WASHINGTON, DC: An Indian American was named one of three winners of the Designing Solutions for Poverty challenge organized by University of California Irvine’s Blum Center for Global Engagement, garnering the largest margin of votes along the way.
Katya Cherukumilli, an environmental engineering Ph.D. student from UC Berkeley, was awarded first place with her proposal to use “mildly processed bauxite,” an aluminum-rich ore, to remove “toxic levels of naturally occurring fluoride” from the groundwater of the Nalgonda District in India.
The poverty-alleviating method, an “ultra low-cost approach” that she aims to launch in India, would reduce the cost of enriching drinking water from $50 to $1 per person, Cherukumilli said.
As highlighted by her presentation, she was inspired to tackle the issue of viable drinking water due to the fact that while a small amount of fluoride leads to stronger teeth, the effects of water with excess fluoride can lead to deteriorating bones and “crippling deformities.”
Cherukumilli, who was born near the district, immigrated to the United States as a young child with the rest of her family.
“This is something that’s very close to my heart,” Cherukumilli told Daily Pilot. “Access to clean water does not seem like something people should die for.”
Cherukumilli was one of five finalists selected by a panel of judges from among 35 entries submitted to the contest, which sought proposals that could help people living in poverty, reported the Orange County Register.
While the competition had initially sought one winner, UCI professor and Blum Center director Richard Matthew told Daily Pilot that organizers were excited about several of the ideas and decided to award second- and third-place winners as well…