GfGD Committee Updates

21 Apr


Joel Gill, GfGD Founder and Director, writes about recent additions and updates to the GfGD Executive Committee

Over the past few weeks we’ve been adding to and reshaping our Executive Committee, a group of excellent individuals who work with myself to coordinate our range of projects and development. Each member of the committee is in full-time education or work, and as such gives up a lot of their free time to make our work happen. I am delighted to have a team demonstrating such enthusiasm and personal commitment to international development and the fight against global poverty.

Ellie Murtagh (GfGD Secretary) has responsibility for administration, including our newsletter.

Rosalie Tostevin (Programme Officer – Himalayas) is responsible for the work that we are doing on hazards education in Ladakh. She is coordinating production of resources, related placements and the legacy of the work.

Donald John MacAllister (Programme Officer – Factsheets) is responsible for our project, funded by the Geologists’ Association Curry Fund, to develop geoscience factsheets for use by NGOs.

Siobhan Whadcoat (Training and Development Officer) has joined the committee to take responsibility for developing a series of courses and workshops for geoscience students that will strengthen their ability to contribute to international development.

Helen Lacey (Placements Officer) has joined the committee to take responsibility for developing more placements for students and recent graduates, giving individuals a preliminary understanding of the development sector. Keep an eye on our placements webpage for the latest opportunities and reports from previous ones.

Jane Robb (University Group Resourcing Officer) will be rejoining the committee to take responsibility for supporting our university group network by developing resources, training materials and possible group activities.


We currently have a couple of vacancies on our team for the roles of:

‘Communications Officer’ – Responsible for coordinating our key communications (including social media, promotional leaflets, posters and other outputs!). If you’re good with words, have an eye for detail and maybe enjoy a bit of design work we would love to hear from you. You’ll likely need to encourage, recruit and manage other volunteers – learning the art of delegation but also taking overall responsibility for the work of your team – giving great leadership experience.

‘University Groups Support Officer’ – Responsible for pastoral support of, and advising, the University Group Ambassadors, development of new groups and promotion of our work within the academic system.

If you are interested in finding out more about these roles - please get in contact via our website.

Friday Photo (124) – Pacaya Volcano, Guatemala

18 Apr


Pacaya Lava Flow

Tourists and guides ignore the official closing of the National Park around Pacaya Volcano to visit the lava flow that originated that afternoon.

Credit: Joel Gill, 2014

External Conference Opportunities

16 Apr

A number of interesting and relevant external conferences have come to our attention this week. If you’re interested in water and sanitation/hydrogeology or disaster risk reduction then these may be of interest to you!

**Hydrogeology and WASH Conference – What can hydrogeologists contribute to safe water supply and poverty reduction?**

When: Thursday 5th June 2014
Where: Geological Society of London, Burlington House, London, UK
Cost: £10 for students

Summary: Groundwater plays a key role in the provision of reliable water supplies in many less-developed regions of the world. Due to its complexity, a detailed understanding of the groundwater environment is often required to ensure that resources are exploited in a safe, sustainable and cost-effective way. This one day meeting aims to promote links and discussion between experts from the groundwater community and those actively involved in the delivery of WASH (Water, Sanitation and Health Engineering) projects.

Sponsorship: We’re very pleased to be able to offer one student the opportunity to have the cost of their ticket covered as well as £30 to put towards travel/food. Send 100 words outlining why you would like this opportunity, together with your contact details and university/course by 5pm on Friday 18th April. The winning student will be contacted via email shortly afterwards, and will be expected to write a couple of articles for the GfGD blog about the conference sessions.

If you were inspired by the Guest Blog on Monday and would like to know more about working in water and sanitation – linking hydrogeology to development – this is a great opportunity to network and find out more.

**UCL IRDR Annual Conference**

When: Wednesday 18th June 2014
Where: University College London, London, UK
Cost: Free

Summary: A day of thought-provoking discussions, talks by experts and presentations of the latest research in risk and disaster reduction, aimed at researchers and practitioners, NGOs and City professionals, and the interested public.

**ODI Event – ‘Everybody wins – Bridging the Gap Between Scientific and Local Communities’**

When: Tuesday 6th May 2014 (3-5pm)
Where: Overseas Development Institute, London, UK
Cost: Free (also streamed online)

Summary: The world of science and technology has a lot to offer those affected by or responding to the risk of disasters. But producing and using knowledge about disaster risk is far from a straightforward process. At-risk people and communities, humanitarian and development agencies and those with formal scientific and technological training are all producers and users of disaster risk knowledge – but with different ideas about what is useful or important information. The challenge is in bringing together this wealth of local and scientific knowledge to enable communities to become more resilient in the face of disasters. One crucial way of promoting dialogue and supporting decision making processes are participatory games and exercises. This event will comprise debate, games and workshop demonstrations.

**Understanding Risk – Producing Actionable Information**

When: Monday 30th June 2014 – Friday 4th July
Where: Excel Centre, UK
Cost: Free


Understanding Risk (UR) is an open and global community of experts and practitioners in the field of disaster risk assessment. UR community members include representatives of government agencies, the private sector, multilateral organizations, nongovernmental organizations, community-based organizations, research institutions, and academiaEvery two years, the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR) convenes the UR Forum—a five-day event designed to showcase best practices and the latest technical advances in disaster risk assessment. The Forums provide organizations with the opportunity to highlight new activities and initiatives, build new partnerships, and foster advances in the field. Previous events have been held in Washington D.C and Cape Town, attended by 500 experts from more than 80 countries. The third biennial Forum will be held in London from June 30 – July 4, 2014, organized in partnership with UCL Department of Science, Technology, Engineering and Public Policy. It is expected that more than 800 people will attend the event. The current programme can be found online here.

Guest Blog: Groundwater Quality Management in Rural Uttar Pradesh, India

14 Apr

DJMDonald John MacAllister, serves on the Executive Committee of Geology for Global Development. He is currently leading the Hazard Factsheet project. Donald John is a PhD student at Imperial College London and is researching the application of self-potential monitoring to seawater intrusion problems in coastal aquifers. He has a BSc in Geophysics from the University of Edinburgh and an MSc in Community Water and Sanitation from Cranfield University. He is currently working with UNICEF India on a project to support the Government of Uttar Pradesh to improve their water quality management structures. In this blog he writes about the background and aims of the project.

UNICEF, the United Nations Children’s Fund, is mandated by the UN general assembly to improve the health and well-being of children through the development and promotion of community services. In India that is achieved by providing technical support to the government departments responsible for those services. One key area of UNICEF’s work is to provide safe and sustainable access to water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services and facilities for all. UNICEF invests in WASH because it is essential for child survival, health and development.

Diarrhoeal diseases are one of the most significant causes of child mortality in India, and without investment in improved WASH services this is a sad statistic that is unlikely to change. Due to the prevalence of open defecation in India microbial contamination of water supply is common, however this is a commonly overlooked water quality problem. This is partly because India also suffers from high levels of Arsenic and Fluoride in groundwater, which is commonly the focus of government interventions in water supply. Groundwater is overwhelmingly the main source of water in the state, and sustainable management of this resource is extremely challenging. However this is not to say that arsenic and fluoride are not also major problems. Longer term exposure to arsenic can lead to severe diseases such as arsenicosis and cancer and fluoride exposure leads to skeletal fluorosis which can cause physical disability. However microbial contamination can kill almost instantly, and children are more vulnerable.

Groundwater is commonly believed to be safe from microbial contamination, however work by UNICEF suggests that many of the handpump sources in the state are contaminated with coliform bacteria, mostly due to poor construction and sanitary conditions of handpump sources. Clearly there is a significant challenge for the authorities who are responsible for water supply and sanitation – how do they target and prioritise their interventions? This is where my small project with UNICEF begins.


Handpump in Uttar Pradesh, India (Credit: Donald John MacAllister)

The government of Utter Pradesh (UP) is currently testing every single water source in the state (that equates to about 2.5 million handpumps!) for 8 key water quality parameters. These water quality parameters are known to affect consumer acceptability and more importantly consumer health, both in the short and long-term. For the first time this includes testing every single source for microbial contamination, as well as arsenic and fluoride. However what do you do with this vast resource of data and information once it is collected, how can you meaningfully interpret this to prioritise and target your interventions? How can you ensure that the results you get are accurate and reliable? I aim to answer these questions by developing quality assurance and control mechanisms and a composite drinking water quality index for two blocks in one arsenic affected district and one fluoride affected district. The water quality index takes each water quality parameter and aggregates them to produce one number that summarises the overall quality of each water supply, this can then be mapped and used to identify areas where water quality is most impaired. This allows non-experts, policy and decision makers to better understand the complexities of water quality and potentially helps in targeting interventions in priority areas. Although my area of work represents a very small percentage of the water sources in UP, if successful the plan is to scale the method up and potentially apply this throughout the entire state, and possibly in other states in India.

I want to thank the trustees of the Dudley Stamp Memorial Award and the Jeremy Willson Charitable Trust or making this work possible. I hope in a small way my work here can contribute to the betterment of the health and well-being of the children in this amazing state.

For more information on UNICEF India check out their website:

For more information about the Jeremy Willson charitable trust:

For information about the Dudley Stamp Memorial Award visit this link.

To contribute in your own small way to the work of development charities, why not consider getting involved in our Hazard Factsheet project? For more information please follow this link: - or e-mail: publications[at]



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