Archives for category: India

Our trip to India has been an enlightening experience, to say the least. First of all, I would like to take some time to talk about some of the problems that I observed while I was there. The issues I saw were not just water related but also sanitation related. There is little awareness about waste management practices, as well as even less efforts are put towards improvement. This is evident from the presence of trash, not just on the ground but also in the water supply.

In addition there were cases where waste and effluents were actually being piped out of the main cities and being redirected to the river basins where they would either seep into the ground or be sent downstream. We found that there was actually a small stream of waste water running through the now dried up Palar River. This water would seep into the ground and contaminate the drinking water in the wells. I am writing this to stress that water is not the only problem. It’s sad to see that in today’s times that there are still people living in these conditions.


Though we had a rough start at the beginning of the trip, our team is now collaborating more and is better focused on completing specific tasks. Personally I feel this is giving us some much needed direction moving forward. While in India we received guidance from IIMB as well as IIT. They both helped us understand some of the issues we will be facing as well as giving us some suggestions moving forward. In addition we met with people from the India Water Portal as well as some professors from VIT, we are hoping that they can provide some of the resources needed for completing the project.

Next Steps:

Our next steps moving forward will be finalizing people’s roles on the team, beginning work on a simulation of a prototype at UMN, and working on the business aspect of the project.

Talk to you soon!

Kerry | UIC

Team JAL | Acara Challenge 2010 Winner

Starting this week, we will profiling the stories of teams and individuals from our various partner schools in India and the US. Our first story is of an interesting team from Somaiya and Cornell, who took up Clean Cooking as the community issue they wanted to solve.  The members of this team include Mona Mahesh, Vikash Singh, Thomas Murray, Anirudha Kandharkar, Kristin O’ Planick, Ashish Wagle, Rachna Gadekar, Hasang Cheon and Hitesh Gandhi. I interviewed Vikash and this is what he had to say.

Q. What is the exact problem your team is working on?

Vikash – “Our team has focussed its scope of research and work plan to the area of Fuel combustion while keeping the fuel source intact (in our case-Wood). The traditional method of cooking involves Open-air set ups with wood as a major source of fuel. The process is inefficient and cumbersome causing high cost cooking, environmental pollution and community health hazards.”

Q. Any reason why you chose this problem?

Vikash -“The motivation behind choosing the above area of problem lies in the scope, reach and ease of operations to address the problem. Feasibility analysis and sustainability of business were key things which were kept in perspective.”

Q. What is the solution that your team is proposing? Do you think it’s feasible and scalable?

Vikash – ” The solution our team proposed was two folds: a. Modifying the collection of the fuel and consumption quantity; and b. Increasing the efficiency of cooking process through efficient stoves and cooking methodology. The feasibility of the solution came out of prior experience of collaborative models through association with NGOs and other non-profit organizations and suppliers of efficient stoves. With a collaborative network of local influencers, NGOs and partners, the model fairs well on the sustainability metric. A pilot project over 5 households and the scope of its replication throughout the community and the neighbouring areas makes the project promising.”

Q. Can you tell us something about the community you have been working with?

Vikash – ” Here is some data about the community –

  1. Type of Community– Rural
  2. Strength of community– 22 households (each household comprises of 7-8 individuals on an average). Total population is 158.
  3. Major occupation– Farming
  4. Average income/household– Rs. 3000 (The figures are conservative as they were reluctant to share the information)
  5. Energy consumption area under study – Cooking energy at household level.
  6. Fuel used– Major fuel used is wood, use of LPG is very limited and is used on special occasions only.
  7. Mode of fuel consumption – Collection of woods through an cutting trees.
  8. LPG cylinders are supplied from Panvel (an area in Mumbai )and used in rare occasions.
  9. No solar cooker establishment in any household.
  10. Frequency of fuel collection– Monthly. Bullock cart load of wood (Rs. 700-800 per cart).
  11. The produce of farming sold are in Panvel, as it is the major market near this area.
  12. Neighbouring community– Banghar Rural Community (160 households).
  13. Fuel used in households includes cooking processes like boiling water, meal preparation etc.
  14. Target community content with the present setup primarily because of lack of proper information on alternatives available
  15. Area of plausible business – Wooden stoves reducing the monthly spending from Rs 700-800 to Rs 400 and Exhaust improvement/efficiency.
  16. Community covered by NGO – Shantivan.

Q. What did you learn as a team by participating in the Acara Challenge?

Vikash – ” As a Team, we learnt to ideate, collaborate, plan, and develop models and research to extreme ends. Overall, ACARA Challenge has moulded the minds in a direction and the teams have learnt to follow that path.”

I want to take this opportunity to thank Vikash and the rest of the team from Somaiya and Cornell for sharing such interesting insights with us. If you are interested in getting your story as a team or an individual on our blog, do get in touch with me on BaseCamp.