According to 2010 World Health Organization data, almost 1 billion people in the world lack access to safe drinking water. Diarrheal disease is the second leading cause of death in children under five years old, and is responsible for killing 1.5 million children every year. Children who are malnourished or have impaired immunity are most at risk of life-threatening diarrhea.
To help provide safer drinking water, nearly one million LifeStraw(R) Family water filters will be installed in Western Kenya households starting today. The province-wide, door-to-door, free distribution program will last five weeks and will reach about 90 percent of all homes without access to safe municipal water sources, providing at least ten years worth of safe drinking water for Kenyan residents and do so without any cost to local residents, governmental agencies or donor groups.
Vestergaard Frandsen fully funded the "Carbon For Water(TM)" program, which will be reimbursed with carbon 'financing', a scheme to give companies in developed countries carbon credits for sponsoring programs that reduce greenhouse gas emissions in developing countries. Yes, it sounds strange to let rich country polluters get credits for keeping poor countries clean but that is what cap and trade and carbon credits are at their core. The carbon credits can then be sold to carbon credit buyers that want to reduce their carbon footprint. The revenue - it will only be considered revenue until it comes time to pay taxes on it - will be reinvested into the project to make it sustainable for at least ten years, they say.
Each LifeStraw(R) Family water filter delivers at least 18,000 liters of U.S. EPA-quality drinking water, enough to supply a family of four with safe drinking water for at least three years. Kenyans who receive them will no longer have to treat water by boiling it using wood fuel, which generates greenhouse gases. This behavioral change may produce more than two million tons of carbon emission reductions annually, equivalent to what hackers 'stole' in one attempt in January and 1/80th of what the U.S. produces in a year - that is a lot of emissions for a tiny section of Africa and they are huge polluters for their populations but due to costs less than 5% of carbon projects are based there.
Vestergaard Frandsen is making the initial investment of $25 million (US) needed to launch the program. "Start-up costs are especially steep considering the need to manufacture and transport 900,000 LifeStraw(R) Family water filters to a rural community hundreds of miles from a major port, and to hire and train more than 4,000 community health workers and 4,000 drivers to distribute and educate residents on proper usage of the water filters," explained Mikkel Vestergaard Frandsen, CEO. "Longer term, the company will employ hundreds of Kenyans for at least ten years to maintain more than 30 repair and replacement centers that will be set up throughout Western Province, and to provide ongoing community education."
It will be one of the largest water treatment projects ever done without government or public sector funding, they just rely on a carbon trading market to look like real revenue. Companies have to provide something tangible and hope what they are getting back has value. But if it works, it is preferable to build environmental protection into long-term development plans rather than force them to clean up after industrialization has occurred and negatively impacted the health and environment.
As the supplier of the water filters, Vestergaard Frandsen will earn the carbon credits. Since the company only gets paid for the performance of the water filters in reducing emissions, it has a strong incentive to invest the revenue it earns back into the program - to maintain and replenish the LifeStraw(R) Family water filters and to educate residents on proper and consistent usage. Once the program is operational, monitoring by an accredited independent auditing agency will take place every six months. The auditor will verify that the emission reductions are accurate, and carbon credits will only be issued after each verification.
Every year, pneumonia kills an estimated 1.6 million children under the age of five years, accounting for 18% of all deaths of children under five years old worldwide. Environmental factors, including indoor air pollution caused by cooking and heating with biomass fuels such as wood, increase a child's susceptibility to pneumonia.
"If the "Carbon For Water(TM)" program can become a model for significantly reducing diarrhea and respiratory diseases it will be a home run for the people of Kenya and many other developing countries for achieving MDGs 4,5,6," concluded Vestergaard Frandsen. "Point-of-source solutions are often not completed because of bureaucratic gridlock or break down due to a lack of maintenance. Point-of-use solutions, such as LifeStraw(R) Family, are widely seen by academic researchers as the most effective intervention to deliver safe drinking water."
The program targets four of the eight UN Millennium Goals including: Goal 4: Reduce child mortality; Goal 5: Improve maternal health; Goal 6: Combat diseases; and Goal 7: Ensure environmental sustainability. It is also aligned with the U.S. Strategy for Meeting the MDGs which states that successful programs must address the need for sustainable development and create a strong link between cost-effective investment and measurable impact.