XMNR Cohort Explores Water-Related Issues in India
In January, 28 students and five faculty members traveled to India as part of the Executive Master of Natural Resources program, based in the college’s Center for Leadership in Global Sustainability in the National Capital Region. During the 12-day trip, students met and observed local organizations and individuals who are working to improve water management in some of the poorest and driest areas in the world.
The group began their trip in New Delhi, India’s capital city, to meet with representatives from WaterAid India, a nonprofit organization working to improve water quality and sanitation in the world’s third most populous city.
They continued to Jodhpur, an arid city bordering Pakistan that is known for its rich history, brilliant blue buildings, and relative lack of economic development. There, the students broke into teams to explore three water-related issues: development projects designed to bring clean water to rural communities, efforts to combat flooding in downtown Jodhpur, and restoration efforts on historic stepwells.
Rocco Saracina, a member of the stepwell team, said, “These wells look like inside-out pyramids that collect rainwater, but many of them have become polluted and fallen into disrepair. Restoring the wells not only provides a source of clean water for these communities, but because people are so reverent to water and many of the wells are associated with particular deities, there’s also a social and religious significance.”
Another group worked with the Jal Bhagirathi Foundation, which helps communities in the state of Rajasthan take control of their water management practices by providing training and resources. “Often, these efforts are led by women in the lowest caste. They have no power or authority, but they’ve turned their villages around and brought clean water to the people there,” team member Susan Apollonio explained.
While in Jodhpur, the team also took time for cultural experiences, including a visit to the Maharaja’s summer palace. “We shared with the Maharaja our reflections about the sustainability issues facing the community and what we learned through our project work in Rajasthan,” Apollonio added. “You can spend all day looking at case studies and writing about sustainability and poverty, but when you meet people facing challenges every day, you process it on a different level. The intellectual exercise becomes an emotional one that connects you to people and community.”
Since beginning its international programming in 2008, the Master of Natural Resources program has taken nearly 300 students to seven countries to study environmental sustainability issues. “Traveling abroad is integral to global sustainability, particularly in current times,” said Michael Mortimer, founding center director. “It changes these students’ perspective on the world they live in. It’s a fantastically powerful opportunity.”