In Cairo, drinking tap water is considered to be a game with rules similar to Russian roulette — the possibility of dying is high. The concentration of bacteria in the water is astounding and the majority of the population living in Cairo’s slums does not have access to the hot water necessary to cook and bathe.
On average, it takes a mother seven hours to bathe her children. She must retrieve water from a well and carry it in a bucket back to her home before warming it up on the stove before she can give any of her children a bath.
To increase the availability of hot water for people living in Coptic Christian and Muslim communities in Cairo, Solar Cities install environment-friendly solar panels on the rooftops of houses in the city’s poorer neighborhoods.
Solar Cities was started by two science Ph.D. recipients, Dr. TH Culhane and Dr. Sybille Culhane. The pair is currently working on their project, C.3.I.T.I.E.S., which stands for Connecting Community Catalysts Integrating Technologies for Industrial Ecology Solutions.
Dr. TH — Thomas Taha Rassam — Culhane’s project succeeds in generating 200 liters of hot water and 200 liters of cold water for each household every day. More than 30 solar water heaters line housetops in Cairo, providing many families with access to usable and drinkable water.
Situated primarily in the Coptic Christian community of Zabaleen and Darb Al-Ahmar, an Islamic neighborhood, Culhane works not only on providing residents with access to water but also on bringing the two communities closer together.
The idea for Solar Cities came to Culhane after he worked on projects in the Dayak of Boneo and Itza Maya jungle villages in Guatemala, and to gain a better understanding of the struggles of living under these conditions, Culhane and his wife moved into an apartment in Zabaleen.
There, they were able to gather practical knowledge on what issues needed to be resolved, namely finding an environmentally friendly way of gaining access to clean water.
The duo has since worked on increasing solar energy and clean water in Cairo and spreading innovative ideas throughout the Zabaleen and Darb Al-Ahmar communities.
As two science educators, they work to make their projects fun and interactive for all of their colleagues and the people they assist with the belief that creativity can lead to innovation, which in turn will make the world a more environmentally sustainable place.
– Julia Hettiger