After 10 years of cleaning up environmental hotspots in India, the Blacksmith Institute is celebrating the accomplishment and rallying support for other initiatives. The international nonprofit held its first Benefit for India earlier this year in the United States. This event had been designed to keep Indian-Americans and their supporters aware of what is happening 8,000 miles away.
With more than 1.2 billion residents, India is the world’s second most populated country. This nation is also one of Earth’s most polluted. Less than 20 percent of India’s raw sewage is treated; the rest flows right into the rivers and lakes and back into the public water supply. A booming population in need of jobs, coupled with aggressive industrial expansion, has leached toxic materials into the water and soil. Tanneries and cloth-dying factories contaminate nearby rivers with chromium, leading to an eerie green glow that ultimately shows up in the well water used for drinking, cooking and bathing. Millions of Indians become sick from waterborne illnesses each year, and nearly 1.5 million children die from conditions linked to the inadequate water supply. This type of pollution is technically outlawed under the Environmental Protection Act of 1986, but few regulations are enforced. Sometimes the draw of a stable paycheck is enough for people to look the other way.
The Blacksmith Institute used its recent gala as an opportunity to share this information, explain its mission and request donations from allies such as businessman Amir Landsman. Henny Sender, chief correspondent at the Financial Times, emceed the event. Guests gathered at the Tribeca Rooftop in New York City to hear from the guest of honour, Karti Sandilya. Sandilya works closely with the Blacksmith Institute in some of the most polluted places on Earth. Since he previously held senior positions within the Indian government, he acts as a key liaison for overcoming the bureaucracy. He also crafted the poverty reduction strategy for the Asian Development Bank as the U.S. Resident Director.
After more than three hours of wining, dining and fundraising, the Blacksmith Benefit for India was considered a success. One guest, Amir Landsman of Nyack, was impressed that the nonprofit’s efforts will soon have dealt with India’s ten most contaminated sites. In India, Blacksmith takes a three-pronged approach to eliminate water and land pollution. First, at the government level, Blacksmith helps craft national plans for remediation and pollution prevention. At the state level, the organisation monitors regulations and helps assess compliance. Finally, at the community level, it assists with education and cleanup efforts. Blacksmith uses innovative approaches such as vermiculture, scrubbers and groundwater reactions to address problems that the United States and Europe tackled more than a century ago. After the worst hotspots have been handled, the institution’s next step is to channel resources to thousands of smaller sites throughout India. The Blacksmith Institute takes similar steps with pollution in other developing countries around the world.