Dr. B.P. Agrawal of Sustainable Innovations has won both the $100,000 Lemelson-MIT Award for Sustainability and the 2010 Energy Globe World Award for his community-driven rainwater harvesting system.
Aakash Ganga: Access to Clean Water in Rural Areas
Funded with Agrawal’s first World Bank Development Marketplace Award, Aakash Ganga (AG), or River from Sky, is a rainwater harvesting system currently installed in six drought-prone villages in Rajasthan, the driest state in India. The AG system rents rooftops from homeowners and channels the rooftop rainwater through gutters and pipes to a network of underground storage reservoirs. This network of reservoirs is designed to provide 10 – 12 liters of water daily to every person in an entire village for a year; to-date, it has helped 10,000 villagers gain access to clean water. Agrawal is now working with the local, state and national governments for widespread adoption of AG.
AG’s holistic functionality is as vital to achieving large-scale success as is its transformative technology. Agrawal created a simple, self-sustaining execution plan – villagers rent their rooftops to others, enabling them to sell water and collect what they view as “free money.” 70 percent of harvested water is sold or used for individual families; the rest goes to horticulture. This dramatically improves sanitation, creates revenue to compensate each entrepreneur and covers operating costs. Additionally, the access to drinking water frees time for girls to attend school and women to be more economically productive.
Agrawal realized the importance of cultural acceptance early on, incorporating Jalwa Puja, an Indian tradition for mothers to worship at water wells, into AG’s execution. Mothers are invited to worship at the shared reservoirs; in turn, they become goodwill ambassadors and shield the tanks from potential sanitation issues. AG further economizes familial bonds to ensure low-cost maintenance by engraving local mason’s names onto the reservoirs. The recognition obligates villagers to take care of the reservoirs.
“AG demonstrates an alternative model that provisions water in lieu of the typical inefficient, poorly performing public works projects,” says Kirsten Spainhower, Portfolio Coordinator of the Development Marketplace, World Bank. “Agrawal’s system functions as a hybrid of a social enterprise and a public-private-community partnership, and takes great care to be attentive to social issues surrounding caste, class and gender.”
Agrawal’s rainwater harvesting system has indeed been a tremendous success, almost doubling the number of houses included in the original plan. Building on this initial accomplishment, the Indian government’s Ministry of Rural Development has expressed interest in implementing AG in 40 villages, for 100,000 people, and The Department of Science and Technology is evaluating Sustainable Innovations’ proposal to execute AG in 40 Rajasthan villages
Lemelson-MIT Award for Sustainability
The Lemelson-MIT Program announced Dr. Agrawal as recipient of the 2010 $100,000 Lemelson-MIT Award for Sustainability on 28 April 2010. The awards was given not only for his community-driven rainwater harvesting system but also for the mobile health clinics that he developed for villagers in rural India.
Agrawal was selected as the winner of the prestigious prize by a distinguished panel of scientists, technologists, engineers and entrepreneurs. He will accept the award and present his innovations to the public at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology during the Lemelson-MIT Program’s fourth-annual EurekaFest, a multi-day celebration of the inventive spirit, June 16 – 19.
The Lemelson-MIT Program recognizes the outstanding inventors and innovators transforming our world, and inspires young people to pursue creative lives and careers through innovation. Jerome H. Lemelson, one of U.S. history’s most prolific inventors, and his wife Dorothy founded the Lemelson-MIT Program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1994. It is funded by The Lemelson Foundation and administered by the School of Engineering. The Foundation sparks, sustains and celebrates innovation and the inventive spirit. It supports projects in the U.S. and developing countries that nurture innovators and unleash invention to advance economic, social and environmentally sustainable development. To date The Lemelson Foundation has donated or committed more than U.S. $150 million in support of its mission.
Energy Globe World Award
On World Environment Day, 5 June 2010, the audience at the Energy Globe award ceremony in Kigali, Rwanda, chose Dr. B.P. Agrawal as winner of the World Award. Dr. Agarwal’s rainwater harvesting system entry had already won first prize in the Water category.
The Energy Globe Award for Sustainability was initiated in 1999 by Wolfgang Neumann of Austria, CEO of the environmentally oriented GEG Agency in Austria. The annual environmental prize awards € 10,000 to winners of
five categories: earth, fire, water, air and youth.