 30km to PUB and then back," said Ecosoftt's co-founder and managing director Marcus Lim.

"Hopefully we can work with PUB to make this a formal policy so that other building owners can adopt the solution."

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