Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Paani - Every Drop Counts (Lauren's Water Sanitation project with EduCARE India)

Paani - Every Drop Counts 

Water Sanitation project with EduCARE INDIA 

Become friends with people who are not the same age as you.
Hang out with people whose first language is not the same as yours.
Get to know someone who does not come from the same social class as you.
This is how you see the world.
This is how you grow”

As an engineer, I have always been passionate about simple, novel technologies that have a positive impact on people's lives and on the environment. I decided to leave my job in Edinburgh, UK and come to India to start a project with EduCARE India in Himachal Pradesh. This was my biggest test, to see if i had what it takes to move into the International development sector. I wanted to be challenged and pushed far out of my comfort zone not only personally but as an engineer. Based in the rural village, Naddi, at the base of the himalayan mountains was about as far away from an office job as it gets!

I came to India with an open mind and tried to have no preconceived notions of what I felt could be improved. My time spent living with my local host family, surrounded by views of the himalayas, was one of the best experiences of my life. This community-applied research not only helped me build my project but gave me the opportunity to see how the family lived and get to know them. I was amazed by the indian hospitality as they encouraged me to sit with them while they made momos to sell in their shop, drink chai together and humoured my extremely limited hindi.


It was here that I started to formulate my project after witnessing the vast volumes of grey-water (wastewater from sinks, clothes washing and other hygiene purposes) that are discharged from homes in the village and leach into the environment, potentially contaminating food and drinking water sources.There is no collecting nor treatment system in place. Several taps are out in the open, without any sink to collect the water, and are used to do the laundry/hygiene purposes. Some other taps, in the bathrooms and kitchen, are linked to a pipe from which the water goes out directly in the environment.



Chemical contamination of water is a worldwide problem however, through research, I found that there are very few locally managed, sustainable, low cost household treatments available in rural and remote locations. While bacteria typically represent the most immediate health problems a variety of chemical contaminants such as pesticides, industrial waste and even household chemicals can impact the safety of water and on the environment. Long term chronic exposure to chemical contaminants can lead to cancer, kidney and liver issues and diseases of the reproductive systems. Therefore the development of effective, affordable  ‘green’ technologies for chemical contaminant removal in remote rural areas such as Naddi is important to me.

One of the biggest challenges in engineering development is ensuring local sustainability and creating a lasting impact long after the project is complete. Many development projects are formed with good intentions but are not always suitable for the community. My project is still in its very early stages but I am passionate about utilising a local waste residue and involving the community in  building a water treatment system that is sustainable. Through other development work in other countries I found out about biochar….


 Biochar is charcoal created from plant matter. For example, biochar can made from heating agricultural or forestry residue. Biochar filters work similarly to carbon filters which have been used for thousands of years as far back as the ancient egyptians. Can’t get much more ‘tried and tested’ than the ancient egyptians!. Local biochar is ideally made from agricultural and forestry residues and/ or sustainably harvested renewable woody biomasses whereas most commercially made carbon are made from non renewable coal. But what forestry residue could I use in Naddi, that was sustainable and easily available? In Himachal pradesh, pine needles are identified as major cause for forest fires, causing immense threat to environment, forest biodiversity and local economy. The needles that fall cover the ground in thick net and prohibit air to pass across, thereby, hindering the growth of grass on the ground. This phenomenon leaves no option for the local community other than setting the needles on fire; else it becomes almost impossible for them to feed their cattle. The needles, being highly flammable in nature, not only pollute the environment by burning themselves, but also take entire biodiversity into their gulp. I have only been in Naddi for a month yet i have witnessed one major forest fire.


I am excited to see the development of this project and live in a country so different to my own. I know that working in rural India will have its challenges and frustrations but that is all part of the process. I hope to develop my skills as an engineer beyond the textbooks and excel spreadsheets!

It has not been all work….

Life as an EduCARE India Intern has not been all work.  I am really enjoying working with the Naddi Girls Club and getting to know the girls in the community. Even though it is so hard to keep them focused, this excitable bunch of girls are always able to make me laugh. Introducing me to Hindi and Punjabi music and trying to teach me Hindi, then giggling when i get it so wrong! I can’t bare to part with their drawings and soon the intern house will be covered in their awesome artwork!  



I have found that team bonding in the intern house has been vital.
Especially since you all live and work together like a family. We managed to fit in a team round trip to Delhi and the Taj Mahal in a weekend (yes, that is a 500 miles by bus!). The rickety government overnight bus was an experience with 12 hours squashed, sweaty and feeling like a hair dryer is blowing on your face all night while the person next to you snoozes on your shoulder. You get to know your fellow interns pretty well after that experience. But seeing The Taj Mahal made it all worthwhile….



Lauren Beck (UK)
Project Manager,
Water Sanitation (Gey-water)
and, Girls Club
Naddi, India
Aug 2017

Sunday, 6 August 2017

David's Academic Fieldwork and Reseach Internship Experience in conservation projects

Internship experience

Amazing India

India is a magical country, from all the countries I have visited before, it is the most confusing. Culture, language, traditions and people are different whether you're north, south, west or east. Every day I discover something new, I am a bit like a child, I am very curious about what surrounds me and the environment in which I evolve. The food is so delicious, certainly very spicy but I really love it ! However, before going to India, it is important to inquire because it is very different from the Western countries.

Harike center

My experience at EduCARE India during this first month is very rewarding. First of all, life at the Harike Center. It is a collocation with several people from different countries, working on different projects, with different skills and experiences. Living with this small community irremediably creates links. It is a complex that complements each other and provides a daily basis conducive to the development of ideas and projects. Everyone works to develop the center to get a more comfortable and ergonomic space every day.
Patio / Table / Pace of exchangeC:\Users\David\Desktop\Educare\project\photos\20170615_164745.jpg
Kitchen / PantryC:\Users\David\Desktop\Educare\project\photos\20170615_164804.jpg
Figure 1:Harike VIKAS center
Team from June: Gabriel (Canadian), Cora (UK), Ankur the CPC (Indian).
Then, to carry out our projects, the community puts at our disposal means such as a structure with an office or a field to create a small organic farm. It is very important to have a point of inking that serves as a reference point for the community.

The forestry area:

Figure 2: Forestry area

The Harike community

The hospitality of the Punjabi community in Harike is fantastic. People are very happy to receive you and offer you hospitality easily. Their interest for strangers is intense, they are hugely interested in you, your country, your family and your work. Their curiosity is limitless, they can be interested in you all day. They are very receptive to our projects but my opinion is that the main problem lies in the notion of time. When you schedule meetings, visits and work with the community, often people are late or just not there because they wanted to do something else; you have to be flexible and adapt to this polychromic vision of time.

Be a project manager

Being a project manager is a very personal and professional trainer. The management at EduCARE India is totally horizontal, you are your own boss, the success of your projects depends on your commitment and your motivation to complete the objectives set. You have to take many initiatives, sometimes unsuccessful or without results, but you have to keep in mind that "success comes from failures".
I learned a lot during the first month at EduCARE because the potential, the constraints and the problems encountered are totally different from what I usually encounter in my work. I had to juggle between using my knowledge and learning new ones.

Biogas plant project

Initially, I had to learn about the different techniques used, and visit a facility that works in a sustainable way. So I went to Makhu, a village near Harike, where I saw 3 different biogas plants. I gathered as much information as possible from the family about the structure, frequency of use and price. It is essential to carry out this work of intelligence and visualization, it is really very instructive.

Figure 3: Biogas plant in Makhu village
Then he has a research and solution work to implement. I had to understand the objectives of creating a biogas plant in Harike and especially the benefits for the community. I had to contact key people and partners in the realization of my project. I went to Chandigarh, a very pleasant city, in which I went to PEDA (Punjab Energy Development Agency) headquarters. It is a government agency subsidized by the MNRE (Ministry of New and Renewable Energies). I was able to get key contacts for my project. It is therefore essential to move and get in touch with people who are likely to help or to take part in the realization of the projects.
Figure 4: PEDA in Chandigarh

July 2017
Internship experience

Amazing India

India is a truly magical and fascinating country. I discover a lot about this people, their history and also about myself. From my point of view, the Indian people have a share of timidity and extravagance, two very opposite characteristics. When conducting practical work or presentations in front of an Indian group, they are shy and do not dare to interact and ask questions because they do not want to put themselves forward. On the other hand, individually when talking with an Indian, he is very curious and talkative about your intentions, your work, your presence in India and your life in general, but he is also going to talk about his life and of their wishes.
India is immense and its resources are so. During this month I had the opportunity to take a few days to visit famous places. I went to Chandigarh for my project and I took the opportunity to take a weekend. So I visited the city designed by the Franco-Swiss architect Le Corbusier, visited the rock-garden and the rose-garden. I also took a weekend to New Delhi and Agra to visit the Red Fort and the famous Taj Mahal.

Figure 1: The famous Taj Mahal in Agra   Figure 2: Picture inside the Red fort in Delhi

Harike center

At Harike VIKAS center, projects are progressing and the interns work to improve the welfare of the center. We repaired the bamboo construction to dry the clothes outdoors, cleaned the material storage areas and create posters of information about the rules of the center as well as deliverables to be sent every week and month. We started to create a small garden in the center with trees, plants but also a small kitchen garden. The promontory of Harike's terrace was cemented to prevent flooding during heavy rains.
Figure 3. Cemented terrace of the Harike VIKAS center
Harike's team has expanded with the arrival of two new interns, Kushbu and Felix. Kushbu is working on a photovoltaic solar panel project while Felix is working on a solar oven project and on the organic farm with me. These are two good elements for the Harike Center.

The Harike community

In Punjab, the economy is based on agriculture. Around Harike, the landscape is extremely flat with fields of rice and maize as far as the eye can see. The Punjabis are very nice people with a sense of hospitality very developed, as can be seen in the Golden Temple for example. The reception is warm and people are very receptive and interested in the projects of EduCARE. However the Punjabi mentality is very surprising, it is focused on music and "thug life". That is to say, people like to be seen and recognized by wearing sophisticated accessories or sophisticated clothes, having a big and pretty car, an inordinate house, a bit the prototype of the American rapper catches the eye. To conclude, I love the Punjabis! My experience in Punjab is fantastic.
L’image contient peut-ĂȘtre : 11 personnes, personnes souriantes, personnes assises
Figure 4: Dinner in the community with the Harike team

Be a Project manager

My experience as a project manager this month was very different from the month of June. I went through several feelings like satisfaction, joy, confidence but also frustration, disappointment, anxiety ... I learned to focus on less ambitious goals and I had to rethink my project management. I also realized that it is important to rely on local resources, they have a key role in the success of projects. However sometimes the premises can also be a waste of time, pretending to be able to help on the project and that I learned to my dependences.

Biogas plant project

This project has not really changed. After reflection and discussion with PEDA (Punjab Energy Development Agency), there is no point in building a biogas plant with a digester of less than 4 m3. So I have to rethink the project and start on a new design. Mr B and I met with Mr Raminder Singh, a PEDA member in Amritsar, on Thursday, 3 August. This meeting was very constructive and will be my starting point to reformulate my biogas plant project.

Organic farm project

I was very focused on this project during the month of July. The arrival of Felix greatly contributed to the progress of the project. We planned the various stages of the project together. All in all I am rather pleased with the progress of the project despite some delays in planning. The community of Harike and the forestry department seem very cheerful and interested in our project, that satisfies me. About the vermi-composter, the process is on the way and I already have ideas for the development of vermi-composting in Harike and its surroundings which seem promising.
Figure 4: The area at the beginning Figure 5. The area at the 3rd July

David Swierczynski (France)
Academic Fieldwork and Research Internship, 
EduCARE India @ Harike
ViKAAS Dev SEVA Centre / Agriculture Research Centre