This profile was prepared when Ajaya Dixit was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1991.
The New Idea
Getting safe drinking water to a family on a daily basis makes an enormous difference. Polluted water leads to chronic illness; if safe water is only available an hour's trek away in a stream at the bottom of the mountainside, a mother must add tiring hours to an already hard work schedule every day, which means that something else, very probably child care, suffers.Ajaya Dixit is applying his engineering and communications skills to help his country make optimal use of the ample rains that fall during the four monsoon months. He has created and edits Water Nepal, a practical journal reporting and evaluating actual experiments, written by and for practitioners like himself. He is also developing his own appropriate technological innovations.Ajaya's chief focus over the next several years will be the introduction of very simple, inexpensive household rainwater catchment and storage systems. In other parts of Asia, such as Thailand, catchment drains edging the roofs, simple filters, and large storage jars are a common sight. However, this idea has not caught on in Nepal and nearby areas.Ajaya thinks he can bridge the gap.He has begun by developing a new, extremely simple underground storage tank that costs only one-tenth as much as a low-cost, ferro-cement cistern of equivalent capacity. The key ingredient is a large tube of plastic sheeting, now manufactured in Nepal in substantial diameters, which is sealed except for intake and outlet valves. A brick-reinforced sloping earthen cavern protects the water from animals, the sun, and pollutants. Gravity is the only energy required.Given average roof sizes and typical rainfalls, Ajaya believes this simple technology can store enough rainwater to water a household vegetable plot during the dry two-thirds of the year, as well as provide a secure source of safe drinking water year-round.Developing and spreading this technology will take a number of years of considerable effort. However, it is only a part of a larger package of new ideas, technologies, and incentives that are needed if the country is to use its water more sensibly. Ajaya will pursue these other opportunities directly as time permits and indirectly by stimulating his fellow practitioners.