In Memoriam: Ken McLeod – India Mark II development lead

en McLeod, who died of cancer in Cairns, Australia, on January 23rd at the age of 88, was recruited by Unicef to support India’s village water supply programme from 1974-1978, and played a pivotal role in the development of the India MK II hand pump.

by Rupert Talbot (former UNICEF and past Chair of HTN/RWSN)

Remembering Ken

Ken McLeod, who died of cancer in Cairns, Australia, on January 23rd at the age of 88, was recruited by Unicef to support India’s village water supply programme from 1974-1978, and played a pivotal role in the development of the India MK II hand pump.

The Government of India’s fourth, five year development plan (1969-1974) envisaged the ambitious goal of providing drinking water in the hard rock, drought prone regions of the country, using innovative down-the-hole-hammer drilling and deep well hand pump technology. Drill rigs were to be imported by Unicef and locally made, cast iron hand pumps, supplied and maintained by Government. In 1974, at the end of the plan period, hand pump surveys concluded that 75% of some 40,000 installations were not working. The viability of drilling and hand pump technology was in question and there was the real prospect of UNICEF, the Government of India’s main partner, withdrawing support. The programme was in serious crisis.

Ken McLeod, his 1942 Jeep, and Myra who designed the first India MK II hand pump poster, New Delhi, 1976 (Photo: Rupert Talbot)

Water well drilling was virgin territory for Unicef in the early 1970s and Unicef’s Executive Board had been divided over the decision to invest in such costly technology in the first place. It was now faced with the hard option of either scrapping the programme or keeping faith. It was a close run thing. Fortunately, the ‘pro’ lobby won with the eminently wise decision to halt the supply of drill rigs until the hand pump problem was fixed. Which is where Ken McLeod comes in.

Ken was a pragmatic, no–nonsense, straight talking, tell-it-as-it-is Australian with a diverse engineering background which ranged from marine and civil engineering to blast hole and water well drilling with down-the-hole-hammers. He had an innate sense of what would probably work and what wouldn’t. Obstinacy was also a hallmark. A serious asset as it turned out. Once he had made up his mind it was difficult to persuade him otherwise. And he had a droll sense of humour. His repertoire of stories and anecdotes are legendary within the water well fraternity. It would seem that seriousness of purpose combined with good humour are prerequisites for successful development enterprises. Ken had both these qualities in spades.

Over the course of the next 4 years it fell to Ken to identify, coordinate, argue with and cajole, myriad organisations and individuals to develop what became known as the India MK II hand pump. This was an extraordinarily complex, collaborative venture, involving pioneering NGOs in Maharashtra, birth place of the fabricated steel Jalna, Jalvad and Sholapur pumps, spearheaded by Raj Kumar Daw and Oscar Carlson (names participants in the RWSN Sustainable Groundwater Development Forum will be familiar with); WHO, who were independently trying to develop their own cast iron ‘Bangalore Pump’; The Government of India, whose programme was in dire straits and who were being prevailed upon by the country-wide hand pump industry to continue with the supply of their cast iron products (‘junk pumps,’ in McLeod Speak); and an engineering enterprise, Richardson and Cruddas, a Government of India undertaking tasked with making prototype and then production pumps. It took a McLeod to handle all of that.

Ken McLeod, Arun Mudgal (Richardson and Cruddas) and Rupert Talbot, MK II test area, Coimbatore, 1975. A ‘what to do ?’ moment after experimental cylinders had failed. (Photo: Rupert Talbot)

It is getting on for 50 years since it was eventually agreed by all parties that the Sholapur pump would form the basis of a new design and we were able to make and test the first dozen prototypes under the deep water table conditions of Coimbatore, Southern India. The fact that the India MK II then went successfully into mass production was largely due to Ken’s clarity of vision, direction, smart technical choices and perseverence.

I spoke with Ken for the last time two weeks before he died. We talked of those heady days of trying to get the MK II programme off the ground, of the internal arguments, external battles and technical problem solving in the field and in the factory.

His voice was strong and his mind as clear as a bell as he recalled people, places and events in great detail and he spoke warmly of those free spirits with their out of the box thinking who strove to make better hand pumps.

He was amazed to learn that there are now several million MK IIs in India alone and that it is exported to 40 or more countries. But hugely disappointed that the third party quality assurance procedures set up in his day and honed over the years to become the corner stone of the MK II programme under Ken Gray, had been allowed to slide back and that MK II look-a-like ‘junk pumps’ are being exported from India to Africa. That, we agreed, is a great tragedy.

There were many brilliant, dedicated people involved in the development of the India MK II. Ken never claimed any credit for it himself, but we all know who led the charge. It wouldn’t have happened without him. He was the right man in the right place at the right time. It needed his force of personality, tough and uncompromising ways, solid understanding of technical issues and absolute determination to get the job done in the face of industrial strength, bureaucratic wranglings. Aussie grit personified.

After Unicef, Ken McLeod worked with Shaul Arlossoroff and his UNDP-World Bank Hand Pumps Project, initially based in Nairobi then out of Australia, spending much of his time in China where I have no doubt he brought the same skills and energy to bear as he did in India.

Pragmatic and stoic to the very end he told me he hadn’t got long and was resigned to being on the ‘home stretch’ as he called it.

No funeral for Ken. No grave, no head stone, no epitaph. He wanted none of that. Instead, he has the lasting legacy of the India Mark II hand pump itself. Millions of them in fact.

Kenneth Robert McLeod, 1932 – 2020

RIP

Rupert Talbot
RWSN
26/1/20

In Memoriam: Arun Mudgal – a great handpump guru, mentor and friend

Reflections from 3 past leaders of HTN/RWSN on the loss of great friend.

(1) Rupert Talbot, former Chair of the Handpump Technology Network (UNICEF – retired)
(2) Dr Peter Wurzel, former Chair of the Handpump Technology Network (UNICEF – retired)
(3) Erich Baumann, former Director of the HTN/RWSN Secretariat (Skat – retired)

Rupert: “I am writing to let you know that Arun Mudgal died on September 13th after a long battle with Alzheimer’s.

“Although his many friends will surely regret his passing, those of us who visited him in recent times will be glad that he did not linger for longer; Alzheimer’s is a fearful illness.

“Arun was a familiar face to many within the HTN/RWSN fraternity. He made an unparalleled contribution to hand pump development in India from the 1970s and was instrumental in putting the first India MK II and MK III hand pumps into production.

“I would argue that the Mark II simply would not have happened without Arun. At least, not in the form that we would recognise today. He was absolutely key at Richardson and Cruddas, the Government of India engineering company that manufactured the prototype Mark II pumps, field tested them in the deep bore wells of Coimbatore and closely monitored their performance, translating technical problems encountered in the field into pragmatic, engineering solutions; Arun was the conduit between Unicef field staff and the factory that first made the pump.

“It was his persona – his charm and calm disposition combined with astute engineering expertise and manufacturing know-how – that led to the mass production of the India MK II. The development of the pump is best summarised in the Skat/HTN Working Paper WP 01/97 : ‘India Hand Pump Revolution: Challenge and Change‘. Written by Arun, it is probably the most authentic account of how the MKII and Mark III hand pumps came about.

“Arun’s legacy is much more than the MkII and MkIII hand pumps, of course; in a career spanning some forty years, Arun also contributed to the development of the Afridev and the VLOM concept and he worked extensively on water quality issues, especially arsenic testing and treatment. His influence on rural water supply programmes stretches far beyond India’s borders.

“I and many others will miss his thoughtful insights into troublesome problems; we shall miss too, his companionship on those long field trips….”

Peter: “Arun was a dear and much admired friend. I had the privilege and pleasure to work with him in Mozambique and Ethiopia and we met several times over the years at handpump meetings. It was an education to talk handpumps with Arun and such was his towering knowledge and authority of handpump issues that his assertions on the topic were always received with little argument.

“But he was much more than a supreme handpump guru – he had an appealing, if somewhat serious, retiring and studious, personality. In essence a supremely nice guy. I shall remember his Arun as genuine and kind, humble, self-effacing with a quick mind who achieved much during a lifetime devoted to our sector and specifically handpumps – and even more specifically the India Mark II (though knew a thing or two about the Afridev too!).

“Farewell Arun – a friend and mentor to all who were fortunate enough to know you.”

Erich: “I do not know what to write. Even though Arun had in the last few years faded out of our life because of his illness. He was and will forever be remembered as the great friend and professional.

“A true handpump guru with many other qualities. I had the privilege to work with him for years very closely. We travelled several trips together and his input into the work was very valuable. As Peter rightly said also the Afridev development profited from his knowledge and experience. Look at the piston. But Arun did not a want to be put into the lime-light.

“One incident will stay with me for ever. Arun visited us in Switzerland and stayed in our house. Our youngest son had a bit of a rough time in school. During my next visit to India Arun gave me a small statue of Ganesh. He mentioned that Ganesh has a calming effect and if we would put the statue in my son’s room it might help him. He was not only a very rational engineer but also a believer.”

Arun leaves behind his wife Krishna, a son Prashant and a daughter Ankur.

World Water Day – Is the Hand-pump dead?

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Broken India Mk II in Eritrea (Skat)

In this short blog series on the successes of India Mark II, Afridev and Bush Pumps, however the challenges and set-backs that were encountered by these designs shouldn’t be discounted. Nor should it be overlooked that there are also successful proprietary designs, and self supply options like the EMAS Pump and the Rope Pump. However it is worth highlighting the heroic efforts of those people from all the different countries and organisations and what they achieved for rural water supplies worldwide.

In today’s debate, the humble hand-pump gets the part the villain: the rusting carcass in the corner of too many villages, or the subject of frightening statistics about how many are probably not in use at any one time, and how long they are out of service for. Many of the problems, framed in that weaselly catch-all “sustainability” have remained – doggedly – since the 1970s and before: pump manufacturing quality is often poor, boreholes are drilled badly, supply chains for spare parts fail, pump mechanic skills are lost, not enough money is collected to pay for the maintenance and replacement costs.

Continue reading “World Water Day – Is the Hand-pump dead?”

How three handpumps revolutionised Rural Water Supplies: the India Mark II

How Three Handpumps Revolutionised Rural Water Supply1974: UNICEF reviewed their water supply programme in India. The results were shocking: of the tens of thousands of wells drilled over the previous seven years, 75% were not supplying water.

In the new publication “How Three Handpumps Revolutionised Rural Water Supplies” from RWSN, Erich Baumann explains how three handpumps, the India Mark II, the Afridev, and the Zimbabwe Bush Pump were developed and Sean Furey explores what lessons can be learned for scaling up WASH technologies today.

In the mid 1960s, drought ravaged India, and the Government of India asked UNICEF for help with improving access to water through borehole drilling. In the following years, the emergency drilling campaign evolved into a broader national programme to improve rural water supplies, but the attention was focused on the drilling and the boreholes. No one gave the hand-pumps that went on them much thought. That all changed in 1974.

Continue reading “How three handpumps revolutionised Rural Water Supplies: the India Mark II”