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Bipolar Awareness in IndiaIndia is the second-most densely populated nation in the world, with more than 1.3 billion people. Of that number, more than 82 million citizens suffer from bipolar disorder, according to data from 2019. Bipolar disorder in India often goes undiagnosed and untreated for reasons ranging from ancient superstitions to the cost of treatment, but, bipolar awareness in India is steadily progressing.

Bipolar Disorder in India

Improved bipolar awareness in India exemplifies how a concerted effort can reduce stigma and create an affordable and readily available avenue for treatments such as therapy and medication. Indians, mostly women, have been disowned and abandoned by family or a spouse after receiving a bipolar diagnosis. In a country where the consequences of a mental condition are isolation and disconnection, the need for awareness and education is paramount.

A nation that once attributed bipolar disorder to demonic spirits, planetary alignments or a sinful past life, has come extremely far in its understanding of the illness. But, the stigma surrounding the disorder is still prevalent in India, and many, especially those from rural locations, believe bipolar disorder is a choice or an illness reserved for the rich and privileged.

BipolarIndia Organization

One resource improving bipolar awareness in India is the organization BipolarIndia. The community was created in 2013 by Vijay Nallawala, an Indian man that suffers from bipolar disorder, and his mentor and friend, Puneet Bhatnagar. BipolarIndia’s mission is to create an empathetic, judgment-free environment for bipolar people to find information, treatment, and most of all, support from those that can relate to their struggle.

BipolarIndia hosts a National Conference every year on World Bipolar Day to create awareness for the illness and educate residents from all over the country. In 2015, the organization began hosting monthly support meetings for individuals to speak with peers that can understand their struggle. It has also recently developed a way for patients to receive real-time support through the Telegram App when they feel they may need immediate help. Resources such as the Telegram App are invaluable due to the lack of mental health professionals in India.

The Mental Health Care Bill

Data from a 2005 report shows that there are only three psychiatrists per million citizens and only 0.06% of India’s healthcare budget goes toward improving mental healthcare. The Indian Government passed a Mental Health Care Bill in June of 2013 laying out a mission to improve bipolar awareness in India as well as reduce stigma surrounding all mental health issues. The bill has been undergoing revisions and policy modifications based on the guidance given by the Indian Association of Psychiatry.

Efforts to Raise Awareness

The government’s efforts to raise awareness about the complexity of bipolar disorder and the number of Indians that suffer in silence is vital to the disorder being understood. The Indian government aims to provide communities with adequate care and reliable information, leading the nation to a better understanding of a complicated mental disorder.

Bipolar awareness in India has improved with private organizations such as the International Bipolar Foundation (IBPF) funding research on effective treatments and raising awareness across the globe.

Also fighting for bipolar awareness, Indian celebrities, including Deepika Padukone, Rukh Kahn, Yo Yo Honey Singh and Anushka Sharma, have stepped forward and opened up about their personal battles with bipolar disorder, combatting the stigma surrounding the illness.

The Road Ahead

Bipolar awareness in India has slowly improved but still has a long way to go. If the government aims to change the attitude toward bipolar disorder and improve treatment, a significant investment in research is vital as well as a comprehensive understanding of the disorder.

–  Veronica Booth
Photo: Flickr

Improving Education in KashmirThe conflict in Kashmir has disproportionately affected education due to a variety of national as well as domestic threats. Children, in particular, are being significantly affected, Education in Kashmir was halted far before COVID-19 affected the rest of the world. Improving education in Kashmir is essential for poverty reduction.

Political Unrest and COVID-19

In August 2019, Article 370 of the Indian constitution that applied to Jammu and Kashmir was abrogated. Repealing this article revoked Kashmir’s semi-autonomous ‘special status’ as a state. As a way to curb anticipated unrest in the state, the Indian government blocked internet and phone lines. This crisis along with the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 has put the future of education in Kashmir on shaky ground, reflective of its political landscape. Between 2019 and 2020, schools in Kashmir officially functioned for as little as 100 days.

Internet Connectivity in Kashmir

According to the latest census, 68.74% of Jammu and Kashmir’s population are literate and males are 20% more literate than females. Roughly 27.21 % of the state of Kashmir live in rural areas where access to education is a key issue, especially during COVID-19. Over time, the Indian government has facilitated low-speed internet to select areas up to the speed of 2G. The issue is that a higher speed of internet is required for classes to be facilitated via Zoom, Skype or to be watched on YouTube. Other than the children, educators, college and graduate students are faced with a continuing lag that has affected education in Kashmir. The government has whitelisted some websites and restored higher speed connectivity in some districts of the state.

Aawo Padhain

The Directorate of School Education Kashmir has set up “Aawo Padhain” (Come Lets Study). It is a portal that is filled with E-content and video-based classes for children to continue studying during the lockdown. The center is also equipped with a free Child-Line for children in need of aid and assistance. Additionally, Whatsapp has become a portal for teachers to send educational videos to students. While this initiative addresses the issue of continuing education during COVID-19, more needs to be done to address the other issues that affect education in Kashmir. Improving education in Kashmir will have benefits that are far-reaching.

Education Reform

The National Educational Policy 2020 (NEP 2020), approved by the government on July 29, 2020, was introduced to implement changes to education, with special focus on Jammu and Kashmir. The policy is based on the pillars of “access, equity, quality, affordability, accountability” and will transform India into a “vibrant knowledge hub,” tweeted Prime Minister Narendra Modi. However, the success of such a policy depends on its implementation. Its effectiveness, or lack thereof, will be seen in due time. For successful educational transformation, Kashmir also needs well-qualified teachers, access to electricity, the internet, computers, technology and libraries. Furthermore, country-wide internet bans should not be allowed.

Kashmiri students have lived in a life of lockdown longer than the rest of the world has, with their education impacted long before COVID-19 came about. To bridge the overall gap in education in Kashmir, it is essential for the country to receive assistance to implement educational reform for improving education in Kashmir.

–  Anuja Mukherjee
Photo: Flickr

Farming Reform in IndiaToward the end of November 2020, more than 250 million people around the Indian subcontinent protested for farming reform in India. Protestors are pushing back against the three-piece legislation passed by the Indian Parliament which attempts to liberalize the agricultural sector by increasing Indian farmers’ access to bigger markets. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, argues that the recently passed agricultural bills intend to grant farmers autonomy and increase their income. However, Indian farmers fear these laws will threaten their livelihoods by leaving them vulnerable to exploitation by powerful agricultural corporations.

The Indian Agricultural Sector

The agricultural sector is an essential part of the Indian economy, as it generates livelihood for nearly 60% of the Indian population. Despite the vital role of Indian farmers, the agricultural sector only makes up 15-16% of the subcontinent’s GDP, leaving farmers grappling for livelihood. According to the National Crime Records Bureau of India, almost three million farmers have committed suicide in India since 1995. Having one of the highest suicide rates in the agricultural sector, Indian farmers have long suffered despair from tyrannical policies, debt, low income and climate change inducing production risks. On September 28, 2020, the Parliament attempted farming reform in India by passing three bills that the government and Modi claim will benefit farmers’ livelihoods by decreasing financial burdens and increasing profit.

The 3 Farming Acts Passed

Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act

  • Allows for intra-state trading, inner-state trading, electronic trading and e-commerce of produce.

  • Abolishes the imposition of government-determined financial burdens.

Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act

Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act

  • Withdraws the previously determined list of essential commodities.

  • Removes stockholding restriction on essential commodities.

  • Demands that levying of stockholding limit on produce emanates from increased price.

The Reason Behind Protests

With support for farming reform in India from all over the world, hundreds of thousands of farmers and those in solidarity have taken to the streets with a common goal: to have the acts repealed. The laws spark deep worry that transitioning to a free market will enable powerful agricultural businesses to take advantage of the farmers, potentially leading to loss of land, income and autonomy. Indian farmers, who sell their produce at a set rate, are certain that a market-aligned system will solely increase private equities welfare while continuing to forbade domestic benefits. Farmers are also concerned that differences in business objectives could leave farmers at risk of financial consequences from market unpredictability. Finally, farmers are fearful that the abolition of stockholding limits will empower corporations to distort prices for personal monetary reward.

Global Support for Indian Farmers

There is a consensus among Indian farmers that their agricultural sector requires reform. Although the new laws of farming reform in India promise to improve farmers’ livelihoods and freedom, the lack of trust in a market-friendly reform and the government’s incentive has prompted a collective demand for change. As the protestors persist with force, the demand for alternative farming reform in India is being heard by Prime Minister Modi who is beginning to listen to farmers’ concerns. The exploitation of farmers continues to spark global support for farming reform in India from organizations, advocates, politicians and humanitarians until fairness and justice is achieved.

– Violet Chazkel
Photo: Flickr

Affordable Housing In IndiaIndia is among the world’s poorest countries, with more than two-thirds of its residents living in extreme poverty. Recently, however, a changing economy centered around industrialization has prompted many rural residents to move to urban areas of the region. The interregional migration has led to an accumulation of slums and poor villages on the outskirts of cities. The problem prompts a powerful need for affordable housing in India. In recent years, new organizations have begun to answer this call with unique responses to alleviate the problem.

3 Ways India is Implementing Affordable Housing

  1. Big bank support for finances: One of the major banks leading this movement, the National Housing Bank of India, extends housing loans to low-income households. This allows for affordable housing at the lowest level while also expanding the Indian housing market. The bank’s project has positively impacted 15,000 households across 17 states in India, including households primarily managed by women. The expanded access to these loans is not the only aspect of this plan. Higher loans are also given out to poorer people to ensure that housing transactions are faster and more effective. These loans also help invest in important infrastructures like schools, temples and communal facilities.
  2. Government home-building initiatives: Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, has launched a “housing for all” campaign since his election. The urban focus of the plan pledges to build more than 12 million houses by the year 2022. Although only 3.2 million urban homes have come to fruition so far, more funding to continue the project is on the way. These efforts ensure that 40% of India’s population, now living in urban areas like Mumbai, has access to cheaper apartment buildings. The new housing spaces target a variety of people, including first-time buyers, older individuals and those aspiring to move to urban areas, a demographic that largely includes impoverished communities.
  3. Targeting traditional real estate developers: In addition to building affordable housing, the Indian Government is also taking steps to target real estate members who generally focus their efforts on higher-end living spaces. To combat this practice, the government gives more incentives for interest rates on middle-to-low class homes. Many major real estate companies only switched to marketing affordable housing (as late as 2018) after the introduction of these benefits. This trickle-down effect experienced in the real estate sector will in turn fuel the industry. In other words, it has a multiplied effect on India’s economy. The shift in the country’s housing market will make India a $5 trillion economy by 2025.

Affordable Housing Means Less Poverty

The combination of nongovernmental and governmental support in India is rapidly leading to positive changes in the country. The future of affordable housing in the region is on track to provide commodities to millions of people. With increased funding and more initiatives, India is a leading example of how affordable housing can raise standards of living and boost the economy, essentially alleviating poverty.

– Mihir Gokhale
Photo: Flickr

rice exportsPakistan and India are battling a rice war, as India is attempting to gain exclusive branding rights to export basmati rice to the EU. India’s trademark “geographic indication” for basmati rice has received approval from the EU and Pakistan has three months to respond to this claim or it will not be able to export basmati rice to the EU. Further implications of expanding geographic indication could compromise other markets for Pakistan, yet its response so far has been slow and inconsistent. The EU’s decision on basmati rice exports will influence each country’s economy, and with hundreds of millions of impoverished people between the two, there is much at stake.

The Value of Rice in Pakistan and India

The basmati rice industry is one that Pakistan heavily contributes to and relies on. Pakistan contributes to 35% of global basmati rice exports and its trade to the EU has grown from 120,000 tons in 2017 to 300,000 tons in 2019. A whole 40% of Pakistan’s workers work in agriculture, with rice accounting for 20% of agricultural land.

India exported 4.4 million tons of basmati rice between 2019 and 2020, which made up 65% of global basmati rice exports.

Rice Yield Challenges

Despite rice production increasing due to new practices, rice yields in both Pakistan and India are lower than the global average. Growing challenges such as drastic climate change can negatively influence annual rice production. Experts conclude that improving irrigation facilities and increasing the use of new technology will allow the countries to effectively expand their rice yields.

Population Growth & Economic Contraction

Already the fifth most populous nation in the world, projections have determined that Pakistan will grow from 220 million to 345 million by 2045. As its population continues to grow, its economy must grow at least 7% to prevent unemployment. However, in 2019, the economy contracted from 5.5% to 1.9% and the COVID-19 crisis further exacerbated this shrinkage. Unemployment has increased each year since 2014 and currently sits between 4% and 5%. It is imperative that Pakistan jumpstarts its economy or unemployment and poverty will spread.

Poverty in South Asia

Pakistan made great strides in reducing poverty in the early 2000s but has since stalled under more recent governments. By 2015, roughly one in four people, or 50 million Pakistanis, lived under the poverty line. Furthermore, there remains little opportunity for economic improvement.

India also has few opportunities for the poor to improve their lives as it placed 76 out of 82 countries in terms of social mobility. The lack of social mobility means that most people who are born poor will die poor, with minimal chances to jump to a higher social class. India also suffers from severe social inequality and a lack of growth in rural areas. A whole 364 million out of 1.3 billion, or 28% of the world’s poor live in India. However, globalization has allowed India to bring 270 million people out of poverty between 2005 and 2015. Consequently, since 1990, the life expectancy has increased by 11 years, schooling years have increased by three years and India has increased its human development index to above the medium average.

Malnutrition Causes Infant Mortality

Pakistan has an alarmingly high infant mortality rate of 55 deaths per 1,000 live births, which is twice that of India’s. A multitude of factors causes this, most notably, the malnutrition of mothers and their infants. Although wheat and rice are produced in abundant quantities, 44% of children under 5 suffer from stunted growth due to malnutrition. The problem is not whether food is available but it is that food is not accessible for the poor.

Rice as a Key Export

In Pakistan, rice provides value both nutritionally and economically. Rice accounts for 1.4% of the GDP and the traditional basmati rice makes up 0.6% of the GDP. However, most rice is sold as an export and is not used to feed hungry mouths domestically. In 2019, Pakistan exported $2.17 billion worth of rice, of which $790 million was basmati, a 25% increase from 2018.

A whole 90% of the rice grown in India is consumed domestically. Boasting the second-largest population in the world of 1.3 billion people, India accounts for 22% of global rice production but has many more people to feed than Pakistan. India is projected to produce 120 million tons of rice between 2020 and 2021.

Basmati rice exports generate massive profit for each country, If one country were to gain an advantage over the market, it would create enormous value for the winner and dire consequences for the loser. The winner would stand to gain economically and competitively as a result of increased production and profits. Additionally, increased demand for agricultural workers and production in rural areas would create revenue in historically impoverished areas.

– Adrian Rufo
Photo: Flickr

How Ekal Vidyalaya is Adapting for Indian ChildrenIn India, literacy and education stand as critical tests to measure success, whether in future prospects for the individual or future success for a community. After the end of British rule in the nation, the literacy rate stood at about 12%. Today, the rate has more than quintupled to nearly 70% across the nation. Even so, disparities exist across villages, provinces and states. To tackle these issues and advance the education of India’s next-generation, a non-profit organization is helping the children in the midst of a global pandemic. Ekal Vidyalaya is adapting for Indian children, continues to build schools, prioritize sustainability and maintain ambitious objectives from a variety of different chapters across not just India, but around the world.

Initial Difficulties and Welcome Surprises

As a non-profit, Ekal Vidyalaya delivers various resources and instructional services through its village-to-village outreach. Establishing schools with a teacher impacts a previously education-lacking community in significant ways. Before the pandemic, various Ekal Vidyalaya’s chapters would host different events per year to raise funds to allow various programs to continue. The Chapter President Senthil Kumar detailed to the Borgen Project how typical efforts would no longer be viable this year. Kumar shared that most of the average fundraisers are cultural events for local Indian communities in various parts of the world. It drew in between $70,000 and $100,000. He carefully notes that just “$1 can keep a school open for a day.”

Moreover, Ekal Vidyalaya seeks to grow its impact in communities 10-20% more than last year. Because of significant differences across India’s economic, geographical and social landscape, funding necessities can vary. In addition, transitioning to online events has its own advantages. Local gatherings can still survive in digital spaces. Because annual events usually bring in singers, actors, and other notable icons from India, overhead fees can be entirely forgoed. Empty seats in auditoriums are not concerns over Zoom or similar platforms. As a result, this diverts resources to more directly meet program financial targets. It makes a tangible change for rural children and has allowed the same level of grassroots fundraising to persist, according to Kumar. Adapting for Indian children might mean venue changes and alterations from a traditional schedule. However, it seems that sacrificing the fundamental missions is not an insurmountable concern.

An Implementation Landscape: Three Things to Know

  1. Kumar told The Borgen Project that “[About 30%] of all schools are self-sustaining.” He spoke on the long-term ability of Ekal Vidyalaya to support students and communities to utilize and provided tools for future improvement. The Standard Social Innovation Review points to “scale and scarcity.” They are the two most essential obstacles that nonprofits and organizations working in India have to overcome. To that end, Ekal Vidyalaya continues to strive forward to meet its ultimate goal of total literacy across India. With well over 120,000 schools running, supported by trained volunteers and others, a necessary review of financial disbursement comes into the forefront.

  2. The usage and allocation of the fund play a crucial role in a nonprofit’s vision. According to Kumar, funds Ekal Vidyalaya raises are divided into the following amounts: 60% is set for teachers and teaching, 27% is for training and capacity, 4% is dedicated for teaching materials and 9% is used for administrative costs. While these numbers alone don’t necessarily signal direct change, a key signifier of the nonprofit’s attentiveness to its mission. By extension, its effectiveness is its recent shift in order to facilitate adapting for Indian children and families during the COVID-19 pandemic.

  3. Efforts in towns and communities, outside of Ekal villages, highlight wide-scale mask distributions and food outreach. There is also information campaigns that make use of Ekal resources to protect Indian communities. The teachers and volunteers served as health volunteers in many situations. Additionally, they keep villages and tribal areas safer under guidelines through checks that might have otherwise been difficult to establish and enforce. While the situation has changed, useful approaches using existing resources also testify to the resiliency of Ekal villages. In many areas, trained villagers are taught through school programs and skills sessions to manufacture materials like face masks. This is to ensure reliable incomes and necessary local health support.

The landscape that Ekal Vidyalaya functions on is perpetually shifting. However, it isn’t beyond the reach of sustained communal efforts and careful elasticity when meeting new intentions and ambitions. Even in light of a public health crisis, Ekal Vidyalaya’s work extends beyond a single facet of nonprofit capability. Due to the nature of its support and of where it’s positioned, Ekal Vidyalaya bears the capacity for change. This change happens in the relatively short term and in the long term. The education, literacy and future of millions of India’s next-generation depend on this.

Alan Mathew

Photo: Pexels

4 Ways India’s Government Can Improve its EconomyRecently, Bangladesh, once considered one of the world’s poorest countries, has surpassed India in GDP per capita. This news has caused outrage among Indian citizens, but the government will not be able to mimic Bangladesh in creating a more prominent low-wage manufacturing export sector. Instead, India needs reforms that will create higher incomes for everyday workers, who are the backbone and foundation of the country’s economy.

GDP per capita measures the average income earned per person in a country during a given year. In 2019, India’s GDP per capita was $2,104. However, in 2020, this figure dropped to $1,876, placing the country one spot below Bangladesh, which currently has a GDP per capita of $1,887. Unlike India, Bangladesh has experienced consistent economic growth over the past three years.

Indian citizens are demanding that Narendra Modi, the country’s prime minister, enact reforms and policies that will boost GDP per capita by improving wages for India’s working class. Here are four ways that India could potentially boost its GDP per capita.

4 Ways India’s Government Can Improve GDP

  1. Increasing income for farmers. In India, 40% of the population works in agriculture and small-scale farming supports many poverty-level communities. However, the Indian government has historically kept prices for agricultural products low in favor of the consumer, despite the lower profits for farmers. The recently introduced 2020 Farm Acts will allow farmers to sell their products to the highest bidder, allowing them to seek higher incomes. When farmers are prospering, they support other sectors of India’s economy through their own consumption. Products like fertilizer, working attire and tools are necessary for farmers, especially as they expand their business. This increase in expenditure directly creates jobs for others.
  1. Through government expenditure and investment in infrastructure. The government controls the amount the nation spends on public matters each year. However, government spending is necessary to increase the overall GDP per capita. This year, incomes have declined for Indian citizens, meaning private consumption has also decreased. By spending money on building and repairing roads and bridges, the government will provide citizens with greater ease and efficiency in their work and create jobs in construction. Furthermore, by using more funds to pay higher salaries, private consumption will once again increase, promoting higher business investment and improving the market for imports and exports. By spending a certain amount of money, the government would benefit from the economic boost created as a result.
  1. Urbanizing India’s rural populations. Urbanization drives economic growth, and because India’s farming population is so prominent, moving some of these farmers to cities would allow them to get jobs in manufacturing. Not only would this increase agricultural productivity by decreasing the number of farmers using the same amount of land, but it would help grow some of India’s medium-sized cities into more prominent urban landscapes. The government can promote migration to city areas by providing incentives to rural populations, including investing in better infrastructure and urban services, such as transportation and water management. In addition, new urban populations would create a resurgence of the housing market and give banks more lending opportunities. Inevitably, more development and urbanization would create new opportunities for international investments and manufacturing exports.
  1. Becoming competitive in high-potential sectors. India has the opportunity to create as much as $1 trillion in economic value by establishing itself as a competitive manufacturer of electronics, chemicals, textiles, auto goods and pharmaceuticals. These sectors accounted for 56% of global trade in 2018, while India only contributed to 1.5% of global exports in these areas. Greater urbanization and an increase in the manufacturing labor force would allow India’s government to make this a reality. Currently, the country’s imports constitute a greater percentage of global trade than its exports. By increasing competitiveness in these sectors, India would not only increase its potential for exports but also decrease its reliance on imports, curbing the amount of money spent by citizens on foreign products.

While the path to economic recovery is not always as straightforward as it seems, India’s government has several means through which it can improve incomes for everyday workers. The government not only has an incentive but an obligation to create a better quality of life for its working class, which is the foundation of India’s economy. Improving India’s GDP per capita would directly benefit the nation and its citizens. Greater opportunities for manufacturing exports, foreign investments and urbanization are all benefits the country would reap from its own investment in its working class.

– Natasha Cornelissen
Photo: Flickr

A Million Wells for Bangalore: Restoring Water to the Indian CityAbout 12 million people currently live in the fast-growing Indian city of Bangalore, also known as Bengaluru. The Bengaluru Development Authority estimates that that number may reach 20.3 million by 2031. Bangalore’s increase in population exacerbates an already severe water shortage. Fortunately, the non-profit Biome Environmental Trust has started a new initiative to combat this issue: A Million Wells for Bangalore.

A Million Wells for Bangalore aims to employ Mannu Vaddars, traditional well diggers, to dig a million wells around the city. The initiative empowers Mannu Vaddars who have struggled to find work while ensuring that Bangalore residents will have an adequate water supply.

Water Usage in Bangalore

For thousands of years, Bangalore’s residents depended on open wells as an important source of water. Rain refills the open wells that are tapped into underground aquifers and runoff from nearby lakes. But during the 1880s and 1890s, improved plumbing brought water to the city through pipes. Around the same time, a cholera outbreak contaminated many of the city’s wells, and they fell out of use.

The city’s abundant yearly rainfall used to naturally fill aquifers and wells, providing residents with necessary water. However, pavement now stops rainfall from filtering into the ground. As a result, rainwater runs off of buildings and into the surrounding areas. Today, the city relies on water piped from miles away. The nearest water source is the Cauvery River, which is 63 miles to the south.

Additionally, many of Bangalore’s residents receive water from bore wells, which extend over 200 feet into the ground. However, bore wells refill with water very slowly, so overuse of a well renders it useless for years. As the city’s population grows, more and more bore wells have dried up, leaving residents dependent on piped water and insufficient water tanks.

Mannu Vaddars

Mannu Vaddars have dug Bangalore’s open wells throughout history, using traditions that are passed down through generations. They dig easily rechargeable open wells, ensuring that the groundwater in Bangalore remains stable. Today, around 750 Mannu Vaddar families live in and around Bangalore. Together, they have the capacity to dig up to 1,000 wells per day.

In order to dig a well, seven or eight Mannu Vaddars work together for three days. They use a string to measure a circle with a radius of around three feet. Typically, one member of a team will dig while the rest pull out dirt from the deepening well. Mannu Vaddars dig until the well has reached a depth where water trickles in. Aside from the use of cement to form the walls of the well rather than stone, the practice has not changed much over centuries.

A Million Wells for Bangalore

The initiative A Million Wells for Bangalore is working to solve the city’s water shortage by turning to the traditional skills of these Mannu Vaddars. By hiring the Mannu Vaddars to dig shallow “recharge wells,” the initiative provides residents with wells that are quickly refilled by rain and groundwater. The head of the initiative, Vishwanath Srikantaiah, estimated that if Mannu Vaddars increased the city’s open wells to a million, 50-60% of rainwater could be returned to the wells and to the ground. The result would be both environmentally and financially positive. Floods and run-off would decrease, and water would be cheaper.

The initiative was launched in 2018, and it helped the city’s Mannu Vaddars find more work in their field. As demand for recharge wells grows, so does the demand for Mannu Vaddars’ skills. Bangalore currently has 100,000 open wells, so reaching one million wells will take considerable effort and time. But if Mannu Vaddars can help dig 900,000 more wells, Bangalore could become self-sustaining in terms of water. Residents would enjoy a greater quality of life.

Sarah Brinsley
Photo: Flickr

Ganges RiverMore individuals depend on the Ganges River in India than there are people in the United States. More than 400 million people live at the basin of the Ganges, making it one of the most important natural water resources in the world. A holy river in the Hindu faith, the Ganges River (or Ganga) is used to bathe, cook, wash clothes, conduct funerals and more. Entire businesses along the basin depend on the river, adding an economic dependence to it as well. Due to this immense usage, pollution has run rampant. The Ganga Action Parivar estimates that “2.9 billion liters of wastewater from sewage, domestic and industrial sources are dumped” in the river every single day. Pollution reduction in the river is a top priority to prevent hundreds of millions of Indians from facing water insecurity.

The World Bank Assists

In 2011, the World Bank targeted the Ganges River pollution issues by launching the National Ganga River Basin Project (or NGRBP). A $1 billion initiative, the NGRBP looked to create bank investments in the water sanitation department and develop better waste management control in India. While this did prove to be a step in the right direction, the Ganges still saw a rise in pollution. India’s inability to properly dispose of waste outpaced the World Bank’s project. After nine years, the World Bank looked to bolster its contribution to the fight to save the Ganges as more and more Indians were becoming sick. In June 2020, the Second Ganga River Basin Project received approval from World Bank directors despite the bank focusing on COVID-19, proving how dire the situation at the basin truly is. An 18-year commitment, this second NGRBP adds another $380 million to clean up the Ganges until 2038.

Ganga Action Parivar’s Impact

Along with international help from the World Bank, India also made pollution control a national issue. An array of agencies have come about in India centered around the purification of the Ganges. For over a decade, the Ganga Action Parivar (GAP) has taken a diplomatic approach to fight water pollution. Through communication with government officials, media outlets and fundraising, the GAP looks to bring awareness to the issue and demand action from within India. In 2016, the GAP launched the National Ganga Rights Act and began asking for support for it. The act detailed how there are both natural environmental and human rights on the line with the continued pollution of the Ganges River. More than just a body of water, the Ganges is an epicenter of religion, prosperity and life. Creating a natural rights act helps to ensure that action will mobilize to protect the water resource and that is exactly what the GAP has set out to do.

The Year 2020 and Beyond

The year 2020 has been a promising year for pollution reduction in the Ganges River. The World Bank launched and financed its second project centered around cleaning the water back in June 2020. New research suggests that there has also been a natural cleansing that has taken place over the past few months. Since COVID-19 forced India to shut down, the Ganges’ usage has dropped. In a video released by BBC News, just a mere 10% drop in usage throughout the pandemic has led to significant improvement in the sanitation of the Ganges. For years now, India’s government has been trying to find ways to heal the Ganges. While India and the world fight the COVID-19 virus, the Ganges River is healing. Once the lockdown ends, the work of the World Bank and GAP will be vital to keep the momentum going. If pollution rates continue to climb, India will have a water crisis on its hands. Sanitizing and protecting the Ganges is instrumental in helping India reduce its poverty rates and preserving a crucial water resource.

– Zachary Hardenstine
Photo: Flickr

WASH advancements in IndiaWater, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) is a public issue in India. Launched in 2014, the Swachh Bharat Mission (SMB) of India has seen great success in recent years in improving the health and sanitation of India’s people. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has aided in the mission, helping to educate and institute new technologies, such as Sunidhi toilets. Aided by UNICEF, additional initiatives like the National Rural Drinking Water Programme (NRDWP) and the implementation of WASH in schools and health facilities are contributing to the reduction of harmful and unsanitary practices. There have been several key WASH advancements in India.

6  Facts About WASH Advancements in India

  1. Urban Centers Bear the Brunt. Nationally, 910 million citizens do not have access to proper sanitation. With the rapid increase in population density in cities, there is an increasing strain on water and sanitation services. Despite urban centers housing the majority of India’s population, urban sanitation has been underfunded.
  2. Swachh Bharat’s Toilet Access and Job Creation. SMB’s primary objective is to reduce open defecation in India. Between 2018 to 2019, 93% of households had access to toilets, a noticeable jump from 77% in the previous year. SMB’s efforts have also seen economic benefits, including an increase in job opportunities. The construction of the sanitation infrastructure is responsible for employing over two million full-time workers. The creation of an additional two million jobs is expected in the coming years.
  3. Water in Rural Communities. Between 2017 to 2018, India’s national water mission expanded to become the National Rural Drinking Water Mission (NRDWM). While other programs and departments addressed sanitation in urban centers, NRDWM cares for the rural regions of India. One goal is the institution of piped water supplies to rural households. As of 2019, “18% of rural households had been provided with Piped Water Supply (PWS) household connections.”
  4. iJal Safe Water Stations. The Safe Water Network, a nonprofit organization created by Paul Newman, has reached communities through its iJal water stations. The locally owned stations provide access to clean, quality water in communities where water security is scarce. In 2019, 86 new stations were built, with a total of 319 stations built, reaching over a million people across 319 communities.
  5. Better Community Toilets. Improper sewer networks and poorly maintained public toilets lead to open defecation. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has sought solutions to this crisis, including the Reinvent the Toilet Challenge in 2011. The lack of safe public toilets is especially burdening on women. To address this concern, the WASH Institute leads the Sunidhi Toilet project. The project sees the construction of easily installable, self-cleaning public toilets.
  6. WASH Allies. USAID and UNICEF have worked in cooperation with the Government of India. As of September 2020, USAID reported recent achievements, including greater access to safe drinking water,  more household toilets and a decrease in public defecation. UNICEF has aided in the education and implementation of hygiene, particularly in schools and health facilities.

Recent years have seen several WASH advancements in India. The Indian government, large and small businesses as well as nonprofit organizations, are all playing an important part in ensuring access to safe water and sanitation. Education and creative solutions are made possible thanks to hard work and global cooperation.

Kelli Hughes
Photo: Flickr