India is a fast-growing developing nation, but the country still faces plenty of challenges, including contaminated drinking water, polluted air, and a lack of infrastructure. Enter Mahindra's Spark the Rise competition, where anyone who has a project that will "help India to rise" can submit their ideas related to technology, infrastructure and transportation, energy, agriculture and development, and social entrepreneurship--and get funding from Mahindra, which is the largest automaker in India and the biggest tractor manufacturer in the world. Think of it as India's answer to the GE Ecomagination Challenge.
After receiving over 1,000 entries in the first round of the competition and receiving nearly 10,000 votes, Mahindra chose the winners (each month, Mahindra is giving winning projects approximately $8,000). Below, we look at our favorites.
The Hydraulic Wheel Lock
This is something that could be useful in any country, but especially on crudely built rural roads. Designed by a group calling itself Team Passionates, the hydraulic wheel lock is a system that can lock any wheel on a car, preventing it from rotating. In the event that, say, your car gets stuck in the sand, the system can lock one of the wheels, causing all of the vehicle's power to be used on the other wheels--and allowing you to get out from wherever you're stuck. The design has already been tested on a small vehicle.
Suicide Prevention Rod
Suicide is a huge problem in India. And according to to India's National Crime Record Bureau, 32% of all suicides in the country are committed by hanging from a ceiling fan. Inventor Sharad Ashani proposes a "safety down rod" that could be attached to ceiling fans. When someone tries to hang themselves, the rod will unlatch from the fan and deposit the person safely on the ground. That's not to say that people won't try other methods of suicide if the first one fails, but it's a start--and a simple one, too.
KFP Rainwater Harvesting
One of the major causes of rural poverty in India is a lack of safe drinking water. Vijay Kedia's KFP rainwater harvesting system gathers large amounts of rainwater underground using a durable plastic sheet that purportedly acts as a conduit for rainwater and allows it to seep into the ground, where it keeps soil moist and is added to available groundwater. The process can be seen in the animation above. Kedia says that the system has already been implemented in two Indian villages--now he just needs help taking it to scale. And that, of course, is where Spark the Rise comes in.
[Images: Spark the Rise]