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WORLD WATER DAY

By Madhav Datt from Haryana, India

Madhav founded ‘Green the Gene’, an environmental club in school when he was just eight-years-old. Now 23, Madhav has inspired over 7,000 young volunteers to join the organisation and scaled it to one of the world’s largest completely youth-run environmental non-profits, with projects in 62 countries. 

22 March 2020

I grew up in a region affected by chronic water scarcity. I remember one particular summer when my mother had to rush to fill up our house’s water tank at two in the afternoon, which was the only time water was supplied because of city-wide water rationing.

When I was in third grade, we had a mandatory environmental science class. The only thing I remember from that class was when our teacher told us eight-year-olds that in the state of Haryana in India – where I grew up – the water table was falling by almost two feet every year. Consequently, groundwater levels had become dangerously low making it harder for people to draw water.

For me, this fact suddenly converted the abstract idea of sustainable development into a very real problem that affected communities and people I knew. This realization inspired me to start Green the Gene as a small environmental club in school.

Nearly 1 in 9 people from across the world live in a state of acute environmental crisis caused by the lack of access to safe and usable water resources. Women are disproportionately affected by this water crisis as they often have to spend up to 6 hours every day collecting water.”

Fast forward a few years, I happened to meet Busara. She was 15 years old and from a small rural community in Mwanza. During the day she worked with her parents in the fields planting rice. After a day of hard labour, she had to walk over seven kilometres to the nearest source of safe and usable water and walk all the way back with a 15 kilogram jerry can on her head. This drew my attention to the human impact of the water crisis. 

Nearly one in nine people from across the world live in a state of acute environmental crisis caused by the lack of access to safe and usable water resources. Women are disproportionately affected by this water crisis as they often have to spend up to six hours every day collecting water. I realized that while most environmental issues require robust policy initiatives from the top-down, a lot of the intended effects only show up decades away from when they are proposed. In the meanwhile, millions of people like Busara are forced to live in acute climate crises.

This drove me to leverage my background in computer science and focus on developing simple, low-cost yet technology and data-intensive solutions tailored to address immediate environmental problems faced by local communities.

This drove me to leverage my background in computer science and focus on developing simple, low-cost yet technology and data-intensive solutions tailored to address immediate environmental problems faced by local communities. At Green the Gene, we developed portable, point-of-use water purification devices at the intersection of applied AI technology and chemical-free filtration. Each of these devices is an extremely low cost, less than $8 to build, and is completely energy self-sufficient. Over the last year, we deployed 8000 of these units across 3 rural regions in Tanzania and brought safe and usable water access to 40,000 people. With this technology, we have filtered 14.4 million litres of water annually and saved women from these communities a cumulative of 15,000 hours of walking every day.

Madhav received a Legacy Award in 2019 for his innovative solutions and passion to change the world for the better. 

World Water Day, celebrated annually on 22nd March, focuses on raising awareness of the people living without access to safe water. It is about taking action towards addressing the global water crisis, and supporting progress, both at the grassroots and policy levels, towards Sustainable Development Goal 6: clean water and sanitation for all by 2030. The theme of World Water Day 2020 is the inextricable link between water and climate change, and how safe, affordable and sustainable water management solutions can help fight climate change.

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