Upon arrival in Jaisalmer, the team quickly learned that India is entirely different from the US in every way, shape, and form. Adjusting to these differences and finalizing our project scope at the same time was tough work. While we weren’t exactly sure where to start, we knew from our class with our Faculty Adviser, Heidi Eldred, that all good consultants start by asking lots of questions. Therefore, the first couple days were heavily based on tours, interviews, and learning about the fort, its issues, and how it functioned. We also began to develop our network in Jaisalmer through help from the Ohio State India Global Gateway, our tour guide, hotel manager, etc. We asked everyone we met for more introductions and, in this way, leveraged our initial connections.
Through various interviews and collaborations with locals, municipal boards, and NGO’s such as I Love Jaisalmer, the team began to see that the scope of our project was quickly evolving from what we originally thought it would be. It wasn’t “scope creep”; it was “scope pivot”! We came into the project understanding that our task was to hold onto the “UNESCO World Heritage Site” designation and increase tourism in order to raise money to sustain the fort. In reality, we learned that the real need was not tourism; it was preserving the Fort in order to have any tourism at all by addressing the Fort’s water systems- primarily the sewage system.
The sewage and water supply systems are the biggest problems immediately facing the fort. There are breakdown issues with the sewage system and maintenance occurs frequently. Basically, the sewage chambers that help move sewage from homes to the sewer evacuation pipes often get blocked and are hard to access; there is a lack of proper drainage, which causes flooding; and the system itself was not installed properly. And sadly, a major overhaul that was completed last year is already in need of multiple fixes and repars. Though these problems are burdensome, it’s not merely about inconvenience. Flooding due to a lack of drainage causes slow water seepage into the Fort’s hilltop foundation and is taking its toll on the integrity of the hill and structural wellbeing of the Fort.
Realizing that our project scope had shifted and the key question we needed to answer had changed, we sat down together as a group, brainstormed a list of water systems related questions, and then tried to find the best people to talk to about these questions. The manager of our hotel, Bhanu, was very kind and helped us connect with the right people, and from there we were able to get a good understanding of what we could to do or at least influence. Through Bhanu, we made three friends (Lalu, Gapu, and Vimal) who significantly aided in our research efforts as they were members of the NGO I Love Jaisalmer.
The next week was again heavily based on interviews, meeting up with the right people, and even taking a few tours to understand the breadth of the sewage and water systems problems. After this, we spent time figuring out how to finance such a large project with little to no money, and in a country affected by institutional corruption. As we continue to research these possibilities, we are awaiting news from Prince Chaitanya, our client, to get a cost estimate to fix or even overhaul the sewage system inside the fort.