Friday, August 16, 2019

Biodiversity Walk at Kaikondrahalli Lake

As part of the Citizen Science and Lakes Initiative another Biodiversity Walk was held at Kaikondrahalli lake on Sunday, August 11th 2019. The walk was led by Aswathy Joseph and started near the Kalyani entrance. Aswathy started by explaining the importance of mutualism in nature. In the case of ficus trees, each variety of ficus trees has a certain species of wasp essential for its pollination. The wasps in turn depend on the figs for a safe haven to lay their eggs. Image 2 below is of a ficus tree being worshipped near the Northwestern Entrance.

Image 1: Aswathy leading the Biodiversity Walk at Kaikondrahalli lake
Image 2: A ficus tree being worshipped at the lake
Aswathy mentioned that a week ago the tree was blooming with red figs but a week later we could only spot a couple on the entire tree. An interesting story she shared was that since so many birds, insects and mammals depend on ficus trees throughout the year, one of the ficus trees in the area always has figs growing on it. She also stated that figs were one of the first plants domesticated for human consumption. Another species we came across was the Babul tree as shown in Image 3, it’s a thorny tree with yellow flowers. The same Babul species in Jakkur lake was more like a shrub while the one we saw in Kaikondrahalli lake was a surprisingly large tree. 

Image 3: Participants observing the large Babul tree
Throughout the walk all the participants were really engaged and shared any additional knowledge they had on the biodiversity of plants and insects around the lake. What was supposed to be a one and a half hour walk lasted for over two and a half hours due to the enthusiasm of the participants. 

Venkatesh Peedhanna - one of the younger well diggers was also a participant

To learn more about the previous walks we have had, please refer to the following links:

Monday, June 24, 2019

Varthur Lake Wetland Workshop

Sensing Local along with Biome Environmental Trust, Whitefield Rising and Varthur Rising organised a public participatory planning workshop to develop a Wetland for Varthur Lake as part of its rejuvenation project on 5th January, 2019.  Various stakeholders were brought together to discuss and arrive at an appropriate guidelines for designing the Varthur Lake Wetland


A link to a report of the event -  in the Hindu

Friday, June 21, 2019

In-Stream Decontamination System at Saul Kere

In-Stream Decontamination system is a small-scale collaborative project constructed near the southern inlet of Sowl Kere.  This intervention is part of an ongoing collaboration which includes diverse partners spanning Design, Engineering, Civil Society, and Science perspectives. The six-fold partnership includes input from Biome Environmental Trust (project management, collaboration, coordination), MAPSAS (community engagement), Eco Paradigm (engineering & construction), Commonstudio (design), ATREE (monitoring), and Wipro (fiscal sponsorship).  

This small scale intervention “model Nallah”, approximately 2M Wide and 8M long has been constructed next to the STP at Saul Kere.
Within this space, we will run a series of experiments with jelly stones and terracotta rubble metarials. The first treatment will test the removal of organic contaminants by means of jelly and Terracotta rubble material. Terracotta has properties which makes it a viable biofilter media for urban wastewater. We plan to test the system for flows between 2.4 and 9.6 KLD.


The ultimate aim is to use the insights of the Sowl Kere studies to develop a series of larger interventions which can be placed directly within nallahs to prevent the contamination and eutrophication of urban lakes. We call this larger approach “Strategic In-stream Systems” or “STRAINS”— decentralized, frugal, flexible, and inclusive.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Biodiversity Walk at Rachenahalli Lake

After an excellent walk at Jakkur our next walk was at Rachenahalli on the 9th June 2019 as part of the Citizen Science and Lakes initiative.  About 25 people joined us for the walk of which 15 were children. Aswathy led the walk and started with the tree we were standing under, The Jamican Cherry tree also called Singapore cherry or Kaskase tree.  She spoke about how the small birds love the berries of this tree and that the red berries are very sweet and can be consumed by humans too.
Under the Singapore Cherry tree

Further we came across Black Babul tree or the Karijali tree

Black Babul or the Karijali tree

and  the Sacred fig tree.  

                                                        Sacred fig or The People Tree

Fig fruit

For more information on the ficus and the Black Babul tree please refer to our Biodiversity walk at Jakkur lake   

As we moved towards the Wetlands area children got to observe the behaviour of Purple moorhen which was hopping on the wetland reeds.  Purple moorhens nest and roost in the wetlands.

                                       Children observing purple moorhen in the wetland

                                                                Purple moorhen

As we were observing the moorhens a plant in front of us had these strange leaves.  These are leaf gall an abnormal growth of the leaves caused by insects. Different insect creates different shaped galls. These are not harmful to the plants/trees

                                                                  Galls on the leaves

Children were fascinated to observe Indian Shag or Indian Cormorant. It diving into the water to catch fish and then surfacing out, sitting on a nearby stump and drying its wings.

Indian Cormorant drying its wings

The walk ended at the gazebo with children seeing some pictures of butterflies. They tried to identify the butterflies that they have seen.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Testing for Lake Water Quality: What are the parameters that we should check for

If you are trying to rejuvenate a lake and want to know more about what parameters to test for, you can use this blog as a reference. Lakes in Bangalore are often polluted with sewage inflows, industrial effluents and catchment runoffs. To better understand the water quality of the lake is, we have created 4 categories
(A) The basic parameters
(B) Industrial effluents
(C) Pesticides
(D) Testing for the first time

(A) The basic parameters that need to be tested for in a lake area:
  1. pH
  2. BOD
  3. DO
  4. TDS
  5. TSS
  6. Nitrates
  7. Phosphates
  8. Total Coliform Bacteria
  9. Free Ammonia
(B) If industrial effluents are being discharged into the lake, the additional parameters that need to be tested for are listed below. The general standards for discharge of effluents, can be accessed through the following link:
  1. Arsenic
  2. Cadmium
  3. Mercury
  4. Zinc
  5. Chromium
  6. Lead
  7. Nickel
  8. Iron
  9. Copper
(C) If there is possible contamination from pesticides, the additional parameters that need to be tested for are:
  1. Alpha BHC
  2. Beta BHC
  3. Gamma BHC
  4. OP-DDT
  5. PP-DDT
  6. Alpha Endosulphan
  7. Beta Endosulphan
  8. Aldrin
  9. Dieldrin
  10. 2,4-D
  11. Carbonyl
  12. Malathion
  13. Methyl Parathion
  14. Anilophos
  15. Chloropyriphos
(D) If you are testing the water quality for the first time 
We recommend doing a complete potability test according to the drinking water standards set by the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS 10500) It can be accessed through the following link:

Testing Labs in Bangalore

The cost for water quality testing could vary anywhere from Rs 1,500 to Rs 15,000 depending on the parameters being tested. For more accurate information contact a water quality testing lab and mention you want to test lake water quality, they will send you the list of parameters that they can test in their lab and the respective quotation. Listed below are some of the testing labs in Bangalore along with its links and contact information.

Lab Name
Contact Information
New BEL road
98441 68829
74114 39839
JP Nagar
080 2658 9777
96869 77009
080 2350 2684
Kempegowda Layout
91523 22165
95388 88098
080- 23356415
080- 2839 2230

Surface Water Quality Standards

Testing the above mentioned parameters will tell you what the quality of the lake water is but to know what standard it needs to meet depends on the end use of the water. The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) of India defines water quality from the users point of view as ‘the physical, biological and chemical characteristics of water by which the user evaluates the acceptability of water’. Based on the primary water quality criteria CPCB has classified surface water into 5 classes (based on the expected end use), as shown below in Image 1.

Image 1: Classes of Surface Water

To use the lake water as a source of drinking water it needs to meet Class A or C standards, similarly to use the lake water for propagation of wildlife and fisheries it needs to meet Class D standards. As per data collected by the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board, most lakes in Bangalore are classified as D or E. To know more about the different standards as per IS-2296 refer to Table 9.1 in the following link


Lakes Water Samples Classification by the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board

Water quality parameters and the importance of each

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Video on Seepage Management at Safina Towers

Safina Towers located on Ali Asker Road, had been facing seepage problems in their lower basement since the building had been constructed. The volume of water seepage reached an alarming amount during the heavy monsoon rains of September, 2017 which is when Mr. Madhiazhagan, the Maintenance Head of Safina Towers, reached out to Biome.

Safina Towers implemented Biome's recommendation of digging three open wells within the property, one near the eastern boundary, one near the northern boundary and the other near the southern boundary. Almost a year later in October 2018, Mr. Madhiazhagan informed Biome that their basement was free from water seepage and that they were able to pull out 1 lakh liters of water every day for their personal consumption.

This project shows the beneficial effects of open wells- it helps recharge ground water, and also reduces flooding and seepage. Click this link to watch a short video on seepage management at Safina Towers.
Aerial view of Safina Towers

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Urban Water Workshop

The Urban Water Workshop was held on April 25th and 26th at the School of Ancient Wisdom, Bangalore. The WIPRO funded workshop provided a platform for experts across the country to come together and share their experiences working in the water field. There were around 42 members who attended the two day event, that includes academicians, lake group members, water professionals and government officials, to name a few.

  Group photo taken on the last day
One the first day we had presentations and open house discussions on 4 major topics that are listed below. Dr. Himanshu Kulkarni , Shubha Ramachandran and S. Vishwanath set the context for the workshop.

Topic 1: Groundwater and its participatory management
1. Dr. Himanshu Kulkarni, ACWADAM
  • Through citizen participation ACWADAM created an aquifer map, which was 85% accurate when compared to a technical survey
  • Pune states that it is completely dependent on surface water but ACWADAM’s research showed that 50% of the water supply in Pune comes from groundwater
2. Yogesh Jadeja, Arid Communities and Technologies
  • Case Study of Bhuj, making Bhuj self reliant on its water resources through participatory groundwater movement
  • Government officials, volunteers, academicians, citizens and NGOs all came together. Trained ‘Bhujal Jankars’ for aquifer mapping and monitoring. With everyone’s help they have created a groundwater recharge plan for Bhuj
3. Shubha Ramachandran, Biome
  • Spoke about Participatory Aquifer Mapping in Sarjapur road in South East of Bengaluru
  • Most of peri-urban Bangalore depends on groundwater as they are not connected to the Cauvery water supply
  • Move away from the idea that the deeper you go the more water you find. 
  • Rainbow Drive, a private layout that is completely independent of public water supply shows the benefits of shallow aquifer recharge
4. Eklavya Prasad, Megh Pyne Abhiyan
  • Created a group of students from Carmel school to become the future water leaders, they are called the Gang of 20
  • Student participation survey showed that 65% depended on groundwater, 31% on piped water supply and 4% depended on both.
  • Why Dhanbad Municipal Council (DMC) is so focused on piped water supply when majority of the people depend on groundwater?
5. Shubha Avinash, Karnataka State Natural Disaster Monitoring Center (KSNDMC)
  • Marked 174 most floodable areas in Bangalore
  • Rain gauge, weather sensors and water level sensors set up in Bangalore. There are 100TRG in BBMP area, 6 TWS and 6 water level sensors to monitor and manage water levels.
  • Use hydrological modeling and flood forecast systems to create an early warning system
Bhakti Devi from Neer Infinite provides hands on training to teach participants how to provide solutions to apartments, Bala Bangalore Apartments Federation (BAF) stated that BAF has over 4000 apartments that is participating in better water management and they also created the “half bucket challenge” to encourage citizens to save water during the summer, and Virupax from Smarter Homes spoke about their water metering systems that help communities save over 35% of their water.

Discussion- Some key points that came up during the Open House are: 
  • How do we ensure equitable distribution of groundwater? 
  • How do you ensure everyone in the “community” is involved? 
  • Once groundwater data is shared publicly, how will it affect real estate, migration and government deals?
  • How do we change the psychology related to groundwater?

 Ekalavya sharing his experiences 
Topic 2: Local water resources in higher education 
1. Mona Iyer, CEPT University
  • Spoke about the learning pedodgy at CEPT, learning is emphasised through practical research, lectures, field visits, studios and by taking into account different stakeholders such as NGO/s, civil society organisations and government organisations.
  • A studio project is where students engage with local governments and practitioners to work on existing development plans and projects. Some water and sanitation studio exercises are City Sanitation Plan for Kalol Nagarpalika, Water services and sanitation: Surat Metropolitan area and Water and Sanitation in Vadodara
2. Neha Sarwate, MSU
  • Vishwamitri River System, lessons towards reviving Vadodara’s vital lifeline
  • Meandering river indicates that its living, common trend to straighten its path indicates that the river is being killed
  • Taking a multi and interdisciplinary approach by working with architects, geographers, botanist, zoologists, engineers, wildlife experts, students, activists, economists, sociologists and hydrologists
  • Understand the importance and role of academia
  • inclusion of ecological sciences and ethics across all levels of academic curriculum.

3. Sachin Tiwale, TISS
  • TISS created a center for water policy, regulation and governance
  • Interdisciplinary approach to education; law, economics, finance, hydrology, hydrogeology, water chemistry and social sciences
  • Moving beyond centralised water supply system to meet the water requirements

4. Ananth Mariganti, Hyderabad Urban Lab (HUL)
  • Definition of local varies with time, there is no clear definition of what is a local. New sewage lines added to a local storm water drain, eventually becomes “local”.
  • Before proving solutions, the problem itself needs to be understood thoroughly. It’s important to redescribe the existing problems in understandable ways, instead of proving new solutions.

Discussion- Some key points that came up during the Open House are: 

  • Improve the connection between education and policy, think more about real life applications rather than theories.
  • How do you improve communication between departments in an institution?
  • We need both soft advocacy and hard advocacy, but hard advocacy costs a lot of money and time
  • What approach do you take for riverfront design at universities, is there a fixed way of thinking or a question up for debate?
  • Start education on environment and ethics early not just in higher education.

 Ananth sharing his insights on local resources

Topic 3: Lakes/rivers/canals revival and community participation

1. Akshay Agarwal and Lokesh Ohri, Been There, DOON That

  • Reviving Uttarakhand's Heritage of Irrigation Canal through citizen participation
  • Organise history/cultural walks and talks about the canals
  • They have been able to save small stretches but hope to work more with the locals and the government bodies to save the canals in Dehradun
2. Ajay Nayak, RIVER-se
  • Revival of Dahisar, Boisar and Oshiwara river in Mumbai
  • Focused on how to create an identity with the river for people to connect with
  • Community engagement from local stakeholders, tribal communities living along the river, dhobis, missionary workers, social activists, students
  • Organised workshops, volunteering activities, tree planting drive and River March
3. Dr. Annapurna Kamath, Jalaposhan
  • Nurturing Jakkur lake
  • Jakkur lake receives treated wastewater which enters a constructed wetland before entering the lake
  • Considered all stakeholders from fishermen, grass cutters, washer men, local residents, migrated residents and elected representatives
  • Collaborate with all stakeholders to resolve issues, the citizen group acts as point of convergence for all agencies
4. Shailaja Deshpande, Jeevitnadi- Living River Foundation
  • Revival of river Mutha through public participation
  • All programs organised by the river banks: Kathak, puppet show, nature trails, science magic, street plays, kirtan and saritayan
  • Organised different events such as Muthai Festival, Muthai Walk, River Story, Adopt a Stretch and Toxin Free Lifestyle
Discussion- Some key points that came up during the Open House are: 
  • How difficult is it to start an initiative? 
  • Are these initiatives sustainable? 
  • How do you get funding for these initiatives and is it hard to get funding?

   Akshay and Lokesh talking about the Revival of the Irrigation Canals in Uttarakhand

Topic 4: Protecting and rejuvenating local water bodies: battling vested interests and citizen-governance engagement
1. Chetan Agarwal, Center for Ecology Development and Research (CEDAR)
  • Mostly worked in Himalayan and Aravalli towns
  • Case against the State of Haryana that claimed an area was not part of a forest, planned on cutting 7000 trees for a housing project but the NGT judgement stated that the land in question is held to be a ‘deemed forest’
  • Zoning and protection of natural recharge areas such as the Aravallis, water bodies, nullahs and flood prone areas will reduce the risk of flooding
2. Sarang Yadwadkar, Justice for Rivers
  • Encroachment of lake beds, so drastic that a lake bed was moved from the left side of a river to the right side of a river
  • Floodline maps, ignored during construction.
  • A question he posed is “Are we only tackling the symptoms or are we addressing the root cause? What are the root causes?” Some possible root causes are insufficient laws, incompent bureaucracy, greed, apathy and shortage of natural resources.
3. Ramprasad, Friends of Lakes
  • Conflicts within lake groups themselves, no clear solution or idea
  • We need both soft advocacy and hard advocacy groups to get work done
Discussion- Some key points that came up during the Open House are: 
  • How to legally fight an encroachment case?
  • Experience taking up a case against the NGT

The second day started with site visits in Devanahalli, we first went to Bettakote lake, behind the airport, to learn more about groundwater management in the area. We learnt about the borewells and open wells in the region and also learned about the different entrepreneurial borewell services that have come up in the area, one innovative method to prevent water from shallow aquifers draining into deeper aquifers is to place a deflated volleyball at the required depth and then fill the volley ball with air to block the borewell at that depth. We then saw farms where wastewater was reused for cultivation and our last stop was at the Fecal sludge treatment plant(FSTP).
Avinash starting the site visits by introducing Devanahalli Town
The site visits were followed by a discussion on the site visits and ended with a discussion on how to move forward with the workshop. Dr. Himanshu Kulkarni listed his 6 major learning from the workshop, it is shown below on the right side of the image.
Concluding thoughts on the workshop
Overall, the workshop was a great place for people from different backgrounds to interact and share their knowledge and experience. For me personally it was an enriching learning experience, and I look forward to more such workshops.