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Last post for 2017.

Jamaica at sunset Nov.2017

Goodbye 2017, hello 2018 ©Rohith Roy

With the catastrophic events of floods, water crisis, hurricanes, forest fires and cholera epidemic, 2017 has left the world with billions of dollars in damages and hundreds of thousands of people left suffering in the wake of these disasters.

Del pollution Nov.2016

Air pollution in Dehi circa Nov. 2016 ©Rohith Roy

One of my personal favorite water stories from 2017,  is India using anti smog water cannon to combat the toxic air pollution in the nation’s capital, Delhi.

Continuation of actions and highlighting the issues in 2018:

Water and Sanitation (WASH) shall be again the highlight of 2018. Governments across the world, from China and India to South Africa and the US, have to resort to extreme measures and innovative actions to prepare for the future.

Thank you all for continuing to visit and read this blog and sending in suggestions to improve it. Stay tuned for more blog posts in the new year. Wishing you all a very happy and successful 2018!



Legumes to alleviate world hunger (and bonus recipe)


Legumes @ home

The context:

When I had first arrived in the US, one of the very first questions that people asked was how many types of lentils I could count on my fingers. It took me a while, but I was able to name the two dozens or more varieties that I grew up eating in India. It was a surprise to learn that despite pulses or grain legumes (dry beans, dry peas, chickpeas, lentils) being eaten so widely across the world, most people had little or no idea of their wondrous qualities. It is a delight to see that the spread of this knowledge has come a long way since then.

Legumes to ensure food security:

2016 was the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization’s International Year of Pulses (IYP). It trended as #IYP2016on social media. In celebration of the global launch of IYP, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) created a short video, highlighting unique opportunities for pulses to contribute to the future of food security. They are are high in protein, fiber, and micronutrients.

Benefits of legumes:

Legumes or pulses also offer many opportunities for reducing the environmental footprint of food production, especially by:

  • Fixing nitrogen to improve soil quality and
  • Requiring lesser water for irrigation.

Just 43 gallons of water can produce one pound of pulses, compared to 216 gallons for soybeans and 368 gallons for peanuts. Its incomparable to meat or beef, as the production of pulses emits only 5 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions associated with beef production.

Ensuring food security:

Research has shown that improvements in pulse productivity, could have a significant role in the developing world. “Pulses are important food crops for the food security of large proportions of populations, particularly in Latin America, Africa and Asia, where pulses are part of traditional diets and often grown by small farmers,” said FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva. Just one serving of chickpeas contains 1.5 times as much iron as a 3-ounce serving of steak, and pulses are a fraction of the cost of other protein sources.

Climate change impact:

When stored properly, pulses can keep for many years and do not loose their nutritional value. I was fortunate to be part of the team at Engineering for Change’s Solutions Library  in 2015. They have catalogued solutions, such as the Interlocking Stabilized Soil Blocks Granary (ISSB- GRANARY) and others, which ensure food security, especially for peasant farmers, to store their dry food, such as maize and legumes. This can be life saving in long dry spells during planting season, droughts, extreme weather events, epidemics and even conflicts. By replacing animal protein with plant protein, pulses can also contribute to nutritional challenges in the developed world. Vegetarian and vegan diets rely heavily on lentils for their protein source.

A new way to celebrate #meatlessmondays!

This blog post is also inspired, in part by, our walk in the neighborhood yesterday. Very few things excite my family as the sight of exotic food items. We saw a variety of lentils (pictured above) at a neighborhood Asian store and bought them in an instant. To my delight, RR (an omnivore), was especially excited to pick up the different colored and shaped beans and whole grains. #MeatlessMondays shall be #LegumeMondays in our households from now on. For the recipe, please read on till the end.


Quick homemade hummus

This post Legumes to alleviate world hunger (and bonus recipe), first appeared on

Quick lemony home made hummus dip:

Author: Pallavi

Recipe type: appetizers, dips, school lunch/ tiffin box addition, office snack
Prep time:  5
Cook time:  
Total time:  20 
Tools needed: Food processor or high speed blender and spatula
Yields: >1 cup hummus
Cuisine: Mediterranean
 Level: Beginner


  • ¼ cup toasted sesame seeds
  • ¼ cup lemon juice (from 1 ½ to 2 lemons)
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium clove garlic
  • ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 ½ teaspoons toasted sesame oil, divided, more to taste (optional)
  • 1 can (15 ounces) chickpeas, rinsed and drained, or 1 ½ cups cooked chickpeas
  • 2 to 4 tablespoons water or as needed* (see notes)
  • 1 teaspoon raw sesame seeds (optional)


  1. Toast the sesame seeds in a heavy bottom pan on medium low heat until golden brown (be very careful and stir constantly as to not burn them.) Remove from heat and let them cool.
  2. In a food processor (like cuisinart) or high-powered blender (e.g hamilton beach), combine the toasted sesame seeds, lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, salt, and ½ teaspoon of the sesame oil (if using.) Process for about 1 ½ minutes, pausing to scrape down the sides as necessary. Pulse until the mixture is smooth and creamy.
  3. Add half of the chickpeas to the food processor and process again for 1 minute. Keep scraping down the bowl and adding the remaining chickpeas 1 Tbsp at a time and process until the hummus is thick and smooth, 1 to 2 more minutes.
  4. While running the food processor, drizzle in 2 to 4 tablespoons of water, until it reaches your desired consistency and level of creaminess. Taste and season with additional salt as needed and toasted sesame oil (I had it in the fridge)
  5. Scrape the hummus into a small serving bowl or an airtight container.
  6. Serve with accompaniments of your choice like toasted pita bread, carrot or bell pepper or celery sticks, crackers, or so on. Leftover hummus should keep well, chilled, for 4 to 5 days.

Recipe notes: I did not have tahini, which is traditionally used for making hummus. I used the toasted sesame seeds instead and still got the creamy thick hummus!

I soaked the chickpeas over night and cooked them. I did not add that time to the total cooking time.

*I saved the water from cooking the chickpeas and added that for added flavor.

How becoming a driver made me a better pedestrian (again).


Passed on my third attempt!

“Babe I can’t ever see you as a driver” and “Keep my Jija (brother in law) and bhanja (nephew) safe when you drive or better yet never get behind the wheels in the first place” were some of the reactions that I received upon clearing my road test last week. The second statement came from my younger brother (BTW he is the best driver that I have ever known, and poor thing tried to teach me how to drive preposterously in India, on the left side of the road). Indeed, he has the license to say all that to me.

While I got only 5 points (you need 30 points to pass it in the US), and made me very proud and accomplished of myself, that is not the point of this post.

I was born and lived in India for most of my adult life. I traveled mostly in the northern Indian states for work and pleasure and had the luxury of being driven around by others. I was mostly a passenger as family, friends and colleagues drove me from point A to B. That made me very nervous getting behind the wheels until recently, however it definitely helped me sharpen my skills as a pedestrian.

In India, there are hardly any ‘right of way’ rules (ask my transport planner friends and hear them cringe at the mere mention of the term), so you have to really pay attention while crossing the streets, boarding a bus and of course driving. They are trying to change all that through policy changes in the major cities now, however much is still left to be done, especially in cities like the one, where I grew up.

Somehow, after migrating to the US, I just let my pedestrian skills, from India, rust. I started to blindly follow the traffic lights and putting my absolute faith in the drivers around me. Taking the public transportation to work and other places, also didn’t help the matters, in the past six years.

What changed?

One of my goals for 2017 was to clear my road test to be able to drive in the US and Canada. The journey to that goal began in March this year, when I took and passed the written exam. Then came the hardest part, getting behind the wheels.


The Holy Grail to pass the written exam

One of my driving instructor outlined the fact that I need to memorize the driver’s manual word for word, if I want to become a safe driver. I took his advice to heart, however it still took me three tries to clear my road test.


How my copy of the manual looks now

The main thing lacking for me, in being a safe driver was the observation and judgement of my surroundings, while driving. I am thankful to my driving instructors and RR, who helped me sharpen those two skills in the past two months or so and constantly encouraged to help clear the test with flying colors.

How I have become a better pedestrian?

Now when I step out of the house,  its not just trusting the traffic lights, other drivers and the right of way rules and so on. I make sure and take a few additional seconds to observe my entire surroundings before stepping into the crosswalk. I have also developed a new found respect for defensive and safe drivers and a distaste (I dare say) for jaywalkers and others.

“Look left, look right and then again look left” is what I tell my toddler now, just like I was taught growing up in India. Holds true universally and even today.



Women, Water and Climate Change

 A women carrying water in rural India

Struggling to save their failing crops, walking farther afield to fetch clean water, protecting their families from devastating storms and violent conflicts.  “Who should be the leaders in the climate change policy debate? I would say women,” said Harman. “I think we have the best experience and adequate training in every respect to lead on the climate change arguments.”said the speakers on June 23 during a conference on women and climate change.

In developing countries such as India and most Asian, African, LatAm and SID countries, women carry the lead role in the knowledge around quality, location, reliability and storage of local water resources. On average, women spend more time than men collecting, storing and protecting their water source. This takes their time away from the ability to learn and contribute in other ways. In just one day, 200 million work hours are consumed as women collect water for their families. This has graver consequences for the girl child, preventing many young girls from attending school or participating in other more productive activities. Some women have to walk about 3 miles to collect water on average in not only the rural or desert states but also in the towns/urban slums. Collecting water can also be dangerous; especially for girls and women, who live in war-stricken/conflict areas.

“Women are more than half of the world’s population, but many do not receive support for their environmental leadership and that leadership is unique, innovative, and often comes at great risk,” said Maxine Burkett, a Wilson Center fellow, law professor at the University of Hawaii, and vice chair of the board of the Global Greengrants Fund. “Less than 0.01 percent of worldwide private grants fund projects at the intersection of women and climate change,” she said during the above conference. This is even more pronounced in regions like north Indian states of Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Bihar and so on, where the farming is mostly male dominant and decision making mostly lies in the hands of the males in the communities. Even in the hilly states of Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh, where women run the farms and households primarily, the decision making is made mainly by the males in a household.

Empowering women through education, economic opportunities, and reproductive health care can also make powerful contributions to climate resilience.

On Womens’ Equality Day 2016 in the US, I can only think of one way to celebrate and mark the occasion, by involving women in decision making every step of the way towards climate change and water policy arguments and decisions.


This article has been adopted from its original version. Please visit the original article for additional information, video, data and click on the urls in this blog for past posts.

Embedded Water and virtual water trade drying up Indian agriculture

Irrigation via tubewell

Irrigation via tubewell

Embedded Water:

India, a country of more than 1.3B, has seen her worst drought in two years, so much so that towns like Latur in Maharashtra state had to be served by trains full of water for its residents.

Embedded water is one of the key factors driving this agricultural country towards drought, says Prashant Goswami, Director and Climate Scientist at CSIR-National Institute of Science, Technology and Development Studies in New Delhi, in his latest interview with Bloomberg.”We export agriculture products without any thought,”.”When water is embedded in a product that’s exported, it’s lost forever. That’s a bigger danger for our water.”

Unseen in 850 kilograms (1,874lbs) of wheat is about 128 kilograms (282 lbs) of water that is embedded within the food. Millions of farmers in India account for about 2.5 percent of global agriculture exports, meaning that a large amount of water embedded in produce is shipped overseas and lost for good by a nation still emerging from one of its worst droughts in decades.

Personal reflections:

Having lived and worked in the north Indian agriculture dominant states of Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Punjab and Rajasthan, I can relate to Prof. Goswami’s observations.

I remember my very first assignment, working at Janhit Foundation in Meerut, towards the promotion of sustainable/organic agriculture practices starting in 2002, when I was a postgraduate student in Environmental Sciences and Public Health.

I was astounded to observe how incessantly the tubewells used to run on electricity or more expensive diesel powered generators in the agricultural fields in and around Meerut district. Meerut residents, boasted about living in the Doab (region between two river, the Ganga (Ganges) and Yamuna basins) in western Uttar Pradesh.

As emphasized in the article, Goswami predicts that at this rate of exporting water intensive crops such as wheat, sugarcane and rice, India will run out of all her water supply in 1,000 years.

It has always been presumed by the farmers and policymakers that groundwater reserves are a plenty, soil very fertile and reserve of soil minerals adequate to grow all the water intensive cash crops such as sugarcane, wheat and paddy. However, in the decades following the green revolution, the condition has deteriorated owing to the following reasons:

  • Mono-cropping prevalence throughout the region
  • Extensive use of chemicals in farming
  • Abandoning of traditional seeds and methods in farming
  • Diminished livestock usage in practicing agriculture
  • Increasing abandoning of agriculture by farmers’ next generations
  • Declining cost benefit involved in farming
  • Climate change
  • Depleting and polluted groundwater aquifers due to over exploitation
  • Exponential growth in population

Talk to the farmers in any of the above mentioned northern Indian states and they will tell you that they had dug at least five times deeper for pumping out water for irrigation than their fathers. The farmers have to continue to explore deeper underground aquifers on a regular basis, at times even annually, to sustain the irrigation and agriculture.

Learning from the neighbors:

Unplanned and unabated subsidies on electricity and chemicals by the policymakers has left Indian agriculture in these dire straits. Its time to look at India’s neighbors and take a few pointers. China, for instance, has stopped exporting water intensive crops like paddy and increased importing water loaded crops in the recent years. India should do the same for its agriculture to remain sustainable.

“Policy makers need to sit down and ensure that we import food in such a way that we bring in more water,” Goswami said. “The world is no longer innocent of this virtual water trade.”

Disclaimer: This article has been adopted from the original article that appeared on the Bloomberg website. For more information and data, please read the original article and click on the urls.

From Flint, MI to Latur, India- How accountability can aid sustainable water management

Berlin-based Water Integrity Network (WIN) released a report in March on global water and sanitation status equivalent to the Panama Papers, wherein they allege that universal access to water and sanitation requires more transparency and accountability.

Clean, safe water will remain out of reach for more than a billion people and billions of investment dollars will be lost if government leaders, utilities, and investors do not stem corruption in the global water industry, says the report.

Awareness about the misconduct that affects

  • water delivery systems,
  • infrastructure projects, and
  • policy

has grown over the past decade, but there is little indication that levels of corruption have declined, the report found.

Moreover, corruption occurs at all levels of government and in private businesses. It can take many forms, from bribes paid to acquire water service, to lax enforcement of pollution laws, to the misuse of funds earmarked for water system improvements.

Children, women and poor are the most vulnerable groups when it comes to bearing the brunt of lack of transparency and inadequate water quantity and quality.

India has more than 300 million people, who lack access to potable water and sanitation services. The recent crisis in Latur, in the western Indian state of Maharashtra, has caught everyone’s attention.  In the US, hundreds and thousands of children are prone to water borne diseases in the states of MI and NJ, all thanks to our aging infrastructure.

“A major area of concern is in the planning and construction of infrastructure, much of which is vitally needed to provide water services, irrigation and hydropower for millions of people,” says the author. “However, small- and large-scale projects alike require careful scrutiny in their planning and delivery. In some cases data has been misused to justify the construction of prestige projects that never achieve their aims or value for money. In other cases communities displaced by large-scale dams have been cheated out of their compensation. In a project in Pakistan, it is estimated that 80 per cent of compensation went to bogus owners.” In Nepal, a recent report stated that one year ago, the first of two massive earthquakes ripped through, killing more than 8,000 people. Some $4 billion of assistance was pledged to the rebuilding effort, but political gridlock and corruption have left the displaced survivors to largely fend for themselves. WASH is one of the prominent issues facing the effected population.

Some international development organizations and businesses have already taken steps to reduce corruption in the projects that they finance or construct.  To bridge the gap, the report offers three recommendations:

1. Coordinate and involve all branches of civil society, the private sector, legislators, regulators, the judicial system, and prominent political and institutional leaders to reform water governance and commit to reducing corruption.

2. Collect data on the extent of existing corruption, as well as on the economic and social consequences of that corruption.

3. Develop transparency, hold decision makers accountable, include all relevant parties in decisions about water projects, and strengthen laws and regulations against corruption.

“We now know what the issues are in relation to corruption in the water sector,” the report concludes. “These need to be addressed systematically, politically, professionally – and urgently. The time has come to act. We must no longer allow corruption to flourish and integrity to be undermined.”

This article has been adapted from the original article that was published in the circle of blue.

Water is Jobs on World Water Day 2016

#Waterisjobs: A women carrying water in rural India

#Waterisjobs: A women carrying water in rural India

The Hindus festival of colors, ‘Holi’ , coincided with the ‘World Water Day’ this year. The UN International Day of Forest was also celebrated yesterday with the theme, Forest and Water.  The event entitled “Forests and Water | Sustain Life and Livelihoods” being organized today, is to raise awareness of the interconnections between forests and water and their contributions to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

In developing countries, such as India, women carry the lead role in the knowledge around quality, location, reliability and storage of local water resources. They are also tasked with the collection of wood and other materials from the forests for fuel to cook and bring light into their homes in the evenings. The role of women becomes important, especially in the off-grid Last Mile Communities (LMCs) and Base of Pyramid (BoP) populations.

On an average, women spend more time than men collecting, storing and protecting their water source. This takes their time away from the ability to learn, earn and contribute in other ways to their households and ultimately to their society. In just one day, 200 million work hours are consumed as women collect water for their families. This has graver consequences for the girl child, preventing many young girls from attending school or participating in other productive activities. Some women have to walk about 3 miles to collect water on average in not only the rural or desert states but also in the towns/urban slums. Collecting water can also be dangerous, especially for girls and women who live in war-stricken/conflict areas with the fears of abuse or attacks, making them more vulnerable.

My recollection of a woman’s struggle for clean water goes back to the time when I started working for Janhit Foundation in Meerut in 2003.  It continued until my last year of working in India in 2011, when I was working for WWF India’s Living Ganga Program under HSBC Climate Partnership. It still goes on as I keep reading about the grim situation of dwindling groundwater supply, polluted aquifers as well as poor watershed management in the developing countries. This results in the drudgery of women furthermore.

In towns like Meerut in Uttar Pradesh state of India, the day of a woman and/or girl in a household, starts with water and ends with water.  During my time at Janhit Foundation, we studied the Dabal Community, in an urban slum known as ‘Jai Bheem Nagar’. The findings were not only startling in terms of the public health havoc being played by the polluted water and dangerous surroundings but also heart breaking in terms of the exploitation of the women and girl child in the face of unavailability of potable water. They had to travel long distances everyday making the girls skip the school and spend the entire day carrying water load from the point source to their households so as to help their mothers. Local organizations, such as the NEER Foundation, are now bearing the torch to bring clean potable water to this community with the help of International nonprofits, such as water collective.

In the last days of my working in India, I went to work in the city of Kanpur in U.P. The situation remained grim there too, in terms of clean and safe water availability to the women and girl child. The industrial pollution is ubiquitous in Kanpur. This forces the women to rely on the daily municipal water supply. Where water is not available through a supply pipeline, the story repeats itself once again for the women and girl child.

In the United States, we have seen people, especially kids, in Flint, Newark, and likely other communities poisoned by lead because of an aging water infrastructure. In the desert Southwest and California, we face shrinking aquifers from years of drought and over withdrawals for agriculture and other uses. Along the East Coast, many communities, from Miami to Norfolk to New York, are at risk from the trifecta of devastating sea-level rise, storm surge, and subsidence that could put large swaths of these regions under water even longer than Hurricane Sandy did a few years ago.

Around the world, communities face similar problems and risks:

  • water too polluted for drinking or bathing,
  • children who die prematurely from water-borne diseases, and
  • entire regions in peril from either too much or too little water.

From Michigan to Mogadishu to Uttar Pradesh, we live in a world less prepared than ever to address the challenges of water contamination, scarcity, and flooding.

There is light at the end of tunnel though. The White House is hosting a Water Summit to mark the World Water Day 2016. As part of the event, a number of “commitments” to water are being made. One of the featured organizations, The Alliance for Global Water Adaptation (AGWA) is making two commitments, listed on the White House fact sheet.

March is an important month as there are so many international days of significance, including International Women’s Day, International Day of Forests and last but not the least ‘World Water Day’. The effort of ridding the women and society of this drudgery should be a conscious, collective and continuous effort, not to be left only to a day or two in the month of March but to be continued every day of the year. The efforts made by all the above organizations and many more shall go a long way in achieving this goal.

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