rtParty 2018

Enjoyed India last week, both at rtParty (rtCamp’s annual company bash) in Goa and hanging out at the Pune office earlier in the week.

Following Vivek through Koregaon Park to the rtCamp office.
Ain’t no shame getting my caffeine fix.
Not a very flattering photo of a biz team meeting.
New rtCamp office is expected to launch March 18th.
Morning arrival in Goa, after 14 hour overnight train journey.
Bunch of scoundrels.
As you might imagine, I ate a ton of Indian food.
Xavier’s Cafe all decked out for the party.
4:42 am, Dubai airport, amidst 40 hour journey home.

Call for volunteers: Hack Shack India

So, the idea: bring together a group of fun, adventure-loving hackers to live and cowork in India for a couple of months this coming spring (we’d leave the States shortly after Liftcamp). I’ve visited twice already and loved it — for anyone who grew up in the Western world, India is an incredibly rich, diverse, and fascinating experience.

Currently, I’m looking for people who’d like to help me put this together. Interested? Let me know.

The water wars have begun in Bhopal

According to The Guardian, Bhopal and many parts of Northern India are facing a late monsoon and the driest June in 83 years:

In Bhopal, which bills itself as the City of Lakes, patience is already at breaking point. The largest lake, the 1,000-year-old, man-made Upper Lake, had reduced in size from 38 sq km to 5 sq km by the start of last week.

The population of 1.8 million has been rationed to 30 minutes of water supply every other day since October. That became one day in three as the monsoon failed to materialise. In nearby Indore the ration is half an hour’s supply every seven days.

Much of India is dependent on a yearly monsoon from June to September to replenish lakes and reservoirs. When the rains are late, there just isn’t enough water. Of course, it’s the poorest of the poor that suffer the most in a situation like this.

I came across a photo essay from the BBC about the shortages in Mumbai earlier today as well. This could be just the tip of the iceberg (although that’s probably a poor choice of words).

It settles out?


In Rajasthan, two boys in the 8th standard fill their father’s cart with water from the village naadi, or pond. It takes around an hour and a half for them to complete this task daily, and provides just enough water for the eight family members, 10 to 15 goat, a cow, and a bullock. The quality of their water becomes less important when quantity is a concern.

I’ve been working frantically for just over a week on putting together a piece for this year’s edition of Flux Magazine, only to learn at the last minute that my story was cut because I’m not an active student. If I have time next week, I’ll finish up what I was writing and publish it.

Presentation: Reinventing Direct Action

I’m giving this presentation today as a part of a panel at a global health weekend my friend Alex Goodell spent a significant amount of time putting together. The conference is “You Can’t Crush a Louse with Only One Thumb: Integrating Biomedical & Sociocultural Approaches to HIV/AIDS in Africa” and my panel focuses on student experiences in these issues.

To make this interesting, I’ll be arguing that both the university system and standard practices in international development are broken, and that, more importantly, there are ways to fix each which will create more desirable future. It’s not about who should be to blame, but rather how the methods for each can be improved. One of these days, I’ll start producing second version of my presentations that include more narrative text too (I’m too much of a minimalist to include extensive text on my slides). Because the Oregon Direct Action project ended before implementation, I also hope to do a retrospect post on what worked and what didn’t work in the effort.

Whitman Direct Action has been active recently, first posting an update about their most recent project, The Transnational Community Development, and then reporting on meetings with a couple of the NGOs they’re supporting.

I’ve also uploaded a PDF of the report we produced last spring, titled “Developing Water.” Through a series of surveys, focus groups, and interviews, we took a look at the socio-cultural constraints to clean water access in the Kolwan Valley. It isn’t necessarily anything groundbreaking if you’ve been working in the sector, but it does serve as a pretty legit primer to water access issues in India.

Broken Connection

Broken Connection

In Savurgaon, a small village in the Kolwan Valley, Maharashtra, India, a broken pipeline in March 2009 means no water for at least five days. The community shares its local government, the Gram Panchayat, with two other villages, a unique situation to the area which ultimately means that issues aren’t often addressed as quickly as they should be. In the interim, many of the families are dependent on the generosity of a wealthier farmer with his own private bore well. When water does come again, though, the way the pots are ordered will signify who gets their fill first.

Silent killer

Silent Killer

A woman from Nanegaon in the Kolwan Valley west of Pune carries water home past the heavily-fertilized sugarcane fields near her community’s open well. Sugarcane requires copious amounts of water and heavy fertilization, most commonly with a nitrate-based urea. Although not fully understood, excess amounts of nitrates have been associated with methaemoglobinaemia, a potentially life-threatening condition of depleted blood-oxygen levels, especially serious in bottle-fed infants.

According to Mr. Shyam Divan, a Senior Advocate for the Supreme Court of India, there are no legal frameworks in India with which to prosecute those releasing industrial contaminants (agro or otherwise) to a public water supply.

Waste to the river

Waste to the river

Just below the Dapka Ghat in Kanpur, a “nhala” or drainage ditch, pours raw sewage into the Ganges River. The pollution is 80% domestic and 20% industrial. Waste treatment should have been addressed by the Ganga Action Plan of 1985 but, like many of India’s environmental programs, it didn’t bear fruit because of the size of the issue and complexity of the political action required to solve it. In the meantime, the number of leather factories has jumped from 175 to over 400, substantially increasing the amount of waste disposed in the river.