This profile was prepared when K.A.V.R Krishnamachari was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2000.
The New Idea
Dr. Krishnamachari is using his experience in community health to help NGOs protect Indian villagers from fluorosis, which is caused by high fluoride levels in drinking water. Earlier attempts to save the rural population from this disease have typically relied heavily on technology and have been driven by the state. They provided no space for the community to partake in decisions and projects. These programs were experimental, entailing little subsequent action by the state or the private sector. By teaching people about the scientific causes of fluorosis, pressing local government to take relevant and effective action, and demonstrating the importance of relating public health to environment, Dr. Krishnamachari is demonstrating that the disease, which has afflicted Indian villages for generations, can be beaten.He involves communities at every stage of the battle by educating the people and eliciting their participation. He is now working with the communities to install household defluoridation units and to create an integrated watershed management program. He is ensuring access to safe drinking water by promoting concrete-lined rainwater collection tanks, by exploring the feasibility of small-scale purifiers, and accessing untainted freshwater via new canals. Although Dr. Krishnamachari is starting in the worst-hit district, Nalconda, his approach has potential in other areas affected by natural toxins and man-made pollutants.