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Double rejoice on a single day?!?!

Girls fetching water©

Girls fetching water©

Since 2012, the United Nations marks 11 October as the ‘International Day of the Girl Child’. The day promotes girls’ human rights, highlights gender inequalities that remain between girls and boys and addresses the various forms of discrimination and abuse suffered by girls around the world. This year, the theme is “Empowering adolescent girls: Ending the cycle of violence”.

Today is also the day the The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided that the Nobel Peace Prize for 2014 is to be awarded to Kailash Satyarthi and Malala Yousafzay for their struggle against the suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education.  Children must go to school and not be financially exploited.  In the poor countries of the world, 60% of the present population is under 25 years of age.  It is a prerequisite for peaceful global development that the rights of children and young people be respected.

How do these iconic days relate to water and gender issues in general?

In terms of availability of clean water on a daily basis for the children in the developing countries and especially girl child it’s a constant struggle.

Throughout the course of my decade long career in India, I have seen women and girls fetch water from distances as far as 10 kms (6.21371 miles) or dedicating 8-10 hours of the day just collecting water for their families. I will admit that the country has come a long way since the early 2000s. In tier II cities, such as Meerut in Uttar Pradesh, it is still evident what life means for women and girls in terms of the potable water availability every day in urban slums. Non-availability of potable water close to home also results in violence against women and girl child since they are more vulnerable to exploitation and abuse while seeking water sources located remotely. There could be other dangers in the form of animal (dogs) attack and others as well.

Fortunately there is a ray of hopes in the form of grassroots organizations working tirelessly to alleviate the everyday drudgery of women and girls in terms of water availability.

On this side of the globe, organizations are trying to push for mainstreaming policies by keeping the girls and women at their center.

How does all this relate to the UN Women’s and Noble Peace Prize’s theme? One can imagine that if the women and girls in a family are free of their daily chores of searching for water, they can easily attend school without having to spend their time otherwise. The old saying goes, “when you educate a boy you educate an individual, however when you educate a girl you educate a family or household.” This cannot resonate more than on a day like today.

Joint efforts from both sides of developing and developed world shall go a long way in educating the girl child and children overall in making them informed and progressive citizens of tomorrow.

For related posts, please click the below links:

Water markets: From esoteric to a tool for water supply


Watershed in fall colors ©Rohith Roy

Watershed in fall colors ©Rohith Roy


Data about water availability and quality are fundamental to some of the most important decisions making process of the governments, businesses, farmers and last but not the least communities. Abundance and quality of water are critical factors in many aspects of our economy, environment, and social and physical well-being. Many experts argue that Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES) for multiple water resources objectives must be simultaneously managed. The costs of sub-optimal water resources choices can be while determining substantial PES. These forces when come into play together give rise to water markets as we know them today.

What are water markets?

Water markets have been considered as a coping strategy to allocate water from surplus to scarcity  regions.

The functional benefits of water markets have often been assessed from the perspective of economics, for example, the ability of markets to facilitate transfers of water-use rights from lower-value uses to higher-value uses, and the resulting increases in water productivity.


Water markets are not new and they have evolved over the years in shapes and appearances based on the regions and type of water traded (groundwater of surface water). Historically, water markets have existed in a number of agriculturally dominant countries ranging from secured and transferable  form Chile in South America to informal and local ones in India in Asia.


One can be interested in exploring the significance of water markets by asking whether

  • Water markets can help improve overall water security (e.g., by preventing or alleviating shortages),
  • Encourage improvements in water conservation and water-use efficiency, and
  • Whether markets can contribute to environmental protection.


There are a range of different types of water market that can be introduced based on the local geographic conditions, regulations, permits and other factors:

  • Open water markets
  • Spot market
  • Informal water markets


Do water markets actually work?

My favorite economist recently posted information from a functioning water market. He recommends that we read Waterfind’s  annual report [pdf], which is full of market and price data. You may also want to read this post and listen to the water chats Dr. Zetland did with Waterfind CEO, Tom Rooney, a few years ago.


A number of US based and international organizations are in the process of exploring the concept of water markets further. They often ask the question of whether water markets should emerge from one of their existing initiatives or should they be something brand new. There is a huge potential of studying these further via surface availability and through government permits and how much will water markets contribute towards environmental protection, payment of ecosystem services and environmental equity and justice so on. Water Users Associations (WUAs) can form a significant part for resolving conflicts over water rights. How will WUAs come into play, with increasing urbanization around us when water is being channelized for non-irrigation/agricultural purposes. How much will WUAs be effective in fulfilling this responsibility is left to be seen.



One water: numerous facets

“If there is magic on this planet, it is contained in water.”-Loren Eiseley -anthropologist and author of The Immense Journey

“If there is magic on this planet, it is contained in water.”-Loren Eiseley -anthropologist and author of The Immense Journey

Reading about the various issues around water makes one wonder time and again that how one vital resource can provide so many issues to ponder upon.

These issues range from

  • Imagining a world without water,
  • Municipal/city officials usage and management of water,
  • Payment for the ecosystems services (PES) for water
  • Economy of recent loss of the freshwater wetlands worldwide and last but not the least
  • Estimated losses due to the extreme events in the recent past.

Water is the driver of life and with the increasing pace of urbanization and extreme events around the globe, this limited resource is becoming more and more critical. We observed this effect getting magnified in the places like Africa and Asia and developed nations are also not left out.

In Asia, residents in high tech cities like Pune and Bangalore to tier II cities like Meerut  in India, struggle with the issues related to quality, quantity and availability owning to the lack of governance and maintenance of utilities. We live in a time when we must understand the environmental and demographic trends that increase our vulnerability to water and natural resources related issues. High population densities in vulnerable coastal, urban areas and degraded coastal forests and mangroves leave more people exposed to the brunt of water related crisis. Even in developed nations such as the US, states and regions are suffering from severe drought, California being the latest example.

Three key trends that continue to drive global water insecurity in 2014:

  • Governance: One observes that cities in south and south east Asia experience a different kind of wave of water and electricity availability just around the elections. There is incessant supply of water and electricity until the furor around the elections is settled. We observed this trend from India up to Indonesia where problematic governance issues result in once again not benefitting the most vulnerable and poorest but only a handful of the politically empowered and master of working around the processes and procedures. Water the critical resource is not left out in this equation.
  • Population dynamics: The world is projected to add another 82 million people this year, 24 million of them in sub-Saharan Africa, where total fertility rates continue to outpace the rest of the world. In parts of the Middle East and Asia, changing age structures and ethno-religious demographic shifts will affect the potential for conflict and thus the ability of communities to respond to shocks, both natural and manmade. Here people living in places below sea level, in delta regions (India, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Thailand  and others) are the worst effected in times of crisis. In the ganges river delta where the threat of entire landmass getting submerged, a few stand alone/secluded/individual efforts can do only so much to decrease this vulnerability.
  • Climate change impacts: We will continue to experience climate change-related shocks, including quick hits – floods, disease outbreaks, and food price increases – and drought, food price volatility, and environmental degradation. The impacts of these shocks on the poorest and most vulnerable will increase both in intensity and frequency. This year more attention should be paid on how the vulnerability of water resources to climate change can be reduced.
  • The food-water-energy nexus: Today, one in eight people in the world suffer from chronic hunger, many of them in sub-Saharan Africa, where one in five are undernourished. About 1.2 billion people live in areas of water scarcity. The interconnected global economy means the effects of complex crises will ripple around the world. This nexus is even more evident in places like Asia/India, where people rely on electricity for water supply and food production/agriculture in a major way.

What can be done to make water crisis a thing of the past?

  • Technology is key: We must link innovations in governance, and couple them with the social trends – such as urbanization, educational transformations, and demographic shifts. This might increase our vulnerability but also provide opportunities for solutions. In time we will see new social technologies that will allow us to leapfrog traditional barriers and deepen community strength through effective governance and communications, participatory decision-making, and responsive water resource management. These technological innovations, however, must be accompanied by sincere efforts to build trust and support networks within and across communities especially the poor and vulnerable ones to form a strong foundation.
  • Flexibility is essential: Bureaucratic “stovepipes” plague many of the organizations tasked with preparing for and responding to these all-encompassing crises. We must create more flexible and creative modes of analysis and streams of funding. Greater coordination across humanitarian assistance and development programs, including better and more streamlined coordination among first responders, including the private sector is needed. As observed above power cuts and water shortages are frequent, even in established cities, so the evidence is mounting that critical ecological limits have been passed a long time ago. Effective coordination between the various government departments and utility providers is quintessential for ensuring a water secure future.
  • Acknowledging the grassroots and community efforts: In developing regions of the world like the global south/Asia, traditional knowledge housed within indigenous communities surpasses the technical advancements at times. Also a lot of these crisis are political and not technological. Acknowledging the community based organizations and grassroots movements towards water crisis management will further help reduce the vulnerability during droughts as well as floods.

For water security, we need a clear path in the face of climate change, population growth, political instability, ineffective governance, departmental silos and increased energy and electricity demands. We need to link our technology to emerging social trends, be flexible when designing research and funding programs, defining processes and procedures and improving basic accessibility for the poor and underserved. Without this a narrowed down vision will make our task for achieving a water secure future for all only uphill.

Necessity is the mother of invention..

WaterWheel user in India

Wheel of change: a WaterWheel user in India. Photograph: Wello

I read someone exclaim that “Omigod if men had been carrying 50 litres of water on their heads everyday for a lifetime, they’d have had handles on these containers 800 years ago”. So true! I couldn’t agree anymore.  So obvious that this is indeed the costliest water in the world

 Alas someone had the brainstorm to come up with this ingenious contraption to alleviate womens’ daily drudgery of carrying water on their heads.

Girls and women carrying plastic jerry cans of water on their heads is a common sight in rural areas of poor countries. The WaterWheel eases that burden by storing water in a round 50-litre container that doubles as a wheel.

Designed after consultations with villagers in the dry northern Indian state of Rajasthan, the WaterWheel is made from high-quality plastic that can withstand rough terrain. It will sell for $25-$30, compared with $75-$100 for similar products. “Our goal is to distribute on a large scale, on small margins to 10,000-20,000 customers a year,” says Cynthia Koenig, founder and chief executive of Wello, a US social venture working on ways to deliver clean water in poor countries. Wello won a $100,000 Grand Challenges Canada prize to develop the WaterWheel.

The idea came from an exploratory trip to India in 2010 to ask what people thought of the idea of rolling water, instead of carrying it. “We were pleasantly surprised,” Koenig says. “We returned a year later, worked in close collaboration with villages in Rajasthan, and kept coming back to the idea of rolling water. We were surprised the idea had so much traction – we never thought it would work in India.” The designers played around with different sizes – 10-20 litres – before agreeing on 50 litres. While the WaterWheel was created with women in mind, as they tend to collect water, Koenig says Wello has been surprised by its popularity among men.

“One of most exciting things is that men love using it, they see it as a tool,” she adds. “Men take on the primary role so the women are freed up to do other things. Or the role is split so men use it four days a week and the women use it two days. It has reduced the burden on women. A nurse told me she is not late for work anymore because the husband collects the water.”

The device, to be constructed Ahmedabad city in Gujarat, also saves time, at least an hour in many cases. It is also being used for irrigation and to bring water to animals.

Wello plans to sell the WaterWheel in the Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Gujarat states, as well as explore opportunities for water purification.

This article originally appeared on the To read more about waterwheel by Wello and the author please click here.

2013 in review


Happy New Year to all! ©

Happy New Year to all! ©

Lots of posts until July, 2013 and then the professional life took a full 360 degree turn for better.

First ever full time assignment at the NoVo Foundation in NYC proved to have opened vistas of professional opportunities.  What a work experience!

Will be updating on my most recent/latest assignment soon. Please stay tuned.

I also want to take this opportunity to thank all my readers and well wishers :)

Hope that everyone is having a peaceful end to 2013.

Wishing all a very happy new year and looking forward to working together in 2014!


Creative (and successful) ways towards potable water accessibility for the urban poor

Solar Powered water ATMs in Ahmedabad, India ©

Solar Powered water ATMs in Ahmedabad, India ©

I read about five successful and creative initiatives to bring clean water to the urban poor this morning and jumped with joy, yet again.

The author of the article, Josephine d’Allant writes that “In India, women are forced to orient their entire day around collecting expensive and unsafe water”. I cannot emphasize this fact enough. I have written about this issues time and again on my blog. The readers  know very well. Women and water is one of the closest issues to my heart. If any or every effort goes to alleviate the women and water related drudgeries, then I am the first person to cheer for it.

The author goes on to cite examples from world’s five fastest growing cities

  1. Ahmedabad, India
  2. Mexico City, Mexico
  3. Rio De Janeiro, Brazil 
  4. Lagos, Nigeria and
  5. Jakarta, Indonesia

I am slightly disappointed upon noticing that once again the northern Indian states and cities have lagged behind in implementing such strategies or techniques to benefit the urban poor. With nation’s capital’s poor struggling for potable water supply and fast emerging cities in the National Capital Region of Delhi, it’s imperative to implement such techniques sooner than later.

The author also cites an interesting item for potable water’s availability in the form of plastic pouches or sachets as shown below.

Who is buying this? ©

Who is buying this? ©

Anybody and everybody reading this blog can identify this water packet being sold unabated on buses en route Delhi to Meerut as well as other cities. Having witnessed the “hygienic” conditions under which these (and other bottled water) are being packed in my hometown, I have been always wary of seeing people buy them to quench their thirst.  I saw this trend continuously throughout my career spanning around a decade in India while working on various water related issues.

As seen elsewhere, the author also goes to demonstrate, through examples, that these schemes are managed by the local communities benefitting from them. This shall help ensure the longevity of such schemes.

The author concludes the article by saying “Although not perfect, these solutions are important steps in expanding access to clean water in some of the cities in the Global South.”

I see this as a positive and sustainable step towards providing relief to women and young girls, whose lives otherwise revolve around collecting and providing potable water for their family and themselves.

Visit to read more about these innovative approaches and discuss other projects you may know about.



Women and young girls centered water programs are imperative



Last year I mentioned about the world’s costliest water in one of my previous blog posts. The issues of gender and water keep coming to fore every now and then in most online articles that I read.

Having observed the burnt being born by women and young girls in developing countries for a very long time, I understand how imperative it is to keep them at the center of all water crisis solutions.

Recently, I came across this very interesting info-graph from water. org. I would urge you all to go ahead and take a close look at this one. The article also goes on to state that

Glass ceilings aside, millions of women are prohibited from accomplishing little more than survival. Not because of a lack of ambition, or ability, but because of a lack of safe water and adequate sanitation. Millions of women and children in the developing world spend untold hours daily, collecting water from distant, often polluted sources, then return to their villages carrying their filled 40 pound jerry cans on their backs.

I won’t go in to the details and statistics as they are adequately elaborated in the info-graph.

One point this info-graph certainly proves is how this is world’s costliest water. Countless hours being spent in bringing water from point sources to their homes everyday by women. More than 2 billion people are without safe drinking water across the world. These are only a few of the startling facts facing us today in terms of water crisis.

I also watched a very interesting TEDX talk yesterday on how we can solve the global water crisis.

I have heard some people argue that if they take shorter showers in the US (or any developed country), it doesn’t help a woman in say Africa or Asia to get water easily to her home. For all of them, I would like to share another advert-graph that a luxury bath accessories company has recently made public.

Unless we do not realize and acknowledge the value that women and young girls add to an economy, it shall be a challenge to address the water crisis issue in the longer run.

To be continued.

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