When the Environmental Defense Fund asked me to measure how biogas cook stoves were changing the lives of farmers in rural India, there wasn’t a word in that question with which I was comfortable. Having just graduated from the Undergraduate Program in Sustainable Development, I had never done fieldwork; and the concept of a biogas digester, which turns cow dung into natural gas through anaerobic digestion, was itself a mystery. I had no idea that this was the beginning of a steep learning curve into low-carbon development at a large scale. But even more, that it would provide a window into the lives of families whose existences have permanently improved thanks to the clean cooking stoves.
Earth Institute research expeditions investigating the dynamics of the planet on all levels take place on every continent and every ocean. Most projects originate with our main research center, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, and are often run in collaboration with other institutions.
So far, tensiometers have been tested in four central districts of Punjab, initially with more than 500 farmers the first year, and then peaking with an additional 4,500 farmers in 2011 before testing was scaled back. Data showed, on average, a 30 percent reduction in the water used in the test plots when compared with the standard practices employed in the control plots.
Watch a video about the Columbia Water Center’s project to address a looming water crisis in north Gujarat, India.
Our project studying the Ganges-Brahmaputra Delta in Bangladesh consists of many components studying different tectonic and sedimentary aspects of the geology. To bring all the parts together, we are holding a meeting we are calling the “conclave” in NE Bangladesh. We are jointly visiting places that can help us to develop an integrated understanding of the basin.
Researchers from the Earth Institute’s Center for Research on Environmental Decisions will present their work at the 2012 American Geophysical Union Conference in San Francisco this week. Psychology doctoral candidate Katherine Thompson will present a poster entitled “The Psychology of Hazard Risk Perception”; and visiting research scholar Diana Reckien will present a poster entitled “Realities of Weather Extremes on Daily Life in Urban India—How Quantified Impacts Infer Sensible Adaptation Options.”
Companies globally are increasingly focused on the emerging risk of water scarcity, and so are their investors. The combination of rising populations, rapid economic growth in developing countries, and climate variability is triggering enormous water availability challenges around the world. We are at a critical juncture where the crises of food, energy and water, commodity price volatility, energy reliability, and fears of whether food production will be enough calls for a rethinking of our business-as-usual approaches. In partnership with the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry Water mission, Columbia Water Center undertook a preliminary national level geospatial study of water risks perceptions and responses across 27 industrial sectors in India, including food processing, textiles, energy, oil and gas, retail, pharmaceuticals, information technology and health services. The results of the study are reported in “India’s Deepening Water Crisis? Water Risks for Indian Industries: A Preliminary Study of 27 Industrial Sectors.”
Earth Institute scientists explore how the physical world works on every continent — over and under the arctic ice, in the grasslands of Mongolia, on volcanoes in Patagonia, over subduction zones in Papua New Guinea, and on the streets of New York City.
Take a photographic journey from the crowded streets of Delhi, through the parched state of Rajasthan, and into the farmlands of north Gujarat to get a closer look at some of the many ways water affects the lives of millions of Indians every day.
As population grows and demand for food and products increase, so does our demand for water. But in the face of growing pressure on our water resources from depletion, pollution and climate change, we need to make more of what we have.