Technological innovations and equitable access to clean drinking water – three case studies from Gujarat, India

Ashish Ranjan, Linda Tuulia Annala, Navdeep Mathur, Ankur Sarin, Yewondwossen Tesfaye Gemechu

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterScientific


This article aims to provide a critical view on technology in the context of water supply. We acknowledge how technology is envisioned in the Sustainable Development Goals as a mean to promote human rights and social justice. Our premise focuses not on technology by itself, but on how the use of technology by private actors in the context of water supply could lead to unjust social relations benefiting the private actors’ interests more than those of the end-users. Our discussions will highlight reconstructed meanings of ‘safe water’ or ‘clean water’ and the respective societal and private implications, using a lens grounded in information asymmetries. Our research question asks: what are the societal implications of private sector led technological innovation in influencing and responding to the needs and perceptions around water quality among citizens? In answering this multifaceted question, we present three case studies: two from urban and one from rural Gujarat, India; all with differing levels of state involvement in the provision of clean drinking water. These three cases depict three separate technologies: Hydrogen Sulphide water test kits, household reverse osmosis water filters, and community-level reverse osmosis water filters. While surface water remains a primary source of supply in our sites of study, ground water has increasingly come to be used with largely unregulated bore wells. Moreover, while surface water is treated and monitored by centralized, governmental treatment plants, there is very limited information dissemination at point of distribution and consumption of ground water. In all our cases, technology plays a central role in the provision of drinking water to citizens. Each case portrays different types of relationships between the market, water governance and citizen action, highlighting the complexities surrounding technological innovations and equitable access to clean drinking water.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHuman Rights and Technology. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development
EditorsMariateresa Garrido Villareal
Number of pages26
Place of PublicationSan José
PublisherUniversity for Peace
Publication date2018
ISBN (Print)978-9930-542-01-9
ISBN (Electronic)978-9930-542-00-2
Publication statusPublished - 2018
MoE publication typeB2 Book chapter


  • 512 Business and Management
  • Drinking water
  • technology
  • human rights
  • information asymmetry
  • private sector


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