Meet the American student who is building toilets and roads in rural India

6th Jul 2016
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An American Ph.D student Marta Vanduzer-Snow (35) moved to rural India four years ago thinking that the country needed a different approach altogether—”To be an invisible human who makes a difference on the ground.” Marta is a Rutgers University scholar who grew up in Boston. She has paved way for the construction of 82 low-cost evapotranspiration toilets in homes, and 1 in a primary school. She has also got done 122-meters of 10-feet-wide permeable roads constructed. What’s more? The construction cost of these projects have been half to one-third the cost of similar governmental projects in the villages of Rai Bareli and Amethi in Uttar Pradesh.

Image: Life Beyond Numbers
Image: Life Beyond Numbers

Each government toilet, built under the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan costs about Rs 17,000. Compared to this, the evapotranspiration toilet that Marta has brought to the villages costs Rs 9,109. As against government’s Rs 4 lakh per 100 meter of interlocking road, Marta’s 100-meter permeable road costs only Rs 2 lakh.

Co-author of books and research papers with various academics, Marta has developed a theory for three-pronged strategy on development that integrates the pieces of infrastructure, health and education together. “I wanted a small scale model based on my theory that I could execute. So I did some research and found that Amethi and Rai Bareily had quite a few active self-help groups. I decided to learn, practice and contribute,” Marta told The Times of India.

An Amartya Sen development economics fan, Marta spends her personal resources on all these projects. She has also set up 27 solar power plants, including two street lights and a mobile charger. One of the only villages in Rae Bareli boasts of being the beneficiary of night light set up by the do-gooder scholar. Marta has also got French drains built, with rainwater harvesting techniques and has been working on myco-filteration systems for potable water. She has also run literacy programs, written text books on English and organic farming, set up libraries and oversaw a pilot stage of four classrooms. She also runs ‘Mera Doctor’ a 24×7 doctor-on-call service for free for a year to two villages.

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