According to the World Health Organization, at least two billion people do not have access to clean drinking water, leading to an estimated 485,000 deaths a year. More staggering is the fact that 6,000 children die of water-related diseases every day, says Unicef.
While shocking, these figures remain just numbers to most of us. For Ganesh Muren, however, a first-hand experience put this data into perspective. While backpacking in India, he was confronted with the realities of water scarcity when he saw people washing their clothes, bathing and even drinking from the same water source.
“The experience in India was mind-blowing. The contrasts between the rich and poor were massive. Now I know it happens everywhere, but at that time while travelling, we were able to witness the [drastic] difference. One moment I was admiring architectural feats surrounded by dancing water fountains in the heart of a city, and the next hour I was trying my hand at pumping muddy water out of a dirt well alongside villagers and sick-looking children,” he recalls.
Once he returned home, Muren put his mechanical engineering training to use and began tinkering with ideas for a water cleaning system. Early on, he narrowed down the most suitable energy source to solar power. “At that time, I was also tagging along with friends who were volunteering at villages in Malaysia. These visits were a wake-up call for me as I saw our own people staying in villages that are accessible by roads, near towns, but having no access to clean, treated drinking water. I worked even harder after that,” he adds.
Driven by the need to right this injustice, Muren developed a solar-powered water cleaning system. In 2014, he established social enterprise Saora Industries (saora is Sanskrit for “the sun”) to help provide rural and marginalised communities with solar and water solutions.
Even before building his team, Muren had a very specific vision of the people he would work with. “I knew I was only one person, and making a change would need a group of close-knit people, like a family. A family that would work and grow together. What matters to me is sincerity to make lives better regardless of age, race or religion. Skills and knowledge can be learnt with the correct attitude and updated when we have the money and time. But values, now that’s the soul of the person,” he explains.
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