COLOMBO/BEIJING, May 25 (Xinhua) -- For residents in Kahatagasdigiliya in Sri Lanka's North Central Province, rainwater seems to be the most economic and feasible solution to an urgent problem of clean drinking water.
The wells they used to draw water from are being abandoned. In the rural central and northern areas of the South Asian country, some 40,000 people are suffering from a chronic kidney disease (CKD) possibly linked with drinking water history. The disease killed some 1,000 people annually over recent years.
ADVANCED WATER TREATMENT FROM CHINA
In February 2017, Tidelion from Beijing, China, came to their assistance.
For the local primary school and three households of middle-aged male patients, the Chinese private company specialized in rainwater treatment technology has installed its rainwater systems in the country.
In a bid to help contain the CKD crisis in Sri Lanka, the pilot project came as part of a national assistance program within the framework of China's Belt and Road Initiative.
"They (local residents) are very happy about the water," Tharanga Senevirathna, regional chief engineer at CKD Prevention Project run by the National Water Supply and Drainage Board of Sri Lanka, told Xinhua.
The Tidelion technology of rainwater storage, filtration and use is turning heavy rainfalls in tropical rainy seasons into a source of safe drinking water for Kahatagasdigiliya, 140 km northeast of the Sri Lankan capital Colombo.
"In Sri Lanka, there are two monsoons and we get enough rainwater which can now be saved to be used throughout the year," Senevirathna said, praising the Tidelion systems for being better than those so far applied in Sri Lanka.
"There are several advantages we have achieved through this installation. Normally we have rainwater systems in Sri Lanka as well, but through these machines, we have advanced techniques and methodologies," he added.
With advanced filters, "that (the system) gives better-quality water," Senevirathna said. The exact quality data will not be available until after further tests and analysis, "but the people are very happy about this project."
LOW COST MATTERS
"If you consider other projects, we have to look at the operation cost and the special cost of water production," said the 39-year-old engineer.
According to Tidelion overseas market director Men Shi, Tidelion hopes that the pilot project will become a start for its overseas business expansion.
But what's more important, "we come to help people," he said.
"Looking at the rudimentary classroom there and children's smiling faces, I think everything we've gone through is worthwhile," Men added.
The tropical burning heat and blazing sun had been the biggest enemies for him and other Tidelion engineers who worked there for weeks. However, it was the kindness of local people that overwhelmed them, he said.
The local people invited them to their homes for dinner one after another, he said, despite the fact that they understood nothing that the Sinhalese locals spoke about. But they all deemed the daily invitation as a welcome to what Tidelion was doing there.
Tidelion is considering applying its rainwater systems to other areas in Sri Lanka, as well as to more participants such as the Bangladesh and Iran along the Belt and Road routes.
"We aim to provide safe drinking water not only in Sri Lanka or in South Asia, but also anywhere there is a need," Men said.
The Tidelion vision agrees with the initiative in bringing tangible benefits to people. China proposed the initiative in 2013 in order to build an infrastructure and trade network to seek common development and prosperity.
Regarding the CKD crisis, Senevirathna said several Chinese teams have come and visited many affected areas in the island country.
In the Anuradhapura area where he works, "the teams went around and discussed with people and identified the real issues and have given the best solutions ...they have done a very good job for people living in the area," said the Sri Lankan engineer.
In fact, many initiative-related cooperation projects are currently underway and completed in Sri Lanka. They include the construction of the Norochcholai coal power plant, the Colombo International Container Terminal, expressways, dams and a water plant north of Colombo, among others.
Like Tidelion, China's Origin Water Technology Corporation is also a one-stop water treatment solution provider that plans to "go global" with the initiative.
It is among the company's aspirations "to make contribution to social development," said He Yuanping, Origin Water vice president and chief financial officer.
The Beijing-based private company last year signed a cooperation memorandum with the government of Punjab province in Pakistan. It believed that a low-cost, small-sized sewage treatment system, which it designs for and is in use in China's rural areas, was a good choice for both sides.
While it is still challenging for private Chinese enterprises to expand business overseas due to risks such as less knowledge about local laws, the company hopes to become one of the backbone ventures in China's environment protection sector in the implementation of the Belt and Road Initiative, Origin Water President Wen Jianping has said.
With the membrane bio-reactors (MBR) using different kinds of filtration membranes it develops, the company has contributed to cleaning many Chinese water systems including the Taihu Lake in Jiangsu Province and the Dianchi Lake in Yunnan Province.