After swerving through a jumble of motorbikes and pedestrians in one exhilarating taxi ride, I arrived at Adi’s house tucked in a peaceful side road of Kathmandu. Chad joined us soon after, and we celebrated the reunion with a scrumptious BBQ of chicken burgers (cows are holy). We sat under the starry sky and chatted with Adi’s father and younger brother, while his mother brought hot cups of tea that warmed us from the inside out. Such lovely hosts!
I woke up the next morning to the sound of roosters crowing across the street and dogs barking for them to shut their beaks. Team SafaPani was up and ready to get to work! We started out through the village, passing uniformed schoolchildren with the most adorable, cheeky smiles, and made our way to a taxi that carried us to Thamel – the bustling tourist center of Kathmandu. Adi brought us to one of his favorite coffee shops set in a former summer palace for royalty. Properly caffeinated, we powered through two hours of peak productivity.
Our main priority was to schedule meetings with water experts and NGOs, with whom we met over the next few days. The information and contacts they provided were invaluable. Here is a summary of what we learned:
VillageTech Solutions: Wouter (Dartmouth ’14 and DHE project leader) and Maria gave us insightful tips on how to approach and interact with NGOs in Nepal. Being culturally sensitive and phrasing projects as collaborations rather than impositions is key. The VillageTech team also came up with some great ideas to help us market the system, such as establishing networks for disseminating information through trusted doctors and educators.
Water Engineering & Training Center: Bhola Paudyal gave us a fascinating tour of the chemical processing machinery that provide precise readings on concentrations of arsenic, phosphate, and iron – the chemicals we are most concerned about. He also walked us through the water collection process and supplied us with 250 mg bottles for us to use during our trip to Nawalparasi. When we return in a week, we will bring water samples in these bottles for him to test.
Nepal Health Research Center (NHRC): Dr. Krishna Aryal gave us advice on critical challenges we might face in implementing the arsenic removal system, such as costs, education, and trust. He recommended that we come up with innovative ways to market the device and spread awareness of arsenic contamination, such as distributing simple, hand-held fans with educational pictures. He also provided us with several helpful governmental and non-governmental contacts.
Nepal Water for Health (NEWAH): Santosh Basnet shared his thoughts on potential strategies to manufacture the device, advising that we center in Nepal rather than India because of lower tariffs and logistical complexity. He also shared a list of organizations for us to contact for help with distribution.
In our spare time, Adi, Chad, and I have had a jolly time wandering the streets of Thamel to bargain for yak wool scarves, traditional hats, embellished daggers, singing bowls, and other beautiful and exotic souvenirs. We’ve gorged upon a delicious array of Nepali dishes – Adi and Chad have consumed more chicken momos (dumplings) than there are chickens in Nepal. We also got to see Catching Fire in theaters, which was such a hoot.
Adi and Chad left for Nawalparasi today to begin surveying local residents, collecting water samples, and documenting the impact of arsenic. Unfortunately, I got a rather unpleasant case of food poisoning, so I must wait to join them in a few days. Besides that minor hiccup, though, the trip is off to a highly informative and productive start! We’ll update again from Nawalparasi. Until then, peace!