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November 30, 2018

For more than three decades, Bhagwati “B.P.” Agrawal, Ph.D., was a leader in the communications revolution, spearheading research and development at Fortune 100 companies including General Dynamics, ITT-Alcatel, GTE/Verizon and Hughes Network Systems before launching his own companies. He received more than 10 patents for telecommunications innovations that today are industry standards. He abruptly left the corporate world behind fifteen years ago to focus on a new mission – helping others.

November 30, 2018

Bhagwati "B.P" Agrawal
Engineering Science PhD, '74

After more than 30 years with fortune 500 companies and as CEO of his own Business, B.P. Agrawal took up an entirely new mission. He provides clean drinking water and low-cost health care in his native india. 

July 31, 2018

The University of South Florida Alumni Association has announced the 2018 recipients of the university’s highest alumni honors, the USF Alumni Awards, celebrating USF graduates for outstanding professional achievements and for service to USF and its students. One award also recognizes a non-USF graduate for dedicated service to USF and the Tampa Bay community.

June 04, 2018

TAMPA, FL – June 4, 2018 – The University of South Florida Alumni Association has announced the 2018 recipients of the university’s highest alumni honors, the USF Alumni Awards, celebrating USF graduates for outstanding professional achievements and for service to USF and its students. One award also recognizes a non-USF graduate for dedicated service to USF and the Tampa Bay community.

December 06, 2017

I have been a leader in the church for almost 40 years. In addition, I have served as a director on nine boards, for organizations very small to very large. I have always thought it important to amass as much knowledge as possible to be a good leader and board director. When it is my job to seek board candidates, I am always on the hunt for people who are intellectually sharp and come with significant life experiences and achievements. That only makes sense, doesn’t it?

October 30, 2017

Adapted U. S. utility industry model to harvest rainwater. Builds local infrastructure to end water scarcity for generations.

 

I confirm that I am fully aware of the eligibility criteria, and based on its description, I am eligible to apply to the CSV Prize 2017.

April 12, 2017

Sustainable Innovations (SI), a US based nonprofit organization requested GIS assistance in late 2016. SI harvests rooftop rainwater to provide safe drinking water to rural communities in the state of Rajasthan India. Currently, SI collects 15 million liters of rainwater annually and provides safe drinking water to 10,000 people. They are expanding their program, called Aakash Ganga or River from the Sky, to bring water to 250,000 people.

GISCorps cuts costs of Aakash Ganga

February 23, 2017

Aakash Ganga, our rainwater harvesting program, brings clean drinking water to the doorsteps of rural communities. One of the costly line items of Aakash Ganga is the physical survey of the villages. The physical survey is essential for designing the rainwater collection reservoirs and laying pipes to connect the reservoirs with the rooftops, but it is expensive, time-consuming, and laborious. Volunteers at GISCorps have developed a methodology that utilizes geographic information system (GIS) technology to conduct virtual surveys. While rooftops are digitized using Open Street Map, web maps available on mobile devices are developed using Esri. Their methodology significantly cuts down the costs, time, and labor spent on surveys, and will allow Aakash Ganga to be replicated in villages quickly and cost effectively.   

Aakash Ganga involves the installation and maintenance of a series of channels and reservoirs that vary from community to community depending on village-specific aspects.  Every village will differ in elevation, number of rooftops, population, density of houses, topography, and soil condition. All of these characteristics will affect how Aakash Ganga is implemented, as we believe that sustainability relies on solutions that suit a community rather than requiring the community to adjust to the solution. Conducting physical surveys to gather this information requires considerable manpower, expenses, and time ─ typically 10-12 weeks.  Villages in India don’t have street names and house numbers, which makes identification of physical locations of the reservoirs an insurmountable challenge. 

It became evident after the first implementation that a more efficient way to conduct surveys was needed. If we could alleviate the need for physical surveys,  we would be able to  reduce the time and money spent on planning down to only a fraction of what we were spending. Conducting virtual surveys through the use of GIS images would help Aakash Ganga expand its reach farther and more quickly than we thought possible.  

The volunteers at GISCorps developed a methodology using GIS technology and latitudinal and longitudinal coordinates to calculate the rooftop area of each individual house. The rooftop area tells us how much rainwater can be collected from each house and, for example, what the pipe diameters should be. The use of GIS maps also shows possible pathways for laying pipes to transport the collected rainwater from individual house reservoirs (Griha tankas) to the community reservoir (Gram tanka), and how close together the houses are, which is a determining factor in concluding how many Griha tankas are able to fit in the village.

The ability to calculate rooftop areas using coordinates gives us an accurate square footage measurement without even needing to visit the community. It also resolves the issue presented by the lack of street names and house numbers as the locations of every reservoir will have a unique and exact set of coordinates, which will also make monitoring and future maintenance a much easier task.

We combine the GIS technology with elevation data to find the lowest point in the village, which marks the location of the Gram tanka. Building the Gram tanka at the lowest point ensures that gravity will pull the collected rainwater to the reservoirs, alleviating the need for pumps. The Gram tanka is sized to collect the maximum volume of rainwater, and is determined by the average annual rainfall.

The work of the volunteers at GISCorps is expected to reduce the planning period of Aakash Ganga from ten-to-twelve weeks down to only one or two weeks.

Thanks to the efforts of our volunteers, we are developing a standard process for Aakash Ganga that will pave the way for the program to be rapidly replicated anywhere it is needed. Utilizing GIS technology reduces the time and money spent on designing the systems by removing the need of conducting physical surveys, and also simplifies the design process and future expansion as we work to expand our program, ensuring socially equitable distribution and access to water in communities everywhere.

Waterless Wells Mourn Dying Aquifers in India

February 08, 2017

In western India, groundwater levels are falling at a rapid and irreversible pace, leaving many communities without access to drinking water. Due to a lack of surface water such as lakes and rivers, most of western India relies primarily on aquifers, underground geologic formations that store water. India’s aquifers have been depleting at approximately 60 cubic meters annually--at that rate, Lake Erie would be reduced to a dust bowl in only two years.

 

Throughout India’s history, infrastructures have been built around the importance and utilization of aquifers and groundwater as the communities’ main water source. As the groundwater levels began to drop, these infrastructures were left dry and forgotten about, and new solutions were needed. While many organizations and government bodies have attempted to remedy this life-threatening issue by introducing new water harvesting structures, most have proven to be unsustainable, leaving rural communities without access to clean drinking water once more.

 

A sobering manifestation of the rapidly decreasing groundwater levels lies in the empty water structures of the past, which have been completely dried up for upwards of one hundred years. On a recent trip to India, Sustainable Innovations paid a visit to the village of Chhapoli and saw the extent of failing water systems in the community.

The oldest water structures in Chhapoli are step wells, which are estimated to be around two hundred years old. This tall, temple-like well known as a bawdi was once a beautiful structure that was built into the ground to reach the groundwater below. Bawdis were very common in western India, where water supply fluctuates greatly depending on the time of year and communities needed ways to collect and store water for year-round use. These bawdis were also used as a gathering place where locals could find relief from the heat by descending to the bottom, where the temperature was often several degrees cooler than the surface. As the ground water supply began to dry up, the stepwells were left in a state of emptiness as they had outlived their usefulness.

This stepwell is known as a johara well. Catchments nearby the johara would fill with rainwater during the monsoon season, and the runoff water would flow from the catchment and into the johara through the arched openings on the sides, called sluice gates. The johara would fill with water that was easily accessible via the steps leading down to it. Farmers also kept their cows on the other side of the well, with a ramp called a gow ghat allowing the animals to access the water.

 

As time went on and the population of the village began to increase, development projects were built on top of the catchments, cutting off the johara’s water supply and leaving the well empty and barren. You can see in the picture above how a barrier of dirt and rubble has been pushed up against the openings from which the water would flow.

 

These step wells, while beneficial in hydrating both the villagers and their livestock, only lasted for around one hundred years, leaving the community in need for another solution.

Ground wells such as this one were built to replace the stepwells. Ground wells can be dug deeper into the ground, allowing them to reach the water supply that the stepwells were unable to as the levels began to sink. The water below was access with lowering a bucket on a rope to scoop up the water, and then pulling the bucket back up.

 

The shrinking groundwater supply and increasing population causes this ground well to dry up after only fifty years. Once it was empty and useless, a steel gate was placed over top of the opening of the well to prevent people from falling in.

The next kind of well to be utilized in Chhapoli was a borehole, which quickly dried up after only ten years. Boreholes can reach deeper into the ground than stepwells or ground wells to the water that is stored below, which can be accessed by pumping the handle. The boreholes in India are notoriously unreliable and are known to break down easily, and typically remain broken due to lack of maintenance. The boreholes that were able to remain functional quickly dried up, as the groundwater was being collected much too quickly for the supply to replenish itself.

 

As the groundwater supply and water structures in western India continue to rapidly deplete, a new approach is desperately needed. Instead of digging deeper and deeper into the ground to reach the shrinking groundwater supply, we need to take advantage of the monsoon season and collect and store the rainwater for year-round use.

Aakash Ganga provides that solution by installing a series of gutters and reservoirs in rural communities. Clean, bacteria-free rainwater is collected and stored safely in tanks that are located directly in the villages, removing the need of women to travel and stand in line to fetch it. The covered reservoirs protect the contained water from the elements, reducing the effect of evaporation and keeping contaminants out. Aakash Ganga utilizes GPS mapping to locate each installed system, making it easy to perform maintenance as needed and ensuring longevity.

 

Sustainability is our utmost priority in all of our programs. We are dedicated to creating and implementing systems that are viable for each unique culture by identifying why past solutions have not worked and learning from these flaws. As the famous quote by George Santayana goes, “Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”


Aakash Ganga is currently providing 10,000 people in six villages in Rajasthan with clean, accessible drinking water year-round, and we are expanding our program to reach 100,000 people in the next phase of the project.

September 30, 2016

This blog draws on the findings from research conducted on innovative social enterprise models at the Base of the Pyramid for the World Bank Social Enterprise Innovations team by Endeva and Ashley Insight. The research and corresponding case studies are available on the World Bank and OECD’s

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