B P Agrawal wins prestigious MIT award

Social entrepreneur Dr Bhagwati P Agrawal, founder and executive director of the nonprofit Sustainable Innovations, has received the $ 100,000 Lemelson-Massachusetts Institute of Technology Award for Sustainability.

He was selected by a distinguished panel of scientists, technologists, engineers and entrepreneurs for his efforts to improve access to clean water, health care and business development in rural India through rainwater harvesting and mobile health clinics.

MIT noted that 80 percent of health problems and 5 million deaths per year in developing countries are linked to inadequate water and sanitation. 'This, coupled with the lack of medical attention for rural villagers, highlights a dire need for reliable access to clean water and health care, problems that Dr B P Agrawal aims to solve,' the university citation said.

Agrawal will accept the award and present his innovations at the MIT during the Lemelson-MIT program's fourth annual Eureka-Fest on June 16 to 19, 2010.

Two years ago, Agrawal, who for more than three decades spearheaded commercialization of innovations of Fortune 100 companies and entrepreneurial ventures, launched Aakash Ganga to harvest rainwater in India. Funded with his first World Bank Development Marketplace Award of over $ 200,000, Aakash Ganga is installed in six drought-prone villages in Rajasthan, one of India's driest states. He is working with the local, state and national governments for widespread adoption of the Aakash Ganga, in which the system rents rooftops from homeowners and channels the rainwater through gutters and pipes to a network of underground storage reservoirs. This network provides 10 to 12 liters of water daily to every person in the village for a year. It has helped 10,000 villagers gain access to clean water.

Last year, with the partnership of the Indian Institute of Health Management Research and the Birla Institute of Technology and Science, Pilani, Agrawal launched Arogya Ghar--for which he won a second World Bank Marketplace Award--where mobile kiosks-based clinics are used to deliver health care to villages and urban slums in India. Villages tracked through Arogya are given unique health identifier numbers so that doctors can maintain health records and track progress.

Agrawal now seeks a collaboration with the US Agency for International Development, the World Health Organization, UNICEF and social investors to scale up the kiosks to 50 villages by 2012, delivering care to 100,000 people.

The Lemelson-MIT Award, he told rediff.com, "gives me a voice, platform, and a captivated, attentive audience."

He said he would use the $ 100,000 to expand Arogya Ghar "to have more kiosks to deliver health care to 100,000 people, 50 villages this year."

Agrawal said this would cost $ 250,000 but said using the award money as a jumpstart he was confident he could raise the additional funds through other organisations and private donors.

Similarly, he added, "we plan to scale up Aakash Ganga to 100 villages, providing drinking water to 250,000 people. This expansion requires raising $ 3 million in matching funds from private donors and social investors. This award will help us in approaching potential donors, foundations and social investors."

Agrawal is an alumnus of the University of South Florida, from where he received his PhD in engineering science, and MIT's Sloan School of Executive Management.

Image: Before B P Agarwal's water harvesting project came into being, Badami, left, who lives in a small village in Rajasthan, did not have enough drinking water for her cows. Now she says her cow's milk has doubled.

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