Meet Dr Anumakonda Jagadeesh, an innovator, social scientist, and crusader for the promotion of science and technology for sustainable development, all blended into one.
In the terrace garden that is also Dr Anumakonda Jagadeesh’s research laboratory, saplings growing in tire tubes and leafy vegetables sprouting from soil on book racks are just a few of the sights one will see. Varied as the plants may be, all his experiments are for the cause of environmental conservation.
A PhD in wind energy from IIT Roorkee, the 70-year-old is an innovator, researcher, renewable energy expert, and the founder of Nayudamma Centre for Development Alternatives.
One day while watering the plants in his terrace garden, Dr Jagadeesh was struck by the amount of water being wasted. He sat down to fix the issue and the result was the Jaga Bhagirathi sprinkler-drip irrigation system which saves a considerable amount of water. This is one of several inventions by him. His daily observations and reflective thinking on every problem led him to find simpler solutions which anyone can adopt and over time get into a habit of sustainable use of resources.
“Initially we irrigated our coconut field through an open canal system which led to water loss through seepage and evaporation. I connected the entire farm with PVC pipes laid vertically and horizontally, which helps us save 30 percent of water. There are several daily practices which can help us conserve the environment. A simple practice of washing hands with soap nut, which I learned from my mother, can help you save at least a bucket of water a day. As the soaps and hand washes require more water to clean the lather,” informs Dr Jagadeesh.
We can’t accomplish big things unless we look at the small things. Big is bountiful but small is beautiful! A paradigm shift is needed towards people’s science and technology.
It is well recognised that science and technology are the propellants for a country’s progress. The greater the capacity of a nation to generate, transfer and to utilise technology, the faster is its growth and prosperity.
“In an attempt to catch up with the West, its modernisation, and consumer civilisation, we have only landed ourselves in the pockets of affluence, in a sea of distress and destitution. We now realise that merely increased production is not enough; it should be coupled with distributive justice. Economic development must be coupled with social development and help a man be self-reliant and eco-friendly,” he says.
In the name of rapid development, we have caused enough environmental damage which has led to increasing intensity of natural disasters, water crisis, and climate change. With conscious efforts and small changes, we can make big difference. One such change can be every house planting few CAM plants.
In the case of crassulacean acid metabolisms (CAM) plants such as agave, aloe vera, and cactus, the stomata remain closed during the day to reduce the loss of water and open at night to collect carbon dioxide.
According to Dr Jagadeesh, who has spent 10 years researching these plants, they should be present in every household, a move that can significantly reduce the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. These plants are easy to maintain, act as a carbon sink, and can also be sources of biofuel, biogas power, and biochar.
Water conservation methods that can easily be adopted include the usage of drip irrigation, PVC pipes, and mulching for farming and gardening activities, and practising direct rainwater harvesting through HDPE water tanks.
With a mission to create awareness and help people look for sustainable solutions, he set up Nayudamma Centre for Developmental Alternatives, a research body creating dialogues at international platforms on environmental conservation. The centre acts as a think tank in formulating policies and designing projects in science and technology, energy, environment, and appropriate technology. Dr Jagadeesh has over 30 innovations to his name and the centre has a 3D approach (design, demonstrate, and disseminate).
Since 1994, the centre has annually been presenting the Nayudamma Award at both the national and international levels. In 2014, the award was presented to Dr Kandeh Yumkella, former Under-Secretary-General of UNIDO (United Nations Industrial Development Organisation) and Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Sustainable Energy for All and CEO of the initiative in Chennai.
Dr Jagadeesh has also founded the Dr. Yellapragada Subbarow Foundation in Nellore to commemorate the ideals cherished by the ‘man of miracle drugs’. Annual awards are presented in his memory. Padma Vibhushan Dr V Shanta, Chairman, Cancer Institute (WIA), Adyar, Chennai, has been a past recipient.
He is trying to reach out to PM Narendra Modi to talk about water conservation on Mann Ki Baat. He is also running a petition to garner public support for the cause.