Category Archives: developing countries

IS THIS THE FINAL GOODBYE TO MY CHILDHOOD?

By Saloni Wadhwa, September 25th, 2017

On a bright Sunday afternoon, a long time ago, a young girl, about 10 years old, jogged along a quiet street with a robust and large Labrador retriever leading her. Her father walked behind laughing merrily at the duo’s silly antics. “Scruffy!” she yelled in desperation, praying that her arm wouldn’t pop out of its socket with the leash strapped on to it. The large dog halted and started sniffing a patch of green grass, just as he always did. She quickly handed the leash to her father and slipped her hand into his warm, loving one. The little girl loved this routine; especially the cool shade that the trees on the street provided her. She loved the perfect arch that the trees made, creating a tunnel of lush green in a myriad of hues. The spectacle of the Gulmohar tree during summer engulfed by fiery red flowers which would later fall, creating a “red” carpet, of sorts was indeed a sight to behold!

That perfect story was my childhood. I grew up in a quiet, peaceful city called Mysore (Mysuru now). Mysore: with its awe-inspiring Chamundi Hills, its historic architecture in the form of the Mysore Palace, and its renowned zoo: the Sri Chamarajendra Zoological Gardens, is a world-famous heritage city. The city has always had an old-world charm to it. It is a mix of the colonial world with the architecture of the Rajas of India. It is surrounded by National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries and is very close to the famous Western Ghats. Among all of the things that I admired about this city, the one thing that I prized was its weather. Of course, like any normal city, there was monsoon, summer, winter, autumn and spring. However, none of these seasons had extremes and thus we always enjoyed a pleasant climate all through the year.

Fast forward to today: I have read articles almost every summer of “The Highest Temperature” being recorded through the history of summers. I have seen the KRS Dam Reservoir: Mysore, the nearby Mandya and Bangalore’s major source of water, plunging into oblivion due to delayed monsoons. So much so, that the headlines in local newspapers were pictures of an omelet being made directly on the scalding tar roads of the city! Most importantly, I too have personally felt the changes: I have seen the extremes that I prided Mysore for never having. With all of these changes that are slowly and subtly occurring, I wonder if it is our fault. My beautiful tunnel of trees, one that I cherished as a child, and one that I knew had the supernatural ability to secure and protect me, the one that was the reason my parents bought our house, “Blossom” now just remains a pocket of trees outside my house. All of the other trees have vanished; brutally chopped because they were causing problems with overhead communication signals. The birds that flocked my street and filled the air with their musical sounds have been silenced. Scruffy does not pause to sniff anymore. The street increasingly looks barren, as do other parts of the city. Does development mean a goodbye to nature? Can development not occur sustainably, hand-in-hand with the environment? And most importantly, is this the end of my childhood?

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A Sustainable Development Expert’s Take on the 10th Anniversary IGEL Conference

By Noam Lior, PhD, Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mechanics, University of Pennsylvania

The vital urgent challenge: with projected population increase of 30%, to 9 billion within the next 33 years, exponential increase in the demand for resources, the associated large scale of projects, the proven serious impact on the environment, all development must be done sustainably to prevent major deterioration of present and future life quality or even global disaster. For the utter skeptics: at the very least, prepare for damage to the business, and stricter government regulations, monitoring, and enforcement.

Education, for business or otherwise, requires, as much as possible, definitions, methods that are quantitative/scientific, correct data, and wide acceptability, standardization and uniformity. This is especially important for the complex highly multidisciplinary field of sustainable development which is of vital importance to humanity’s survival (or at least well-being), and thus also has a meta-ethical foundation. Education in business sustainability must increasingly and more rigorously address the role of sustainability as a business paradigm, including multi-generational and international/global considerations. Business education should consider and support the evaluation and substantiation of national and international sustainable planning policies, now for example the US new administration’s directions, and the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). It should include a description of the dangers of Greenwashing and other sustainability fraud.

Sustainable development requires a scientific approach, close and honest cooperation between all humans, across any borders they drew, vision of the future, and much respect for the environment that we so temporarily occupy.

The Gashora Clinic Water Project

By Ocek Eke, Director of Local and Global Service Learning Programs at Penn Engineering

Clean drinking water is a luxury that many people around the globe can not afford.  This fact is more pronounced in developing countries where water-borne diseases are widespread because water sources tend to be local streams and lakes that are often contaminated with pollution.

In 2012, the General Electric Foundation generously donated ten state-of-the-art water filtration systems to the government and people of Rwanda. One of these filters was installed in the village of  Gashora.

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Water filtration system donated to Gashora Health Clinic by GE Foundation

Penn Engineering in Gashora

Gashora is also the location of the Gashora Girls Academy for Science and Technology (GGAST).  This elite all-girl secondary school was established to encourage young Rwandan women to pursue careers in STEM subjects.

GGAST is a partner of Penn Engineering and through our Service Learning course.  We collaborate with the Academy on a several projects. This summer, we offered information communication technology training for students and faculty, and installed solar lights and solar powered water pumps to improve the quality of life of students, faculty, and staff.

At Penn Engineering, we approach our service learning programs with an emphasis on long and sustained relationships with our overseas partners. We believe that the communities in which we work should positively benefit by our presence.  To this end, we paid a visit to the Gashora Clinic medical team after being informed that they were in desperate need of water. The Director and staff lamented the challenges they face daily in curing illness, especially in children.

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The Gashora Health Clinic

Then the director took us to the back of the clinic and showed us the water filtration system that GE Foundation donated and installed four years ago. We learned that many of the patients in his clinic are being treated for water-related illnesses contracted by using contaminated water from the nearby Lake Rumira.

The Challenge

The unfortunate irony is that there is an abundance of equipment (i.e., filters and water tanks) yet a shortage of clean water. The filtration system was designed to rely on rain catchment and the local utility for water. However, rainfall in Gashora is sporadic at best and the local water utility service is unreliable.  When asked if a bore-hole or local well could supply water to the clinic, the director explained that the underground water is highly contaminated with lead and manganese, making it both unusable and cost-prohibitive to filter.

Next, we walked with the director to Lake Rumira, about 1.5 kilometers away from the clinic. There we saw children and women swimming and fetching water with yellow jerry-cans. The director explained that while there is water in the lake year-round, it is contaminated, too. The end result is a high rate of people afflicted with water-borne diseases due to a severe shortage of clean water at the Gashora Health Clinic.

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Lake Rumira, main source of drinking water for people in Gashora

I asked him a simple but complicated question, “What if Penn Engineering could bring the water from the lake to the clinic’s filtration system?” He smiled, and said that he would accept our offer if we were extending one. “Can you really do it?” he asked.  As engineers, we design and build solutions to real-world problems all the time. I was confident we could bring clean water to the Gashora Clinic.

Complications…

In order to move forward, we learned that we had to get the permission of the district’s village elders before we could carry out a project of this magnitude. In essence we would have to dig a trench from Lake Rumira to the clinic. There were a series of steps that were necessary that required time and patience:

  • The Deputy Mayor instructed us to put our proposal in writing and bring back to him. While he supported the idea, he cautioned that we might run into problems getting permission from land owners whose lands would be impacted by the trench for the water pipes.
  • We wrote and submitted the proposal to the Deputy Mayor, and he promised to take it to the District Mayor.
  • The Deputy Mayor informed us that the District Mayor was excited about the project and would talk to the elders of Gashora village to give the permission to dig the trench.
  • The elders deliberated with the the District Mayor and Clinic Director.

Ultimately, Penn Engineering was granted the permission to dig the 1½ km trench, and to proceed with the project.

Next Steps

Our goal is to pump water from Lake Rumira using a solar powered water pump installed at a secure location on the lakeshore.  A solar powered pump frees the community from reliance on the local power grid and contributes to long-term sustainability. The water will be rock-filtered to remove silt and debris before it is pumped into a waiting tank where gravity will draw small particles to the tank bottom. At this point, the water will be pumped through the GE filtration system that will remove chemical contaminants and purify the water.  The clean water will then be transferred to the clinic’s tank and the kiosk tank for villagers’ use.

One of the most appealing aspects of this project is that together, we are building capacity with our local partners for long-term sustainability. Gashorans will learn to maintain the equipment, and operate the pump. Penn faculty and students will assist in education and implementation. We have also partnered with Health Builders International, a nonprofit organization based in Kigali to assist us in monitoring the quality of the lake water over time.

At present, most of the trench for the water pipes has been dug and we are poised to complete the project when our service-learning course returns to Gashora in May 2017.

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The Trench from Lake Rumira to Gashora Health Clinic, Rwanda

Help Us Bring Clean Water to Gashora

There is one critical piece missing to the project: The pipes.  Penn Engineering student leader, Erica Higa, has set up a GoFundMe site to help raise $40,000 to cover the cost of the pipes.

The people of Gashora desperately need this project completed. Penn students have benefited intellectually and culturally from the enriched experience of performing service in a foreign country. Penn Engineering is committed to finishing this project and we invite you to join us in bringing clean water to the people of Gashora. Please go to our gofundme site, any financial assistance you can give to us is greatly appreciated: https://www.gofundme.com/WaterForGashora

The Win-Win-Win of Impact Investing

By: Nathan Sell*

Ask not what your investment dollars can do for you, but ALSO what they can do for others, and the environment. That’s the idea behind Impact Investing, an emerging paradigm shift in philanthropy. This form of socially responsible investing generates both measurable social and environmental impact as well as returns on investment. Mark Tercek, CEO of the Nature Conservancy and former Managing Director at Goldman Sachs is at the forefront of linking business and the environment for a better world as he discusses in his recent book “Nature’s Fortune.” Tercek, and the new wave of impact investors are proving that your investments can make money AND do good.

Impact investing in the environment is quickly coming to scale as the value of ecosystem services to clean air and water, armor shorelines, as well as climate change mitigation and adaptation is being realized. Cities like Philadelphia are leading the way in green infrastructure investment. Over the next 25 years, Green Stormwater Infrastructure will help the city to combat the extreme weather patterns as well as prevent Combined Sewer Overflows resulting in greener cities and cleaner waters for which the initiative is named.

Novo Nordisk entered China in 1994 and immediately noticed that a diet high in starch was leading to diabetes in a large portion of the population. Combined with rapid pathogen spread due to urbanization, the health of the people in China was (and continues to be) at risk. Novo Nordisk put their efforts toward alleviating some of these health concerns. By training doctors in diabetes care and prevention, the company has helped to save over 140,000 life years. The shared value of impact investment ensures companies like Novo Nordisk remain profitable while helping the communities in which they work.

Impact investing also has the potential to bring promising technologies to scale. Without investment, it’s possible that companies like d.light may never have gotten off the ground. With the help of investment, this for-profit social enterprise has been able to sell affordable solar lamps to those without reliable power. The result? D.light is bringing safe, bright and renewable lighting to people around the world, allowing students to do their homework, families to cook, and an overall better quality of life to over 34 million people.

Impact investing may prove better for people and the planet than charitable giving. Investing in businesses that do good by people and the planet can ensure the success of their mission, allowing for long term solutions, rather than a potential band-aid in the form of a grant or gift. If your investment could benefit the triple bottom line, rather than just YOUR bottom line then you’ve found the rare win-win-win scenario. The next time you invest, think strategically about what your money can really do.

*Nathan is a recent graduate of the Master of Environmental Studies program at the University of Pennsylvania and a current ORISE Fellow with EPA Water.

A Global Push For Climate Finance

By Aubrey Sherretta

June 3rd 2014 marked the launch of the Global Innovation Lab for Climate Finance, a partnership between the US, UK and German governments with several private sector representatives to develop and promote climate finance instruments globally.  The lab includes leaders from governments and financial institutions who will identify and analyze financial opportunities for private investment that could have large-scale impacts on both climate change mitigation and adaptation.  Overseeing the analysis of proposed climate finance instruments are the Climate Policy Initiative and Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

Lab Principal Purna Saggurti, chairman of global corporate and investment banking at Bank of America Merrill Lynch said: “We look forward to sharing our experience from structuring and financing numerous transactions in clean energy, green bonds, and environmental markets.”  Bank of America, a Wharton IGEL corporate advisory board member, along with Merrill Lynch have already committed to mobilize 70 billion dollars for low-carbon business opportunities.

Large-scale investments are required to reduce emissions and adapt to the effects of climate change, according to the United Nations.  The Global Innovation Lab for Climate Finance’s push to incentivize climate investment may be viewed as a major step towards mitigating the adversities of a changing climate.  The lab has already attracted more than 80 ideas for potential climate finance instruments from the public and private sectors, and hopes to attract billions in private investment for climate-conscious investment opportunities in developing countries.  Changing the dialog around climate change from financial burden to opportunity may be the greatest motivator to bring about a new era in climate action.  Keep an eye out for chosen ideas to be released by the lab in the coming weeks.

Also, stay tuned for Knowledge@Wharton Special Report on this topic coming later this year.

Urban Water Justice in the Developing World

By Urmila Malvadkar* 

ImageIn the developing world, a lack of sufficient clean water is both a cause and consequence of poverty.   Informal settlements—housing up to 60%  of the population of some cities in the developing world– face unique obstacles to water access.  New infrastructure is difficult to install in dense, unplanned communities.  Many governments ignored needs of these communities in order to de-legitimize them and discourage rural-urban migration.  Further, residents are often rural migrants who stay for a few years  and do not advocate for investing in their community.

Where cities are unwilling or unable to provide water, residents can spend hours a day to purchase water from private vendors who charge 10 to 20 times more than tap water.   Some of these vendors in large cities such as Jakarta and Nairobi, have ties to organized crime, collude to cause artificially high prices, refuse to serve certain ethnicities,  and threaten utility workers with violence.

While some official policies– even pro-poor policies–can reduce access to water among the very poor, some programs focusing on improving service to the most indigent communities profoundly improve lives.

Continue reading

Ethanol Cook Stoves and Fuel for Haiti at the United Nations

by Ruchi Shah

Ruchi1Dr. Stillman and Fritz Clairvil (Path To Haiti) delivering introductory remarks about the project (Courtesy of PPAF Public Private Alliance Foundation)

On April 4th, 2013, The Public-Private Alliance Foundation (PPAF) convened a consultation on cook stove and fuel alternatives in Haiti, held at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, and hosted by the UN Office for Partnerships. The meeting had two purposes:

1) Advance the expansion of a pilot project by bringing together more partners and discussing the further steps
2) Promote the benefits of new cook stoves in Haiti and elsewhere

Continue reading

Supply Chain Compliance: Addressing the Elephant in the Room

by Derek Newberry*

If events like Apple’s Foxconn debacle teach us anything, it is that even reputable companies with strong supplier codes of conduct can face serious compliance issues where regulatory mechanisms are lacking.  I reflected on this recently when leafing through the summary report from last year’s Wharton Initiative for Global Environmental Leadership (Wharton IGEL) Conference “Greening the Supply Chain”.  While I enjoyed reading about the participants’ experiences in sustainability management, I was struck by the short shrift they paid to the all-important question of compliance, despite acknowledging that when it comes to producing tangible results, this really is the “elephant in the room”.

Indeed, ensuring that suppliers adhere to social and environmental criteria and comply with applicable legislation is a thorny problem in settings where the boundaries of corporate responsibility are unclear and enforcement can be costly and onerous.  This is doubly true in production chains characterized by numerous small suppliers and sparse governmental regulations, as is the case in much of the global agricultural sector.  How can we create regulatory mechanisms that enable these sustainability programs to look as good in practice as they do on paper? Continue reading

Upcoming Events in November 2012

Join Wharton IGEL at these upcoming events in Philadelphia:

November 2, 2012: Wharton Energy Conference
Wharton IGEL is a sponsor

November 7, 2012: IES/IGEL Seminar Series – The Future of Water
“Liquid Gold: Global Water Developments and Opportunities”
Jon Freedman, GE Water & Process Technologies
Francesca McCann, Global Water Strategies
Co-sponsored by Wharton IGEL and the Institute for Environmental Studies

November 8, 2012: “Out of Eden: A Journalist Gone Rogue”
Paul Salopek, two-time Pulitzer Prize-Winning Journalist
Co-sponsored by Wharton IGEL and the Graduate Student Center

Student Opportunities in Global Water and Sanitation

Student Opportunities Global Water and Sanitation 2012-2013