Water for Health: researchers join forces to improve access to safe drinking water

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More than 37.7 million people in India affected by disease due to contaminated water

The Indian Government’s Department of Biotechnology (DBT) and the Canadian Network Centre of Excellence, IC-IMPACTS, have partnered to create a joint “Water for Health” initiative, supporting collaborative research projects focused on developing and evaluating new technologies in the research areas of water and health.

DBT and IC-IMPACTS will each commit $1.5 million to help strengthen innovative partnerships between researchers working in India and Canada, and to help stimulate practical research outcomes applied in communities of both nations.

“This is an excellent opportunity for Canadian and India researchers to partner on projects which will develop new solutions to ensure access to safe and clean water for communities in both countries,” said Stewart Aitchison (pictured at right), associate director of IC-IMPACTS and professor in the Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering at the University of Toronto.

Access to safe water is a significant issue around the world. In 2013, the World Health Organization reported that 768 million people in the world – about one tenth of the world’s population – do not have access to safe water. In Canada, more than five million people do not have access to a reliable source of clean drinking water and over 37.7 million people in India are affected by water-borne diseases due to contaminated drinking water.

“We are excited and thankful for the opportunity to launch this collaboration,” says Nemy Banthia, chief executive officer and scientific director of IC-IMPACTS and a professor in the Faculty of Applied Science at the University of British Columbia. “We hope that the program will lead to technological breakthroughs that will bring safe drinking water to millions.”

IC-IMPACTS, or the India-Canada Centre for Innovative Multidisciplinary Partnerships to Accelerate Community Transformation and Sustainability, is the first Canada-India Research Centre of Excellence established through the Canadian Networks of Centres of Excellence. It brings together a large international team of researchers, industry innovators, community leaders, government agencies, and community organizations from India and Canada, to find solutions to the key challenges that affect the quality of life of millions of people in Indian and Canadian communities.

The “Water for Health” initiative is focused on improving water sources to better the overall health of a community.  Through this collaboration, IC-IMPACTS and DBT will specifically fund research in the areas of (1) Monitoring and management of water borne or water related diseases using mobile or networked health technologies; (2) Waste water treatment and impacts on water quality; (3) Water purification biotechnologies; (4) Heavy metals identification using biosensors; and, (5) Sustainable waste-water infrastructure and management using biotechnologies.

Dedicated members at DBT and IC-IMPACTS have been working to create the “Water for Health” initiative since November 2013.  Through this partnership, DBT and IC-IMPACTS aim to help strengthen overall research and innovation relationships between Canada and India. By funding collaborative research projects, research experts, industry leaders, and community members from both nations will come together to form practical solutions to greatly improve the health of both Canadian and Indian citizens.

More information regarding the “Water for Health” initiative can be found at http://call-dbt.ic-impacts.com/. Researchers are invited to submit proposals for research funding online at this website from May 1, 2014 to August 1, 2014.  Funding decisions will be made no later than December 1, 2014.

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