Portland, Oregon is a hotbed of ecosystem restoration in a highly urban area. Today, I am attending the 2011 Urban Ecology and Conservation Symposium at Portland State University. For the first time, I am tweeting from a conference with a focus on topics related to watersheds. Keep an eye on my twitter for updates. This conference is hosted by the Urban Ecosystem Research Consortium of Portland/Vancouver.
While eating lunch at work recently, my co-worker pulled out a sandwich wrapped in a colorful sash of woven materials. This wrapper, probably part of a rice sack from a distant place, was washable and reuseable. And – I thought – perfect. Looking into my own lunchbox, plastics abounded. Sure I washed and reused a few plastic bags made from recycled plastic. But was this enough? It turns out, no. The use of plastics leaves many negative effects in our streams, rivers, and seas.
For some time, scientists have known plastics are accumulating in the ocean. A recent study found plastics are floating deeper than previously assumed. Pieces of plastic can extend 20 meters below the sea. One mass near the northwest coast of the United States is about twice the size of Alaska. These particles are ingested by fish, birds, turtles, and other marine wildlife. Often these animals do not survive.
Above Photo: G. Proskurowski, Sea Education Association
Awareness is rising fast and people – myself included – are changing plastic-ey ways. Heal the Bay is working to spread awareness in California, and many creative outreach efforts are happening in Portland. The RiPPLe effect is an annual art gala that showcases creations made of plastics and other trash collected during a river clean-up. This project was started by Jenn Rielly. The International Plastic Quilt Project is promoted by another non-profit to challenge people to live without plastic for one week. Participants collect any plastic encountered and make a quilt piece. The quilt piece becomes part of a traveling exhibit.
All of this talk about plastics and water has certainly made me think. While I might not get around to making the quilt piece, I am going to go sans plastics for a week. Let’s give this a go.
Are you ready for your daily dose of H20 packaged into a handy-dandy Public Service Announcement? Well, I hope so. Today’s PSA is from WaterAid. It was created to encourage world leaders to make toilets a priority at the upcoming UN Millennium Development Goals (MDG) Summit in September 2010. Musicians playing at Glastonbury Festival were featured in the PSA.
Ten years ago, United Nations member states agreed to achieve eight MDGs by 2015 to end global poverty. MDG No. 7 includes a target to reduce – BY HALF – the number of people without safe drinking water and basic sanitation. See the recent MDG Report 2010 for more information on the status of all targets.
More PSA-maddness can be found covering rainwater harvesting in India, the LA Tap Project, a water-conservation campaign in Denver, the Tap Project 2009, Charity Water, and The World Cup, Water, and Sanitation.
Many around the world have just finished watching the USA vs. Algeria game in South Africa. USA won the match (1-0) and will be able to continue to play in the 2010 World Cup. I’m happy with the final score (sorry, Algeria) but not so happy about something else. During the time of each World Cup match, around 140 children in Africa will die from diarrheal illnesses related to dirty water and a lack of toilets.
One organization, Wash-United, hopes people will become more aware of these issues during the 2010 World Cup. They have enlisted football greats like Didier Drogba, Nwankwo Kanu, and Stephen Appiah and created Public Service Announcements (PSAs) to help the spread the world. Enjoy these PSAs as part of the PSA-a-thon Series, and keep watching and rooting for your favorite teams.
As the rainy season wanes in the Pacific Northwest, our water-focused student club at Oregon State University has decided to promote the UNICEF Tap Project. The Tap Project, which began in 2007, is held during World Water Week from March 21st to March 27th. The aim is bring awareness to and collect donations for water and sanitation challenges faced by children around the world. Nearly 4,100 children die each day from water-related illnesses. Through the Tap Project, restaurants collect one dollar for each glass of tap water usually served for free and provide these donations to UNICEF.
We spent a couple of days walking around encouraging restaurants and coffeehouses to get involved. Four restaurants and two coffeehouses have agreed to participate. This is the first year of the Tap Project in our area. Restaurants are a great venue to reach a diverse group of people. The campaign might present the opportunity for someone in the United States to think about a young child in Zambia (or Bangladesh, India, Sudan… ) and their lack of water and/or sanitation. And, with the UNICEF Tap Project, we are giving people the chance to help alleviate the suffering of children worldwide.
If you want to engage your city in the Tap Project, visit the UNICEF Tap Project website at www.tapproject.org.
A catastrophic earthquake struck Haiti on January 12, 2010. The 7.0 magnitude quake was centered offshore the populated capital of Port-au-Prince. One of ten deadliest in history, causalities range from 50,000 to 200,000 people. Almost three million of the country’s nine million people are affected, and many are still trapped in the rubble. Aid efforts have been hampered by the scale of impact and current instability of the Haitian government.
Survivors are in desperate need of drinking water. Running water is not available due to damaged pipes. A lack of clean drinking water after this type of disaster can lead to dehydration and widespread waterborne illnesses. The Government of Haiti commandeered two water treatment facilities and is sending water to the capital in trucks. Four US ships are en route with desalination units to produce 25,000 liters of water a day. Another aircraft carrier, stationed off the coast, can produce 35,000 liters of water a day. Two NGOs, Water Missions International and Oxfam, left water-filtration systems in the country. Red Cross is dispensing bottled water, food, and medical supplies. UNICEF is distributing water and sanitation supplies to help protect the health of children.
Above Photo: Survivors collecting water from a broken water main in Haiti. Courtesy United Nations Photo on flickr.
The best way to help victims in Haiti is through monetary donations! To donate for a variety relief efforts, please see these links on Water Wired. To donate for water-related relief efforts, please see the links below:
Water Missions International
Previously established in the country to work on water-supply concerns, they shipped 10 desalination units to the region after the quake. They are collecting money for water-related relief efforts.
In September 2009, this organization committed to provide safe drinking water to 50,000 people in Haiti. Now they are helping re-establish local water-focused NGOs. They are collecting donations to restore/expand water services in Haiti.
UNICEF is focused on distributing supplies related to water and sanitation, therapeutic food for infants and small children, medical supplies, and temporary shelter. They just appealed for donations of 120 million USD to help with relief efforts in Haiti.
This long-standing NGO is distributing emergency water purification tablets to local hospitals. They will distribute water purification tablets, buckets with covers, jerry cans and other water containers, hygiene kits, high-energy biscuits, plastic sheeting and cooking kits to 50,000 to 75,000 people in Haiti.
This well-known organization recognizes that clean drinking water is “the most immediate problem.” They are shipping 10 tons of water, sanitation, health, and shelter equipment to the area and collecting donations for these endeavors.
This NGO, based out of New York City, is dedicated to raising money for water-supply projects in developing nations. They are accepting donations for health-related (that is, water, sanitation, etc.) and general efforts for partner NGOs in Haiti.
Just finished an interesting article examining roles and limitations of technology for solving problems in water access, planning, and management for women around the world.
“In poor communities, technologies are often touted as panaceas for poverty. For women in productive and reproductive roles, technologies, such as those for fetching and storing water, can make daily tasks easier. But do such technologies actually ensure women’s rights?”
For the next three days, YOU can virtually attend a conference on Water Harvesting, Storage, and Conservation (WHSC) by reading and commenting on blog posts and tweets posted in real-time by Praveena Sridhar on the India Water Portal here.
The conference, at the Indian Institute of Technology – Kanpur in Uttar Pradesh, India, will focus on the technology, policy, and implementation of solutions to some of the world’s most pressing water problems. Some topics of discussion will include:
- National policy support for planning by basin.
- Water harvesting for agriculture.
- Storm water management.
- Participatory water management.
- Water conflict and management.
- Groundwater recharge and remediation.
“WHSC-2009 invites delegates and experts working in the area of water harvesting, storage and conservation from global institutes and industries to participate in this event. The conference aims at the synergy between Academics, Researchers, Industrialists, Policy-makers and Implementers.”
Today is World Toilet Day. And – if you giggle at this funny-sounding name – you might not realize the vital importance of proper sanitation.
Over 2.5 billion (about 40 percent of the world population) urinate and defecate outside. Open defecation, or OD as it is commonly known, spreads diseases and results in the poor health or DEATH of many people. Around 2 million children die each year from sanitation-related illnesses (more than HIV, tuberculosis, and malaria combined).
But it’s difficult for numbers to tell the true story. During visits to villages in South India with Arghyam, some people told me their stories of OD. A story of how OD speeds the spread of diseases. A story of skin rashes, boils, and infections resulting after using the main OD area in a village (sometimes without shoes). A story of what it feels like walking down a trail covered in human feces during the rainy season to use the main OD area in a village.
Here is a small snippet of an interview of my friend interpreting a woman’s description of an OD area (in an undisclosed village). The interview is graphic. Please listen at your own risk.
Now, if after reading this blog post, you want to make a difference. Here are some ways:
Talk about it. One problem is that people do not want to discuss what they think is a dirty subject. The WTD website has some great ideas for spreading the word.
Donate. Water Aid, a well-known water and sanitation NGO, has an option where you can buy a family a toilet online.
A guest blog post originally published on the India Water Portal (IWP) by my friend and colleague Praveena Sridhar. She has given me permission to re-publish her beautiful pictures and insightful post about water leakage in India.
As I had been waking up to a leaky tap in my new house for quite some time, I thought it would be interesting to look at the different ways water gets wasted. In this post, I attempt to do a photo blog from my past photo collections on this subject from different parts of the country.
This is an image of a leaking pipe from a tanker used by Municipality to provide water in areas with water shortage in Mulbagal, Karnataka. I took this photo during a project visit to the town few weeks ago.
This is an image of water leaking from a community stand post, again in Mulbagal. Mulbagal is the town where the pilot project for Integrated Urban Water Management is being planned and implemented by Arghyam in partnership with various organizations. I will write more on this project in the next post.
This is an image of water leakage from a municipal bore well. Don’t think, from looking at the operator’s hand, that he has opened the bore. He is actually yet to open it! This is how the pipe is without opening the hose. This photo is again from Mulbagal taken during a water sample collection for water quality testing.
Although all the above images are from Mulbagal, it’s not just in Mulbagal such cases of leaks are found from tankers, stand posts or bore wells. It is a scene which one comes across quite often through the country.
Kolkata, the city of joy, is a wonderful place. It lets everyone with any economic background live well. The above is a photo from Kolkata where such hoses are found all through the city on the main roads. These hoses are left on for two hours in the morning and evening. The purposes of such hoses are to provide water for the people who live on the roads and slums to clean themselves and to meet their domestic needs. It is very noble thought and well appreciated, but the municipality could have given a knob to open and close these taps. Whoever wants to use the water can use it even when there are knobs. What is the need to let such open hoses go for two hours in the morning and evening go on nonstop?
This is a knob of one of the water pipes used to clean the train toilets when the train reaches a particular railway station designated for cleaning. This photo is taken on one such railway station.
This is a photo of a steam engine of the toy train which runs between Metupalayam and Ooty. This belongs to Nilgiris Mountain Railways which is one of the oldest railways in India. This engine is not run on coal but is modified to run Diesel. Diesel produces the steam by boiling the water instead of the coal used in the olden days. This toy train has to be refilled with water at one of the stations in-between Metupalayam and Ooty. This is a photograph of one such refill on the Hillgrove station. A ride on this toy train a pleasurable one, it takes you into the past, gives one a feel of the place during the 1940s. But do we really need to waste water for the pleasure?
It may be a very easy question for me to ask sitting in front of the computer, writing my thoughts. What really needs to be done to reduce such water leaks? How do we address these water losses? It is not an easy answer. The solution is a mix of technology, awareness generation in community, and creation of monitoring systems to check such leaks in systems by the governments.
Note: Next post will be about my visit to Mulbagal and the Integrated Urban Water Management Pilot Project conducted there.
Stay tuned to her posts on the IWP by checking this link for updates.
About 6,000 children die EACH DAY from water- and sanitation-related illnesses. But did you know songs can save lives? One NGO in rural Tamil Nadu is teaching songs to children about the importance of safe water and hygiene practices to help them and their families lead lead longer and healthier lives.
Around 2.6 billion people worldwide lack access to adequate sanitation facilities. Poor water and sanitation conditions lead to illnesses such as diarrhea, parasites, and malaria. Young children have weaker immune systems unable to protect them from these sicknesses. Simple actions like washing hands with soap, using a toilet instead of defecating in the open, proper food preparation and storage, or keeping rivers, lakes and streams clean could help save 2.2 million lives each year.
Over the past two weeks, I visited Gramalaya. They work on a variety of water and sanitation projects across the state of Tamil Nadu (more to come in a later post). A highlight of the trip was hearing kids from rural villages sing songs about the importance of healthy water and sanitation practices. These songs were written by S. Damodaran, founding-director of Gramalaya, now working for organization called Water.org that focuses on funding water and sanitation programs in Latin America, Africa, and Asia.
Above Photo: A colleague at Arghyam listening to songs.
They had one song about low-cost toilets:
Low cost Toilet!
The toilet my mother loves!
The toilet my sister likes!
Toilets for the primary school;
And toilets for the Anganwadi
Toilets for the poor;
and toilets for all!
Toilets for every house;
and toilets for healthy life!
And another about kitchen gardens:
Garden! Garden everywhere;
a garden for every house!
A garden from waste water;
garden to remove disease!
Avaraikai in April;
Next month we can get Pagarkai.
Very often we can get sundaikkai;
and for good taste you can get Suraikkkai
A garden out of waste water;
A garden for vegetables.
A garden to remove mosquitoes;
a garden to ensure cleanliness.
And another about safe drinking water:
Drinking water from rivers
Is to invite diseases many.
Water from ponds nearby
Invites killer diseases.
Drinking water from canal
Attracts diarrhea easily. But
Drinking water from handpumps
Leads to a healthy life.
And, lastly, one about a beautiful village:
A beautiful village
Dotted with houses
Surrounded by feces
Flies rest on it.
Flies with germs
Flies sit on food
When brother eat food
Diarrhea is the result.
When sister also affected
Mother started crying
And the beautiful village
Becomes a filthy village.
Because of the feces in the village
Diseases spread everywhere
Because of the feces, germs
Spread in the village.
Let us build a toilet
One for each house
When everyone uses it
Life is totally disease free.
Here is a video of one of the songs from Water.org:
India Water Portal (http://indiawaterportal.org) is a knowledge and social portal for exchanging knowledge, experiences and ideas on the water situation in India. Over the past few months, we have been working to transform the website into a much more user-friendly, participative and fun resource. The new website is now released and we encourage you to visit it now!
Two weeks ago I started my internship, and time has been traveling at unstoppable speeds. I am over my jetlag, learning to cross the road without getting pummeled, increasing my caffeine tolerance by drinking chai and coffee daily, making new friends, and experiencing life working at a dynamic water-NGO in India. The Arghyam office is in a converted bungalow in the neighborhood of Indiranagar in Bangalore. Lucky enough, I live within walking distance.
So what does a week look like for me?
After arriving to the office in the morning, I hear people chatting about water and sanitation projects in one of many languages such as Kannada, Tamil, Hindi, or English. (Everyone here speaks two, three, or four languages or more.) Much of the time, I am preparing for upcoming fieldwork to evaluate gender equity at two water and sanitation project sites in Tamil Nadu. Some of the time, I am working on another project compiling information on participatory groundwater management (a project focus of the Rural Grants Team where my internship is located). The rest of the time, I have been able to attend water and sanitation events held at Arghyam or in the local area. A couple of recent events included:
Voices from the Waters – A Film Festival
Two weekends ago, I visited the largest water film festival in the world. This 4th annual festival, organized by the Bangalore Film Society (BFS), showcased over 100 water-themed films from around the world. Mr. Georgekutty, secretary of the BFS, is the driving force behind the event. He conceived of the festival after hosting a forum in 2004 “to bring awareness about the scarcity of drinking water… and the privatization of water.”
Voices from the Waters become a traveling film festival after the weekend is complete. The films are shown in local schools in Bangalore and across the state of Karnataka. Arghyam is supporting this part of the festival which ensures that those without the means to travel are still able to benefit from water films compiled. Mr. Georgekutty hopes the festival will eventually travel to major cities across India. And, in my opinion, it would be great if it could travel to big cities and rural villages across the world.
Field Visit to Hebballi Village and Primary School
Last Thursday, I traveled with Arghyam staff to visit a progressive water conveyance and management system in the rural village of Hebballi and at their local primary school.
We attended a ceremony to celebrate a rainwater harvesting (RWH) system constructed at the Government Higher Primary School. This system was funded by Arghyam in collaboration with an NGO called Geo Rainwater Board. There are RWH collection units on three buildings at the school. Rainwater flows from the roofs, through charcoal/sand filter units, and into an 18,000 liter storage tank. Students access the water through a hand-pump in the main classroom. The school has a rain gauge and chalkboard so students can record monthly precipitation, brand new sanitation facilities, and students grow their own vegetables for mid-day meals. It was apparent that the youth are quite proud of their sustainable school system and rightly so.
Above Photo: Courtesy Amrtha at Arghyam.
We toured the water conveyance and management system in the surrounding village of Hebballi after the ceremony. All 250 homes in the village have indoor, piped water supply. A community-based committee, as common in rural areas in India, is responsible for managing the water supply system. Through the installation of water meters on each house, the committee is able to recoup Operation and Maintenance fees. Each user pays 30 rupees for up to 8,000 liters of water each month. (In US terms, that is about 62 cents for 2113.4 gallons of water).
For more information, read this case study by S. Vishwanath.
I am living in India for a four-month long internship with Arghyam, an organization that works on water issues across the country. Along the way, I will document my journey. Please see the Water in India page above for more information.
Youth are our future and our future depends on water. In the last Visions of Water, Visions of Life interview, students at the Kakamega School for the Deaf talked about water and life in Kenya. They were asked:
What do you believe is the solution to improve the water situation in your village?
They are hearing-impaired, so they drafted their answers on a chalkboard. Below is a glimpse into the daily life of these students. Some rainwater harvesting tanks were recently donated to their school, but after this source is depleted – during they dry season – they rely solely on river water. We thank them much for providing this information to the world.
Are you a student that would like to get involved in water issues? Do you want to contact these students in Kenya? Please visit the ECAG Website. Or – to meet other youth interested in water issues – check out the YouthNoise DROP Campaign Website.
Here is another Public Service Announcement (PSA) for the series. This PSA was created by the organization Charity Water to raise money for water-supply projects in Africa. Now my professor Aaron Wolf at Oregon State University might be a little dismayed by the references to war and water in this PSA (actually, his research has found that only one war has ever occurred because of water). Nevertheless, it shows how multimedia can be used to support water projects around the globe.