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First Two Projects from Imagine H2O-ADB Partnership Now Underway

Imagine H2O Asia and ADB launched the Accelerating Innovation and Digitalization program in late 2022 to make water innovation more accessible in the Asia-Pacific. The program is now supporting two active technology pilots in Uzbekistan and Bangladesh to improve water efficiency and access. 

Last year, Imagine H2O Asia and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) partnered to launch the Accelerating Innovation and Digitalization (AID) program to pilot and de-risk emerging water solutions in the region. AID creates new pathways for ADB staff to learn, test and validate new innovations in the field with their customers. 

Imagine H2O Asia sources solutions from its global startup portfolio, works with ADB to align on ADB project priorities, and designs pilots with the end-user. Innovators benefit from co-funding and a technical assistance program to get projects off the ground and supervise implementation. Pilot results will then be documented and shared with other ADB clients to encourage knowledge transfer and adoption. 

The two AID pilots are part of Imagine H2O’s wider pilot funding program, where an additional nine projects in emerging markets across the Asia-Pacific are being supported in 2023 with other funding partners. With the appetite for new solutions in the region growing, ADB will continue to be a key partner in unlocking opportunities for innovation in underserved communities. 

Learn more about AID’s first two pilots here: 

Reducing agricultural water consumption while improving crop yield in Uzbekistan 

Farmers in Uzbekistan are looking for affordable, water-saving agricultural solutions amidst a worsening water and climate crisis. With an estimated water deficit of 7 billion m3 by 2030 that’s expected to double by 2050, farmer livelihoods are particularly at risk. 

Efforts by the local government to promote technologies such as drip irrigation, however, remain inaccessible to small-scale farmers that lack the resources to make high CAPEX investments. Cost-efficient alternatives are therefore needed to improve farmer access to water-saving solutions. 

By collaborating with ADB teams on the ground to engage the right local partner, AID is now supporting the trial of EF Polymer’s biodegradable hydrogel with the National Center for Knowledge & Innovation in Agriculture (AKIS). The pilot will deploy EF Polymer’s solution on a variety of local horticultural and agronomic crops across 10Ha of land to test its efficacy in reducing water consumption and improving crop yield.

“Through AID, Imagine H2O was able to help align our solution with ADB’s priorities in Uzbekistan. EF Polymer is now preparing to enter Central Asia for the first time to meet a huge underserved need.” Puran Singh Rajput, Co-Founder, EF Polymer. 

Once validated in Uzbekistan’s soil conditions, EF Polymer and AKIS will explore scaling the solution with other farms nation-wide to strengthen food and water security in the country.  

The EF Polymer team with farmers in India using Fasal Amrit, a biodegradable hydrogel made out of fruit peels.

Expanding safe drinking water access with water ATMs in Bangladesh  

Nearly half of Bangladesh’s urban households lack access to safe drinking water. With climate change and growing population demands, low income communities will continue to struggle with receiving safe and reliable water. 

Last month, residents of Narayanyanj, the country’s sixth largest city, were left queuing for water from household pumps or mosques due to a lack of water from the city’s piped supply. This lasted three weeks. Water shortages like this are unfortunately not uncommon in the city, with aging infrastructure and water loss levels as high as 60%. Investing in the city’s centralized piped water infrastructure has therefore risen as a priority for Narayanganj City Corporation (NCC). 

Decentralized solutions, however, still play a key role in reaching beyond-the-pipe communities. AID is supporting Drinkwell’s trial of two water ATMs in Narayanganj serving 600 low-income households each with potable water. The pilot will enable NCC to de-risk Drinkwell’s solution and explore a commitment of an additional 50+ systems as part of an upcoming ADB project. 

“Despite Drinkwell’s strong track record in Dhaka, we still needed to pilot our systems in Narayanganj so NCC could assess local customer feedback and acceptance. AID has been instrumental in accelerating the testing process so we can demonstrate our value faster.” Minhaj Chowdhury, CEO of Drinkwell. 

Multiple players came together to ensure the pilot design was inclusive and set-up for success. While Drinkwell conducted customer surveys to shortlist potential sites for the ATMs, ADB provided input on prioritizing areas serving low income communities. With the pilot now underway, Imagine H2O will lead monitoring and evaluation. 

Residents in Dhaka queue up to collect drinking water from Drinkwell’s decentralized water ATM systems.

Learn more about Imagine H2O’s pilot funding work at imagineh2o.org/pilot-funding and explore how to engage with AID at ADB’s Water Resilience Hub hub4r.adb.org