The prototype that I presented to demo was tested (for the first time) the next morning in the parking lot in front of the hotel : http://youtu.be/yZu5t5Vqeoo
I love my new neighbourhood. I stay in the New Territories, Hong Kong.
When I was a kid in France, I was watching this animation on TV, cats living in a place when car carcasses are pilled up, just like here on street sides. I love it!
Container-conversions as homes, offices. Dogs running free everywhere.
And this is just outside my doorstep. I’m feeling at home here. In Japan my family house is so similar. Industrial.
Some places make you feel home immediately. Istanbul is such a place for me.
Thanks Ed and Beckie for being so warm and letting me bothering up at ridiculous hours :) Thanks also for making me want to pull my camera out again. I used PhotoMechanic for this one batch, I love it !
Fishing near Axim
We’ll start by the fun stuff with good Ghanian music :) We were very much interested about the life of the Ghanian fishermen, so we just drove there and met a community of them near Axim. After a few minutes of discussion we asked if we could join them for a fishing experience and they accepted to take us out on the water. At rising sun, we pushed the vessel in the water on big steel rolls and wood boards, passed the wave breaking point, sailed to the fishing spot, deployed our nets, sailed back to shore, pulled the nets for a long time. I was surprised that even for pulling the nets back on shore, no mechanics is being used, it is all raw human power. The men were incredibly strong and pretty much risking their lives without any safety. The reason why we came to visit the fishermen, is because we wanted to know if their had been affected by the recently introduced offshore oil industry nearby. Thanks to Samuel Ainoosoa Kwesie for introducing us to the captain.
Ghana Oil Industry
Ghana Petroleum (Thousand Barrels per Day). Source: http://www.eia.gov/countries/country-data.cfm?fips=GH
I did my homework about Ghana: Large oil reserves have been discovered in 2007, in 2010 Ghana joined the league of oil-producers, in June 2011 Bloomberg reports that “Ghana’s GDP Growth Accelerates to 23% as Oil Production Starts”.
Ghana Carbon Dioxide Emissions (Million Metric Tons of CO₂). Source: http://www.eia.gov/countries/country-data.cfm?fips=GH
According to the World Bank Ghana is a relatively healthy democratic developing country with a good multi-party political system, freedom of press, a good education infrastructure, with a growing industrial, illegal mining (Ghana is one the top producer of gold), oil and growing population. The CO2 emission is in steady increase – not that this would be an index of sustainable growth rather the contrary- but indicates the country is increasingly active on the industrial, transportation and construction fronts. So overall Ghana is doing “well”. Still we found several important issues:
- Rising cost of living
- Poverty (28.5% below poverty line in 2007 est., source)
- Mining pollution impacting water quality (heavy metals)
- Oil Industry impacting fishing industry
- Whales death
These 3 last points in bold can partly be addressed with Protei.
Lack of Oil Spill Preparedness
Uploaded on 8 Jan 2012, source: Christiane Badgley, http://pulitzercenter.org/projects/ghana-oil-city-hopes-challenges-takoradi
I recommend watching 2 short movies of May 2011 about “Fish VS Oil” Part 1 (2’32) , Part 2 (3’36) communities or this longer and more detailled documentary (22 minutes, Dec 2012) . Several reports indicates that Ghana lack oil spill monitoring and cleaning capability: Bloomberg, Ghana News Agency, even if the EPA claims having a sufficient contingency plan. Either way Protei could really contribute to early oil spillage detection and clean up.
SINOPEC Chinese fortress
At the top of the hill above the fishermen’s village, there is… a chinese castle! SINOPEC is installing a large pipeline along the coastline.
Inside, a real garden of eden with multiple fountains. We were told that about 100 skilled chinese engineers and workers live here. Many Ghanians seem to be unhappy with the chinese presence and feel their natural ressources are being exploited by foreigners. As a half-asian person, I wonder why Ghanians do not build their own castles and garden of Eden… And why Ghanian authorities let chinese operate at a scale they do not feel comfortable with? Quickly after we got in, the SINOPEC security agents came, asked us to delete our photographs and leave.
Tullow is the largest Oil Industry operating in Ghana on the main Oil Field called the Jubilee Oil Field. We visited their headquarters and attempted speaking to their environmental department without success. We are in email communication now. Below are the concessions of the Jubilee oil & gas field:
- Tullow Oil – 35.48%
- Kosmos Energy – 24.1% (Article about Kosmos investing 1B to develop Ghanian Oil Fields)
- Anadarko – 23.4%
- Ghana National Petroleum Corporation – 10%
- Sabre Oil & Gas – 4.05%
According to the locals we met, the annual turnover of several of these companies are many times the turnover of the whole country of Ghana.
Ministry of Energy
Thanks to Faustine Araba Boakye of the International Clean Cooking Association, we were able to meet Kofi Agyarko.
EPA Environmental Protection Agency
At the EPA we were able to speak to Ebenezer K Appah-Sampong, Director Planning, Programming, Monitoring & Education.
Ministry of Fisheries
At the Ministry of Fisheries, we spoke to:
- Director: Samuel Quartey
- Director of Marine Fisheries: Mathilda Quist
- Marine Fisheries Research Division: Paul Bannerman
- Field researchers: Joseph Seboah, Richster Nii Amarfio, Noble Wadzah, George Awudi
On the wall of the Ministries of fisheries we could read some press cuts: the World Bank is running a program (among many in Ghana) worth US$ 53.80 million. It is labelled as “loan and credit“. Below is the program abstract:
The development objective of the First Phase of the West Africa Regional Fisheries Program Project is to support the sustainable management of Ghana’s fish and aquatic resources by: (i) strengthening the country’s capacity to sustainably govern and manage the fisheries; (ii) reducing illegal fishing; (iii) increasing the value and profitability generated by the fish resources and the proportion of that value captured by the country; and (iv) developing aquaculture. There are five components to the project. The first component of the project is good governance and sustainable management of the fisheries. This component aims to build the capacity of the Government and stakeholders to develop and implement policies through a shared approach that would ensure that the fish resources are used in a manner that is environmentally sustainable, socially equitable and economically profitable. The second component of the project is reduction of illegal fishing. The component aims to reduce the illegal fishing activities threatening the sustainable management of the country’s fish resources. The third component of the project is increasing the contribution of the fish resources to the national economy. The component aims to identify and implement measures to increase the benefits to Ghana from the fish resources, by increasing the share of the value-added captured in the country. The fourth component of the project is aquaculture development. The component aims to set the framework for increased investment in inland aquaculture. The fifth component of the project is regional coordination, monitoring and evaluation and project management. The component aims to support project implementation and regional coordination with the project, ensuring that regular monitoring and evaluation is conducted, and the results are fed back into decision-making and project management. Administrated by Berengere P. C. Prince.
The program started in July 2011 and will end in December 2017. This is a very important information. There is capital to carry on all these tasks, clear objectives and deadlines.
University of Ghana, Professor Christopher Gordon
Professor Gordon is the most scientifically educated and creative person we met in the country.
Prof Gordon mentioned that Protei might be an interesting device to deploy in Lake Volta, but also the many lagoons to study oxygen levels, redox potential, sedimentation and other environmental parameters. Lagoons tend to accumulate land-borne pollution in particular heavy metals from mining. We are interested to build a pilot proposal with Prof Gordon and use University of Ghana as our base when we come to Ghana. A topic that we are also interested is the interaction between the oil and the fishing industry when it comes to environment.
Center for Environmental Impact Analysis, Samuel Obiri
With the sharp mind of Samuel Obiri, an independent researcher, we wrapped all the discussions we had with the different ministries and stakeholders. Mr Obiri explained us what is the relationship between the scientific and the legal as well as the business sides of the oil exploitation in Ghana. We discussed the level of oil spill preparedness and the expected involvement of fishermen in the event of an oil spill.
An important observation was that
- fishermen are currently the most at loss with the development of the oil industry and
- if an oil spill was to happen, they would be on the frontline to clean up and suffer the heaviest health, mental, environmental social and economic damages.
This is also what I experienced when working on the BP Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico. We then pondered:
- What are the biggest risks?
- Consequently, what are the most valuable data sets to be found?
Samuel Obiri has published the most comprehensive measurements of oil pollution in Ghana that I could find, compiled here in a pdf [6mb].
Networking at Hub Accra
It was great to have a sneak preview of the burgeoning startup culture in Ghana. We met a lot of cool people at the freshly built co-working space in Accra. Just to mention a few:
- Open University if West Africa : John Roberts, Victor Ofoegbu, William Edem Senyo, John-Paul Parmigiani, Heather Cochran
- Akua A Nkrumah and Laura Stupin of WeWASTE Entreprisers doing waste water management
- Ernie Ofori of AITI (Advanced Information Technology Institute) that organise Ghana robotic competition
In a very short amount of time, we have been capable of meeting most of the key stakeholders of the oil and the fishing industry, from ministry representatives to local fishermen, from University researchers to independent environmental consulting agencies. The challenges that Ghana is facing in terms of environmental impact of the oil industry, the apparent lack of preparedness to oil spill, the lack of environmental data about water quality and fish stock suggests that Protei could really make a difference in Ghana. The low cost, open source, modular, transparent nature of Protei appealed to all the people we talked to. There is therefore a case for coming back to Ghana with Protei.
The main difficulty now is the definition of a strategy for raising funds to address these issues.
If we run a pilot, which stakeholders shall we involve?
- Academia: University of Ghana, ASESHI, OUWA, AITI, foreign Universities
- Politics: EPA, Ministries of Food & Agriculture & Technology, Fisheries
- Non-Profit: KITE, Local fishermen associations
- Diplomacy (as we are a foreign company)
- Military (permission and some deployment infrastructure)
And the criteria for us to determine the feasability of such pilot would be :
- What: Relevancy and urgency of the topic
- How: What Protei can do well and add significant value to
- How much: What is affordable and profitable for all the stakeholders
We are now in the phase of “Pilot Proposal Development” and we are happy to involve anyone that feel they can contribute to the discussion.
- Excellent seminar about oil industry and oil spill risk mitigation : http://www.soph.uab.edu/ghanaoilseminar/presentations/
- “Environmental Issues Associated with Oil and Gas Production” Samuel Obiri, 2010 [Archive 6mb]
- Norway advising Ghana Oil Development : http://www.ghana.norway.info/News_and_events/Ghana—Norway-partnership-on-management-of-the-oil-and-gas-sector-in-Ghana/
- “GHANA’S EMERGING PETROLEUM INDUSTRY, What the stakeholders need to know” 2010, Mr. Ishmael Edjekumhene Mr. Prince Owusu Agyemang Ms. Paula Edze, KITE. [Archive 1Mb]
- “AN ILLUSTRATED GLOSSARY OF SELECTED OIL AND GAS TERMINOLOGIES” 2010, KITE. [Archive 500Kb]
- “Ghana Moves to Become Hub for Rapid Oil Spill Response”, http://www.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/NewsArchive/artikel.php?ID=235256 [Archive 120Kb]
- Tullow Jubilee Oil Field Report, 2010 [Archive 6mb]
Cape Town is a spectacular city. The mountains that surround the city. The beauty of the ocean. The powerful winds. Captured above by our wonderful media team having lots of fun at work.
First thing we did in Cape Town was to go and meet with Gabriella’s friend who owns a fashion shop called Unknown Union in the hip area of the city. At the entrance of the shop, we were so surprised to find the installation of a my friend Candy Chang “Before I die, I want to …” !
Every time I come across Candy’s work, it reminds me of the good times I had when I was living in New Orleans a few years back, living in the same street as Candy in the Bywater. It reminds me of my dreams, it reminds me that everyone has amazing dreams, and we’re all in this world to make them all happen…
The SAP pitch event
The pitch event went very well, additionally to our “classic” pitch we added a soundtrack that was emotional and I think it really worked !I love the idea of making a music hall instead of a pitch event :) We won the SAP pitch event in Cape Town and the reward was …
A diner in a chic restaurant with all mentors and special guests
We were very fortunate to share the table with this group of exceptional people. Many of which were our influential mentors.
Koeberg, Africa only nuclear power plant
We spent about 2 days investigating about Koeberg, Africa one and only nuclear power plant. We rented a car, drove there twice.
You may be positively surprised to hear that the levels of radioactivity that we measured around the nuclear power plant were acceptable. In fact we had higher levels in the center of Cape Town than close to the Koeberg plant. We measured levels on the beach, and in the water at about 1 meter underwater with the sensor we customised with Safecast for the Fukushima expedition. We were able to pay a little visit at the Koeberg Visitor Center and learn all about the plant and the technology they use. Many kids were also visiting. We were not allowed to approach the power plant closer than 2 kilometers. According to documentation in the plant, the cooling of the reactor causes the temperature of the sea to be significantly increased (up to 10ºC) outside the plant outake of water. It was surprising to see that the Nuclear power plant is installed in the middle of a natural reserve that is a highly secured perimeter. What it felt was that the natural reserve was more of an excuse to keep curious people and activist at a greater distance… I’m now curious about the radioactivity levels at Vaalputs in the Northern Cape where the used fuel is disposed.
The local makers
We were introduced by Paul Mesarcik to the local designer / maker’s world.
Below Protei INC Art Collection very first acquisition !!! Who is the artist?
The Cape Town University
We were delighted to find a customised version of OpenROV at the University of Cape Town. Protei and OpenROV have shared a wonderful time at TechShop SF Summer 2012, it is super encouraging to see OpenROV in other countries, being modified and used.
Thanks to Paul Mesarcik that studied electro-mechanics at Cape Town University, we were introduced to Dr Robyn Verrinder of the Research and Instrumentation, Departement of Electric Engineering of Cape Town University. We discussed with local researchers their their latest development in autonomous sailing robot. Above, a freshly build hull that is being compartmentalised and ballasted with fishing lead weights in the bulb. Quite a few researchers are now interested in developing autonomous sailing robots, this is the people we want to involve with Protei!
The Gangster Incubator
We were lucky to meet Marlon Parker (Facebook) of Rlabs who introduced us to many inspiring young people in a not very inspiring neighbourhood. They explained us about their community, the hope they found, how the access to technology helped them feel empowered to look a their future, how it re-enchanted their lives.
We want to keep in touch with the RLabs.
We were lucky to meet with some people at the Shuttleworth foundation. Thumbs up for the Foundation!
Marine Transect, Moving Sushi
They just arrived from a 4 months journey the day before our departure from Cape Town! We had to meet!
The East African Marine Transect expedition is a not-for profit expedition that is managed and facilitated by Moving Sushi. Moving Sushi actions strong ideas by facilitating globally important marine-based scientific expeditions to explore the relationship between humanity, our marine environment, science, technology and how new knowledge is communicated and shared through open source channels.
They just completed 234 dives, were quite tired, and after sharing a quick breakfast they went back to unpack their boat.
Joe Heywood of North Sails
Our last encounter in South Africa was with Joe Heywood of North Sails. It was great sitting down with his family, sharing food and geeking about sail / rig designs. Thanks a lot for your precious advices Joe!
When we first heard about Daniel Epstein‘s plan to bring his Unreasonable Institute startup accelerator to the high seas with a 100 day, around-the-world sailing expedition called ‘Unreasonable At Sea,’ it frankly seemed like a pretty crazy idea. Let alone the risk of pirates (thereal kind, not the entrepreneurial kind), there are so many possible things that could go wrong for the 11 startups aboard the ship — bad Internet connections, seasickness, homesickness, and the like.
Unreasonable At Sea’s around the world voyage
So now that Unreasonable At Sea is more than halfway through its voyage (it started January 9th in San Diego and ends April 25th in Barcelona) we decided to check back in with Epstein for a TechCrunch TV talk yesterday morning to see how everything is coming along. For starters, the Internet connection is actually pretty solid, as we were able to see in the quality of our Skype chat as he was aboard the Unreasonable At Sea ship in the Indian Ocean just off the coast of Mauritius. He told us that everything else is going just as swimmingly (sorry, I can never resist making some kind of water pun when writing about this endeavor.)
Watch the video embedded above to hear Epstein talk about the perks of the journey so far, how the startup folks are mingling with the Semester At Sea students aboard the ship (and getting some work out of them too), what the biggest lessons and surprises have been so far, and what’s in store for the rest of the journey ahead.
Before arriving in Maurice we did a lot of that: planning. That’s in my cabin, post-it notes under the higher bed. Work non-stop.
By chance we passed the “Radiation Protection Authority” office in Port Louis, we chatted with them, and you can tell by my big smile -while chatting with their official (off frame)- that there is nothing to worry about on the island :) Biggest radioactive sources are dentist cabinets where they do x-rays.
Unlike in India or Vietnam, we saw a group of people fishing directly in the sewage line!
Maurice, you are a wonderful island, you don’t need Protei do you?! Hehehe! Or maybe just for entertainment!
This is why I was excited about India :)
We dream of a day when the sun sets at dusk of the silicon valley it would rise to see the the dawn of a silicon coast in India.
Instead of diving into the “startup India” in Bangalore as Gabriella did (posts of Gabriella Levine 1, 2, 3 in Bangalore) , I focused on buying supply to build more Protei prototypes for the rest of the voyage. That means a lot of scooting around again.
I really enjoyed discovering indian ingenuity and all the local craftsmen.
That’s another part of the city. Same observation. Appalling.
We did not have / or taken the time to study in depth water pollution in India.
It is also revealing that it is a Chinese media NTDTV that seem to be concerned about pollution India, chinese acting as a regional environmental whistleblower, interestingly.
India is facing immense challenges when it comes to water quality. Its most sacred river is one of the world most polluted river. Are the gods polluting or are indians responsible for their sacred rivers?
To know why 1,000 Indian children die of diarrhoeal sickness every day, take a wary stroll along the Ganges in Varanasi. As it enters the city, Hinduism’s sacred river contains 60,000 faecal coliform bacteria per 100 millilitres, 120 times more than is considered safe for bathing. Four miles downstream, with inputs from 24 gushing sewers and 60,000 pilgrim-bathers, the concentration is 3,000 times over the safety limit. In places, the Ganges becomes black and septic. Corpses, of semi-cremated adults or enshrouded babies, drift slowly by.
Source: The Economist on December 11, 2008
The world treasure Taj Mahal is bordered by the Yamuna river that western journalists have qualified as “a putrid ribbon of black sludge.”
Its level of fecal bacteria is 10,000 times higher than what’s deemed safe for bathing. After a half-billion-dollar, 15-year program to build 17 sewage treatment plants, raw sewage still spills into the river at the rate of 3.6 billion liters a day.
India has a limited set of legal safeguards to protect it’s most vital asset, water.
By 2050, India is expected to become the world most populous country, with 1,523,482,000 people, that is an increase of 24.4% between 2000 and 2050. The pressure on rivers and the negative impact on fisheries is not going to decrease any time soon. I hope to come back to India and help with Protei.
Gabriella presented Protei in Bangalore and had a lot of positive response, in particular from game developers and mobile app developers that are very excited about Protei being used as an augmented reality networking game. Can you imagine? A regatta of Protei boats equipped with android phones, controlled via the web browser with real-time video feedback racing, collaborating to solve complex real-world issues! Having fun while collecting environmental data? Earning money from clean up in the water while playing, well that’s rather exciting to the people we met and to us.
India has a great entrepreneur movement and huge number of environmental issues. Can we pair these two together?
I found fiberglass, resin, wood, glue, plastic, microspheres and many other supplies to build more prototypes.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t allowed to get this fabrication supply on board. That was painful to spend so many days looking for these chemicals, parts, materials and not being allowed. Cannot wait to have our own workshop on land, manufacture Protei and come back to India where Protei is so needed! Good bye India, we’ll see each other again soon!
Let’s go straight to the point. Shwedagon pagoda is exquisite. The entire country seems to conspire to be a heaven for photographers.
The video above was made by our video Unreasonable Media team.
The streets of Yangon are busy. The country just opened. It is hard to find an ATM, there are only a few of them in the entire country at this point. More than half of the women and men are wearing traditional cloth and many wear the Thanaka (face paint).
What will the beauty of Myanmar become? Will it protect its traditions or will walk in the steps of Vietnam or China, a race towards “progress”. It is hard to say. But the fever for modernity is not yet felt in the streets of Yangon.
One cannot ignore how much Myanmar has been suffering until very recently. Watching this film will certainly not give you the full picture, but I was touched by it. I recommend you watch it. I wonder what Myanmar will become in the years to come. It will change a lot. You must remember at least one name: Aung San Suu Kyi.
You do need to get off the ship to see that Burma is exporting wood. A lot of wood. Maybe loggers are in a rush before policy changes announced for 2014. In the mean time it is a very good business, They are loading wood in large ship night and day for export. The image underneath is a panoramic view from the ship.
We were happy not to find pressant aquatic struggles in Myanmar, which is a good thing. Deforestation data suggests that the removal of trees is slowly starting to impact water quality yet industrialisation seems not to affect significantly the country. Let’s stay vigilant and hopeful for graceful Myanmar :)
Great article thanks to Kristin Luna.
Call it an aquatic update.
It’s been six weeks since the mobile-accelerator program Unreasonable at Sea set sail on the MV Explorer for a four-month trip around the world, and as we promised, we’re checking in with our intrepid entrepreneurs. First up is Cesar Harada of Protei, who dropped us a line as he was departing Singapore.
Through Protei, Harada hopes to make an open-source sailing robot, or drone, that cleans up environmental waste. But he still has major challenges, which he hopes to tackle throughout the voyage. Not only is he aiming to crack the engineering puzzle that is building a shape-shifting hull, he wants to create a global community that develops the technology. He’ll also need to fine tune his technology, which has multiple applications — from cleaning up oil spills to plastic pollution and more.
“It is hard to think of a better place as the middle of the ocean with some of the world’s most notable entrepreneurs to reinvent how technology can connect us back with the environment in a meaningful and sustainable way,” he says.
Thus far, the CEO and his colleague Gabriella Levine have visited Hawaii, Japan, China, Hong Kong, Singapore and they’re currently are in Burma. Given Harada’s Japanese heritage — and the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami that spurred a level seven nuclear crisis, the worst since Chernobyl — he was most eager to revisit his roots and start to apply his technology, which can also be used to clean up radioactivity.
“Half of my family lives in Niigata, and I was horrified [when the tsunami hit]. Hundreds of thousands of people were evacuated,” he recalls.
When the Unreasonable ship docked in Japan, Harada and his team built underwater radioactivity sensors in Tokyo. They then drove to Fukushima and immersed the instrument at the border of the exclusion zone to measure significant amounts of radioactivity on the seabed.
Related: Limor Fried on Making DIY Look Easy
They also were able to meet with FuRo (Future Robotics Laboratory of Chiba University) that provides TEPCO, Japan’s national energy company, with “Quince,” the remotely-operated robot that was sent inside the damaged reactor for remote sensing and operations. “We are now integrating FuRo Electronics in Protei design and hope to come back as soon as we possibly can to deploy a fleet of Protei in Fukushima surrounding waters,” Harada says.
The community environment that the academic host company Semester at Sea fosters has been beneficial to Protei’s development, notes Harada. The term “We’re in the same boat” has taken on a whole new meaning, he adds. “We share meals. We work together. We celebrate our small victories together. We cheer each other up in hard moments.”
He’s also learning more about himself. “I like people, but it’s actually hard for me to really like people — until this trip,” says Harada. I usually focus on work. Yet, I’ve connected quite intensely with the mentors and the organizers.” The program also boasts 50 faculty members and 600 Semester at Sea students, with whom the traveling treps interact.
While prior to the voyage, Harada was focusing on Japan, it’s China that may have proven most impactful to Protei’s future so far. “We found amazing manufacturing partners in Shenzhen. We have seen that our technology is relevant for environmental measurement there, and we have found a place where we can scale Protei production.”
Following the voyage’s completion in May, Harada now plans to relocate Protei from his native Paris to Shenzhen, one of the world’s centers for electronic manufacturing.
Kristin Luna is a Nashville-based journalist who has written travel and news features for Newsweek, Forbes, Redbook, Self and countless others, as well as several guidebooks for Frommer’s. Kristin previously sailed with Semester at Sea in 2011 as the assistant field office coordinator. You can follow her global exploits via her award-winning blog Camels & Chocolate.
Singapore is a bubble. It is described as a “startup city” since its independence recognised in 1824. Singapore has been following its motto “Onward Singapore” to become the world 4th financial center, pretty impressive for a 710km2 territory. According to TechCrunch, Singapore has the best ecosystem for startups in Asia.
The event at the INSEAD was very impressive. Many important people came and we had great discussions and learning nuggets. Even more than Hong Kong did, Singapore presented itself as the platform to develop projects in East Asia. It is true that Singapore supports very effectively new comers when it comes to business. The government can easily become a real share-holder of your company which can potentially give you a lot of stability and growth but at the same time restricts your business reactivity / mobility.
We intended to put Protei in the water and immediately residents told us we would be fined the equivalent of 5000 USD for putting anything in the water without permission. I enjoyed our 38 hours in Singapore, but I cannot imagine living there or doing R&D in a place that is that so strictly regulated.
But I must say that my favorite moment of the leg was to meet with dear friend Durreen Shahnaz. Below is her inspiring TED Talk about her story and Asia IIX, the first stock exchange for social good.
It was great to listen her speak about the region practices of investment, philanthropy, environmental issues and how we could best bring Protei to the asian market. We’ll be back!
First thing we did in Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam) was to meet with my old friend Truc-Anh and his girlfriend Penelope Cadeau in a typical street cafe. Meeting with familiar people in a new city makes a new city familiar. From left to right: hand of Olimpia Meija Corliss, Matt Corliss, Truc Anh, Penelope Cadeau. I’ve known Truc-Anh for 10 years, we were together in school at the Ecole Boulle in Paris before he moved to study circus, dance, painting and now he’s doing more and more photography. Penelope is doing delicate fashion accessory under the label “La fiancée du facteur”, modelling and many other things creative. Truc-Anh is of Vietnamese origins, but it is Penelope that convinced him to come back to this booming city.
“Croire, Douter” – “Believe, Doubt” – what he calls a “GAME OF FAITH”, that may be playing with your own mind like playing with fire, an installation that was part of an impressive personal exhibition in Vietnam’s best art gallery, Galerie Quynh.
Truc Anh recommended us a scooter rental for a week with an acquaintance of him and off we went.
We enjoyed a lot scooting around Vietnam, Saigon has the highest density of motorised 2 wheelers in the world. People were kind given they were not in a hurry. Most young people spoke english, really old people spoke french and were very engaging. For Protei, we explored 2 sites in particular :
- One pond that used to be natural natural and sane, in the middle of the city and is getting “annihilated” by the residents.
- One lake that did not exist, that was created because of a hydroelectric dam and that is now protected as a natural reserve.
Case study 1: “Natural to Artificial”, Phường 2, Quận 4, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
I was looking for an urban lake, to study how the local residents interact with their local waters, what’s the cultural and historical relationship of Vietnamese and their water. I had the intuition that Saigon, with it’s fast growing economic activity and population might have incurred a lot of stress on such urban bodies of water. I was interested in a small pond in Phuong 2, Quan 4 and made a quick research, found historical maps of Saigon from 1815, 1920, 1975 and today 2013: it looked like the pond had been shrinking dramatically for about a century.
I made it into a small video, I have no rights on the original images, for research purpose only.
I wanted to verify the facts, so we scooted there. It was not straight forward to find this pond as it is literally in the residents’ backyards. We started to get lost in the maze of the narrow streets, and started feeling awkward being the only foreigners in the area with a backpack mounted with a strange sailing robot. I was growing concerned we would not find any water. By luck, a woman came to us, speaking good english with an australian accent. She was in her 30s and walking around with her young daughter. She explained us that she was born here. That the place has changed a lot. She told us that as a child she enjoyed multiple clean ponds, in which they were playing, bathing, fishing, cleaning their laundry. She said that about 20 years ago they started using detergents for cleaning, more people came to live in the area, started to throw away their garbage in the water, plastic things. Kids would not longer play in the water and the trend became worse as many people from other cities or from the countryside -transient avid population- converged to Ho Chi Minh in hope of a better future.
What we saw was a single dark, smelly, murky stream. Semi stagnant water loaded with detritus. Some slow bubbling from the bottom of the water suggested there might still be some life still in the water.
Matt Corliss in Phường 2, Quận 4, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.
Case study 2: “Artificial to Natural”, Hồ Trị An, Dong Nai province, Vietnam
We were looking for a large body of water to test Protei. The sea was too far, and our prototype not quite rugged enough for the scooter ride nor for the waves. We looked at a location we could go and come back by scooter the same day. The Tri An Lake was that location. We drove about 2 hours north and arrived on the lake. It was fun testing Protei for about one hour.
As you may see on the picture, there was no wind at all, the only navigation that we could do was assisted by human pull with a long line.
When we approached the lake I realised that some of the river streams had been constrained and dried out. We passed some hydroelectric installations so I deducted that we were in presence of a large artificial reserve.
Tri An Reservoir (Ho Tri An), a large artificial lake fed from the forest highlands around Dalat and created by the Tri An Dam. Completed in the early 1980s with Soviet assistance, the dam and its adjoining hydroelectric station supplies the bulk of HCMC’s electric power.
Source : “Vietnam” By Nick Ray, Yu-Mei Balasingamchow.
As I was guessing this, we passed a sign saying “Natural Reserve”. We were in presence of a man-made natural reserve.
What we learnt
- Protei huge side force: I was amazed when pulling Protei by its most bow point, pulling from the side, it would still be sailing forward very steadily. Great news for how much we can control the machine.
- Urge to make transport easier with a smaller rugged unit: as the photo underneath suggests, taking Protei on a scooter is not the safest thing we have done. At time Protei would act as a wing and destabilise the ride.
- Smaller unit would mean no extra ballast needed: a smaller and lighter unit would make it so much more convenient to take on the field. The weight of the battery might suffice as ballast. We had to stop on the side of the road to add stones and sand into the lowest tube of the prototype.
- Need to simplify the procedure to wire and adjust the machine: as the sun was declining, we were in panic for wiring the prototype in low light. We need to make it simpler to wire and adjust the machine as it is running.
- The machine needs to be more agile in low wind conditions: This region seems to be notorious for its low winds, no waves and shallow waters. If we translate that into naval architecture, that means a larger sail surface (to catch more wind), a shallower but heavier ballasted keel (for shallow water, while compensating for a larger surface of sail).
Relevancy for Vietnam environmental, health and economic challenges
It does not take long searching the internet to find the plethora of water-related issues in Vietnam. A selection of quotes and issues.
Agriculture and industry pollution damage water quality and public health:
Up to 80% of diseases in Vietnam are caused by polluted water resources, said the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment at a ceremony in Hanoi Mar. 23 to mark the World Water Day and 60th birthday of the World Meteorological Organization. Around six million Vietnamese people have contracted one of six water-related diseases over the past four years. The expenditures for cholera, typhoid, dysentery and malaria check-ups and treatment are estimated at VND400 billion ($20.9 million). Climate change and rising sea levels will affect water resources and will be challenges for Vietnam to deal with in the coming years as the Southeast Asian country is listed among fiver countries that will be the hardest hit. Up to 1,000 communes in Vietnam’s Red River and Mekong Delta regions are facing high risks of arsenic-contained water sources. Vietnam has 180 processing and industrial zones, 12,259 healthcare facilities, 72,012 enterprises, which discharge hundreds of untreated wastewater cubic meters into its rivers a day.
Source: NGO Center 2013, http://www.ngocentre.org.vn/content/80-diseases-vietnam-caused-polluted-water-resources
It is reported that only 39% of the rural population has access to safe water and sanitation. The rural population has moved from using surface water from shallow dug wells to groundwater pumped from private tube wells. In the Northern region of Vietnam around Hanoi, there is evidence of arsenic contamination in the drinking water. About 7 million people living in this area have a severe risk of arsenic poisoning and since elevated levels of arsenic can cause cancer, neurological and skin problems, this is a serious issue.
It is without doubt that agriculture has the largest burden on water resources in Vietnam. Vietnam is one of the richest agricultural regions in the world and a top producer and consumer of rice. Currently, water used for agriculture purposes take up over 80% of total water production. Paddy rice is the primary crop that takes up a majority of the total irrigated area. Fisheries, aquaculture, industries and services also contribute to water demand increase.
Water resources are very significant, especially natural water sources in the rural areas of Vietnam as they are the sources of economic, social and cultural activities.
Image above: Geographical connection between industrial zones and protected areas in Dong Nai River Bassin.
When it comes to the Tri An Lake that we visited, it is at the heart of the economic, health and environmental future of the country as WWF program executant Jacob Fjalland explains very well. More immediate health threat may come specifically from:
Seven strains of cyanobacteria from Tri An Reservoir, a drinking water reservoir for millions of people in Southern Vietnam, were isolated, cultivated, identified and described.
Source: “Toxic cyanobacteria from Tri An Reservoir, Vietnam”, 2010, N. Thanh Son Dao, Gertrud Cronberg, Jorge Nimptsch, Do-Hong Lan-Chi, Claudia Wiegand. http://www.lunduniversity.lu.se/o.o.i.s?id=12683&postid=1630884
We saw quite a few disabled people in the streets of Saigon. Limbless, or deformed. We asked if there was a known reason to their disability. “Agent Orange” was the immediate answer. Everybody knows about it and as tourism grows in Vietnam, the victims (not the heroes) of the war are removed from touristic area, deported outside of the city or abandoned by their families to themselves.
It is only since 2012, a few months ago, that the USA has officially started taking responsibility for Agent Orange in Vietnam and started cleaning up the horror they have spread on Vietnam. This New York Times article by Thomas Fuller dated from August 2012 narrates how the cleanup is being implemented 4 decades too late. The World Bank publishes about the topic relevant information.
This is the areas concerned. Pretty much an entire nation intentionally poisoned.
If you are interested, I encourage you watching this 22 minutes documentary and taking action. I take action by working on deploying Protei in Vietnam to track Agent Orange. If you are interested in helping with this, if you know the appropriate water sensors, please get in touch with me.
In June 2010, Vietnam announced that it plans to build 14 nuclear reactors at eight sites in five provinces by 2030, to satisfy at least 15 GW nuclear power (i.e. 10% share) of the estimated total demand of 112 GW. An ambitious strategy to increase the nuclear share to 20-25% by 2050 has also been outlined.
Companies including Westinghouse, AtomStroyExport, Electricité de France, and China Guangdong Nuclear Power Group (CGNPC) have all been involved in discussions about supplying nuclear plants to Vietnam, and South Korea has also expressed an interest in the project. Vietnam has signed nuclear cooperation and assistance agreements with countries including Japan, France, China, South Korea, the USA and Canada.
I will spare you videos of the health effects in Chernobyl, Pripyat after the nuclear accident.
Most nuclear power plants envisioned for Vietnam are going to exposed to a medium-level Tsunami threat. Does it ring a bell? Japan engineers are now teaching their Vietnamese peers how to secure their installations being themselves incapable of containing the aftermath of the Fukushima disaster in their home country.
As there is no nuclear power plant in Vietnam yet, it is necessary to map the radioactivity levels in the country, establishing a baseline for future measurements, to keep the industry in check and provide reliable data to decision makers.
Is nuclear the only way to power Vietnam? If you have the shadow of a doubt, I invite you to read the very optimistic Vietnam Atomic Energy Institute website: http://vinatom.gov.vn
Read more :
- General statistics about water in Vietnam : http://www.wepa-db.net/policies/state/vietnam/surface.htm
- Informations about Vietnam Natural Reserves : http://www.nationalparks-worldwide.info/vietnam.htm
- Vietnam National parks for tourism: http://www.activetravelvietnam.com/vietnam_national_parks.html
- Nuclear Blossom in Vietnam : http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/02/world/asia/vietnams-nuclear-dreams-blossom-despite-doubts.html?pagewanted=all Doubts, indeed.
Conclusion: Protei use in Vietnam
To me the whole story is an absurd plot.
- In the past Vietnam has been the victim of Agent Orange and is still suffering today its horrifying effects.
- In the present Vietnam is developing its industry and agriculture out of control, destroying what made its health and wealth.
- For its future Vietnam is determined to establish the most dangerous energy producing process predominantly on its coastline that is vulnerable to tsunami.
In the city of Saigon, we have visited a natural cluster of ponds that is being destroyed by the residents.
One hour north of Saigon we have visited a man-made reservoir that is now considered a natural reserve.
What was once a natural resource has been destroyed ; a man-made resource is now labelled “natural reserve”.
How does this make sense?
As described in this article Protei could be deployed in Vietnam for a variety of applications:
- Measurements of agricultural and industrial pollution in water, heavy metals detection
- Study of toxic cyanobacteria in the drinking reservoir
- Water quality monitoring for tourism in lakes and on the shore
- Agent orange tracking in lakes to avoid further contamination
- Radioactivity baseline mapping before installation of power plants
- Earthquake and tsunami alert system offshore (Vietnam initiated it’s own tsunami alert system in 2011)
According to the discussion we had with local entrepreneurs, bureaucracy and the process of getting permission may slow down our progress. On the other hand Vietnam has a fast growing educated population that is made of curious, hard working young minds. We have been advised to focus on educational channel and working in harmony with local authorities to build trust and capacity. Protei INC manufacturing is going to be located in the Hong Kong region, not far at all from Vietnam, so we hope to be back in the region soon.
“Croire, Douter?”, Believe or Doubt? What is the future of Vietnam? What is certain is that Vietnam, the small Asian Dragon will keep growing. What we do not know is how it will grow. Vietnamese people are admirably resilient and resourceful people. Will they destroy their country trying to make it “great”? Does sustainable growth even exist?
We may become the makers of our fate when we have ceased to pose as its prophets.
Source: Karl Popper