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.

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.

Cricket match

Kids play cricket, India’s most popular sport, on the banks of the Ganges River in Kanpur. Although significantly polluted, it is still the life-source for those who live along the river.

The Ganges, according to Rakesh Jaiswal of Eco Friends, is forecast to “die” in 30 to 50 years, meaning all available water flow will be allocated to different agricultural and industrial uses. This analysis doesn’t factor in the potentially negative effects of climate change on water sources in the Himalaya.

This is the first in a series of images titled “India, Water, and Sustainable Development” that was first published in Consilience: The Journal of Sustainable Development in Spring 2008. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be highlighting the best of these photos.

Sadhana Clean Water Project presentation to PCC

At about 0800 hours tomorrow morning, or today based on your timezone, I’ll be giving a presentation to the Asian Studies Program at Portland Community College, Rock Creek Campus.

It’s a longer, more in-depth version of the one I gave in November, which means I get to expand a bit on the times I slept on train station platforms and when I got ringworm. We’ve finally finished the report associated with the Appropriate Technology Study Group, too, and I’m excited to go over some of the findings.

Sidenote: SlideShare doesn’t seem to think Helvetica Neue Light is a legitimate font and instead replaces it with some medieval looking thing. This is especially fun to discover by trial and error at midnight when you have to wake up early the next morning. Yes, I know that the lettering is too big on the first slide.

#india08 presentation to IIT alumni

This afternoon, after about 4 months of postponing, I finally gave a promised presentation on the Sadhana Clean Water Project and my journey through India this spring. The lucky audience was Portland-area IIT alumni; it was my return favor for the wonderful advice I received before the trip from a Mr. Harbans Lal, an environmental engineer, neighbor, and now close friend. 

Slides, as always, are far more rich with the stories and explanation. In any regard, it’s been fun to flip back through the memories. On top of that, I figured out this morning how to go through my tweets from the trip and find my favorite.

Blog Action Day 08: The cost of water

In Mumbai, India, the poorest of the poor pay disproportionately more for their water.


Men and boys from the non-institutionalized slums of Mumbai (the ones on the periphery of the city without public taps) wake at 4 AM every morning to buy water from those who do have formal connections.

Super quality

The cost of water is two rupees per 35 L jerry can when the lines start at 5 AM, but jumps up to around six rupees per can when the water from the city stops flowing. Most families need between eight and ten cans per day.

Filling up

In short, those who have to buy their water each morning can spend up to 900 rupees per month. The deed holders (i.e. those who own land and have a house) have pipes from the Bombay Municipal Corporation (BMC) at a cost of only 125 rupees per month.


Unfortunately, this appalling situation is in equilibrium, as house owners can make upwards of 3,000 rupees per day selling water to those who have to spend a significant amount of their income to get the bare minimum.

To make matters worse, the BMC would like to privatize water in the future, arguing they “lose too much money in the business.”

Here, in the slums next to Govandi and Mankhuted, “Do you get the water?” is asked each morning in place of “Hello” or “How are you?”

Images and text released under Creative Commons for Blog Action Day 08: Poverty

Glimpses of a subcontinent

Two months after the fact, I’ve started processing images from my journey around the Indian subcontinent.


No particular rhyme or reason to what I’m putting up at the moment, just whatever catches my eye.


I think, when I’ve worked through the body of a few thousand images, I’ll compose more of a narrative to weave the story together. Until then, enjoy the visual tour.