June 1 - A simple water filter made from rice husk is helping the poor of rural Cambodia improve their health prospects and stem the deforestation that is destroying the nation's jungles. This week iDE-Hydrologic picked up a prestigious Ashden Award for their Super Tunsai filter, named after a Cambodian legend. Jim Drury reports.
A Cambodian villager prepares to boil water for drinking, a common site in a country where an estimated 10,000 people die from Diarrhoea every year. Seventy percent of Cambodians boil water this way, using timber from surrounding forests and although she's following official advice, it has left Cambodia with one of the highest rates of deforestation in the world. But now there's an alternative. International not-for-profit organisation iDE Hydrologic has developed the Tunsai, a simple ceramic water filter made from rice husk, clay and water. Director Michael Roberts. SOUNDBITE (English) MICHAEL ROBERTS, DIRECTOR, IDE/HYDROLOGIC, SAYING: "We carefully control the porosity by adding pounded rice husk to the wet clay before it's fired and then when that clay is fired the rice husk vaporises and you're left with pores in the clay. We then coat it with a coating of a silver solution, which allows the silver particles to adhere to the inside of the pores and that provides two barriers against microbes." Roberts says Tunsai is named after the wise, problem-solving animal of Cambodian fable, the rabbit. Its original design was a basic affair, but Roberts says the new deluxe Super Tunsai is proving even more popular with purchasers. SOUNDBITE (English) MICHAEL ROBERTS, DIRECTOR, IDE/HYDROLOGIC, SAYING: "We originally had a very simple plastic container that really looked like a rubbish bin and people said the product works great but it doesn't look very nice, so we went and we worked with some designers to come up with something that was aesthetically much more pleasing, more functional too, you can fit the glass under here, and it's something that can take pride of place in a person's house." The filters are fired in a kiln at the factory in Kampong Speu Province. The company has sold almost a quarter of a million in Cambodia, at an affordable price for most people. Special finance deals are available for those with little money. That's why iDE was selected as one of six companies to win a prestigious Ashden Award this week. Roberts collected the award at a London ceremony. The company now wants to expand. SOUNDBITE (English) MICHAEL ROBERTS, DIRECTOR, IDE/HYDROLOGIC, SAYING: "There's still a lot of areas of Cambodia to be reached and especially poorer, more remote areas. Beyond that there are about 30 other countries in the world where this technology has been introduced and then there's many countries beyond that where it could be introduced. Basically anywhere where you have clay that you can use to make red bricks you can build one of these types of filters as well." Inspired by the Tunsai's success, iDE plan to develop a series of other environmentally-friendly technologies for use in the developing world. Jim Drury, Reuters