Columbia Global Centers | Mumbai is organizing a workshop to explore large-scale, technologically simple and socially appropriate incentives for testing and sharing of wells in communities that have a high prevalence of arsenic, with a view to reducing their exposure to unsafe drinking water. The workshop will be led by Alexander Van Geen, a Lamont Research Professor and member of the Earth Institute at Columbia University. He has engaged in interdisciplinary research to promote large-scale environmental testing since two decades. Professor Van Geen led a project in Bangladesh to test 50,000 wells, which led to over 50 percent households switching to safer wells and helped significantly reduce their exposure. He has also initiated similar well-testing campaigns in Punjab, on both sides of the border between India and Pakistan, and in Bihar.
Also presenting during the workshop will be Prabhat Barnwal, Assistant Professor of Economics at Michigan State University and a graduate of the Columbia University PhD program in Sustainable Development.
Professors Van Geen and Barnwal seek to pilot a project exploring new social and financial incentives for testing wells, and for households to respond to test results in two of the 10 states of India affected by extensive arsenic contamination of well water. The health consequences of the exposure to arsenic are often unreported, but include death from cardiovascular disease, cancers of the lung, liver and bladder, skin lesions in adults as well as inhibited intellectual development in children. Arsenic exposure ultimately diminishes the earning potential of people to a great extent and thus, bears significant socioeconomic implications for affected regions.
The premise of the workshop is that much of the exposure to arsenic contained in well water could be avoided. It will bring together leading economists, earth scientists, social scientists and practitioners from across India. Participants will be invited to present their current work on designing financial and social incentives for natural resource management in India and share their insights on the challenges and opportunities in community mobilization and government involvement