Ashok Gadgil’s inexpensive inventions address big problems of world’s poor

Environmental scientist Gadgil is perhaps best known for his inventions, which include a UV water purifier that can provide clean, cheap water for a thousand people a day, and an inexpensive, ultra-efficient cooking stove for families in Darfur.

Ashok Gadgil: Science, I think, should play a central role in the lives of the seven billion, and eight and nine billion to come.

EarthSky spoke with environmental scientist Ashok Gadgil of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Dr Gadgil has spent decades applying science to improve the lives of the world’s poor.

Ashok Gadgil: When it comes to issues that are desperate problems for the bottom half, economically, the bottom half of humanity, problems could be very serious, regarding shelter and access to safe drinking water, access to energy, and even adequate food supplies going forward. And science could make a huge difference there.

Dr. Gadgil has a long list of inexpensive inventions he’s developed that address big problems, including a simple cook stove for families in Darfur that’s three times as efficient as traditional ones. And he developed a water purifier that uses ultraviolet light to produce clean water for 1,000 people each day.

Ashok Gadgil: About 1.2 billion people lack access to safe drinking water. The challenge is not simply in how to disinfect water with pathogens, the challenge is how to make it affordable for the very people who are at the bottom of the economic pyramid.

Dr. Gadgil spoke of the most important problems humans face today where science can make a difference.

Ashok Gadgil: Depending on where those people are, the problems will be very different. I mean, somebody who is starving in a famine-stricken land in Africa would have very different problems than somebody who is in a wealthy country stricken with a difficult disease.

Jorge Salazar