Civil and Environmental Engineering Department, UCLA
Since 9-11, most of us are convinced
of the power of grass roots movements. Televisions
worldwide have repeatedly displayed images
of massive destruction caused by grass roots
extremists, who have been operating patiently,
quietly, and unobtrusively in small cells throughout
Fortunately, we have a melting pot of collective wisdom from Americans
who've immigrated to the U.S. and who offer a third world perspective-people
who can shed light on how the seeds of extremism and terrorism are sown.
Some of these people are operating patiently, quietly, and unobtrusively
in another kind of grass roots movement - one aimed at permanently eliminating
extremism and terrorism through specific economic and human development
"Our aim is to wipe out poverty-one of the basic causes of extremism," said Pervaiz
Lodhie, a Pakistani-American business executive who's highly involved in
grass roots efforts to benefit the third world.
"In this speed-driven technological age where the Internet feeds us instant information,
we are drawn to quick fixes to solve our problems. Many believe that terrorism
would be eradicated if we simply 'extracted' these frightening people from the
planet. In haste, we seek to obliterate symptoms rather than taking the time
and effort involved in addressing root causes," he said.
and operates LEDtronics,
an advanced technology company with 200 employees
in Torrance, California, which produces Light
Emitting Diode (LED) lamps. Although he's lived
in America for 34 years, he's stayed closely
connected with Pakistan through Shaan Technology,
a sister company that he also owns. Located
in Karachi, it employs over 100 people who
help manufacture LEDtronics'
products. Lodhie has managed his Pakistani
company "hands-on" and has stayed close to
third world issues through his work there.
Closing the Gap between the "Have's" and "Have-Not's"
Lodhie said, "To
eliminate terrorism, we need to close up the distance between the 'Have's'
and 'Have-not's'. In the West, we talk about access to information. In
the third world, we talk about access to food and water, health and safety,
education and employment, justice and equity."
He believes that extremists in any religion or organization draw followers
from the impoverished. As Americans, he feels we haven't sufficiently
addressed this issue. We haven't seen how it's in our best interest to
fight against poverty. He asked, "Do people with the means to provide
for their families send off their children to isolated institutions to
learn from terrorists? Do people with education, meaningful employment,
and hope for their future unleash destructive energy on others?"
that we can't protect the world from demented
individuals, but we can prevent them from creating
a stronghold of followers to do their bidding.
First Things First - Safe Drinking Water
Where to start?
grass roots efforts involve tackling "first things first." He explained
that 70 percent of Pakistan's poverty is in remote rural areas, and that
it's not unusual for people to walk 10 miles to find water. "We need
to move with lightning speed to accomplish specific objectives. The first
is to make safe drinking water accessible to all people."
To help resolve the water problem in areas without electricity, Lodhie used
his engineering expertise to develop a kit with a solar powered water
pump, which generates energy using two 60-watt solar panels. "The pumps
will deliver from 1,000-1,200 gallons a day of water, adequate for 1,000
families," he said. He is currently preparing to test these pumps in
the first of three testing sites in Pakistan.
Although Lodhie's acting on his own initiative in creating solutions
for people living below the poverty line, his work comes at the request
of Pakistan's President,
Pervez Musharraf. On September 3, 2001, Musharraf appointed Lodhie as
advisor to Pakistan's National
Commission For Human Development, which aims to alleviate poverty
through education, health, and economic development programs. (See "National
Commission For Human Development" sidebar.)
very positive about the President and
his efforts to help the country. "Musharraf began
programs to reduce extremism and develop Pakistan
long before 9-11," he said. "The President
is an honest, humble, hard-working man dedicated
to helping his poverty-stricken people. In
the two years that he's served as President,
he's advanced the country a decade. I consider
it my unwritten duty to use my skills to help
him better the conditions in Pakistan."
As an engineer, Lodhie is
a problem solver by nature. "All my life, I've applied technological
solutions to problems. In this case it's no different." Along with the
solar-powered water pump, Lodhie developed a solar panel for lighting
rural areas without electricity, using his LED lamps. Lodhie pioneered
this energy-saving lighting, which is now widely accepted and used in
the U.S. He recently designed what he calls his third world kit for application
in underdeveloped areas. His kit holds three LED lights for households
without electricity. The solar panel generates enough power during the
day to light a home for six to eight hours in the evening. The kit's
three lights will illuminate a cooking area, a study desk, and a family
room. The solar-powered lighting kits are being placed in two beta sites
Not a Hand Out - A Hand Up
Who's funding these projects?
that he's initiating these projects at his own expense to give them "a
kick start at the gate." However, after prototype testing, the Pakistani
government and agencies, such as the World Bank, Nongovernment Organizations
(NGO), and United Nations Development Projects (UNDP), will be seeing
the test results and are likely to assist in funding.
"Most importantly, the village or household receiving the solar-powered pumps
or lighting kits will be required to contribute-even if it's a very small portion
handled in installments," he said.
"This is about offering a 'hand up' not a 'hand out.' We want the people receiving
this assistance to be invested in it. America is generous, but we often don't
provide aid in a manner that's effective. The aid gets in the 'wrong' hands -
or it's looked upon as charity. We need to teach people how to fish rather than
to bombard them with food parcels."
And how will Lodhie know
if his solar-powered water pumps and lighting kits are reaching the poverty-stricken
rural areas they are intended for?
"I'll be in Pakistan next week," he said. "I'll visit the villages where these
products are being tested and see for myself." Lodhie will
be joining other Pakistani-Americans for a meeting of the Human Development Fund
to discuss the work plan and action items with Pakistani President
The Ripple Effect
Although Lodhie's current
efforts involve Pakistan - his own backyard - he believes that his home
country can serve as an example for positive grass roots efforts in other
third world countries. "Pakistan could become a model for all poverty-stricken
countries, and the efforts could spread to others - South America, Mexico,
Africa, India, the Middle East, and more.
"What we're doing in Pakistan is the first small step," he said. "Jumping in,
seeing what needs to be done, and doing it (quickly) will have a positive ripple
effect. We need to show the world that forming equitable alliances built on mutual
understanding - joining as 'one world' to develop humankind - is in the best
interests of all countries.
"Every time you take one person out of poverty, provide that person with a job
(an appropriate job with respect and dignity), you immediately affect the food
resources of 9 to 10 people. When those people start shopping and spending, it
affects 100 more people in the immediate area."
He called it a positive economic cycle - and asked, "What are the chances
of these 100 people getting involved in terrorism?"