This article was originally published by Asian Development Blog and is republished with permission.
I’m here at the Petros Primary School on the island of Tanna in Vanuatu, far south of the nation’s capital of Port Vila.
This island is known for its active volcano, Mt. Yasur, and is one of the most fertile regions in the country, producing kava, coffee, coconut, copra, fruit, and vegetables.
With a population of about 29,000, Tanna is also one of the most populous islands in Vanuatu.
It is also fast becoming a tourism hub due to its natural beauty and strong cultural heritage. Many Tanna people proudly wear traditional dress and lead lives not altogether different from that of their ancestors. Modern machines or technology are often banned or restricted in these “kastom” villages.
Against this backdrop, it’s interesting that Tanna is also home to an innovative ADB-supported pilot project that is turning sunlight and air into safe, high-quality drinking water.
While rainfall may be plentiful in Tanna, safe drinking water is not. And captured rainwater is regularly contaminated by sulphur dust from Mt. Yasur.
Seeing this constraint, an ADB team helped conceptualize a possible solution with the Government of Vanuatu and Zero Mass Water.
Working in partnership, we began a pilot project about nine months ago. Local community members cleared a patch of land, helped lay a concrete slab right here where I am standing, and worked with Zero Mass Water and ADB to install 20 panels with solar-powered drinking water technology that converts the sunshine, air, and rain into safe drinking water.
Today I am delighted to join the Minister of Finance, the Minister of Education, and all the children here at the Petros school for a special commissioning ceremony to officially inaugurate this pilot.
This means that anyone in community around the Petros Primary School can come to this tap site and collect water that is instantly ready for drinking.
This pilot project is a great example of unlocking innovation for development and was funded by ADB-supported technical assistance. For a total of $75,000, each of these 20 solar panels produces 3-5 liters a day for a total of almost 100 liters of clean water each day.
The project also helps provides great hope for the 30% of Ni-Vanuatu who are not connected to centralized water supply systems.
The technology here can help fill critical gaps in the provision of safe drinking water in places like Tanna. For us at ADB, innovation is all about finding new ways to support countries as they address key development challenges and the SDGs.