Wednesday, November 15, 2023

Building Water Resilient Cities: Strategies for Wastewater Reuse in India - WELL Labs

The conference, titled "Building Water Resilient Cities: Strategies for Wastewater Reuse in India," brought together a diverse group of stakeholders in water management and urban planning. The focus was on diagnosing problems in urban planning and wastewater reuse issues for Bangalore and other urban cities in India. The aim was to ensure that urban populations meet their water needs while safeguarding water resources.

The conference was hosted by the Well Labs Team. The event was co-organized by the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology, the Bangalore Apartments Federation, and Well Labs, which works on land and water sustainability solutions.

The keynote speaker, Sri BP Ravi, Principal Secretary of Ecology and Environment of Karnataka, emphasized the importance of using treated wastewater to build long-term water resilience. He highlighted the challenges and barriers in utilizing wastewater effectively, urging apartment federations to reuse water and reduce the strain on natural resources.

A report on Bangalore's water balance was presented, exploring alternative pathways for meeting the city's water demand without increasing supply from the Cauvery River. The report also addressed the dual nature of Bangalore's water crisis: flooding and water scarcity.

Experts from various fields shared insights on effective wastewater management. The discussion revolved around decentralized wastewater treatment, technological advancements, policy challenges, and the importance of community involvement in sustainable water management practices.

Overall, the conference provided a platform for sharing knowledge and experiences, and it advocated for collaborative efforts to address water management challenges in rapidly growing urban areas.

The panelists discussed various aspects of wastewater treatment and reuse in the context of urban India, with a focus on Bangalore. Key points from the discussion included:

  1. Challenges with Existing Decentralized STPs: A significant portion of the existing small-scale Sewage Treatment Plants (STPs) in Bangalore are not functioning effectively. This is attributed to factors like poor design, lack of proper maintenance, and inadequate regulatory enforcement.
  2. Economics of Wastewater Treatment: The cost of maintaining an STP, particularly smaller ones, is high, making it economically unviable for some communities. There's a need for more cost-effective and efficient solutions, especially for smaller apartment complexes.
  3. Regulatory Aspects and Incentives: The panelists emphasized the need for clearer regulatory frameworks and incentives to encourage better wastewater management practices. There were suggestions to incentivize not just builders but also Resident Welfare Associations (RWAs) and communities who maintain these systems.
  4. Role of Technology and Consultants: The choice of technology and the role of consultants in designing STPs are crucial. There's a call for reliable and accessible technology literature and guidelines to help in the selection of appropriate wastewater treatment technologies.
  5. Nature-Based Solutions: The panel also touched upon the potential role of nature-based solutions like wetlands in complementing technological solutions for wastewater treatment and reuse.
  6. Reuse of Treated Wastewater: There was a discussion about the potential for reusing treated wastewater for non-potable purposes like gardening, construction, and other neighbourhood needs. However, logistical challenges, such as transportation and seasonal variability in demand, were highlighted.
  7. Risk Analysis and Public Health Concerns: The panelists pointed out the lack of risk analysis in the current approach, especially concerning public health risks associated with improperly treated wastewater.
  8. Scaling Solutions and Infrastructure Needs: The discussion also included the need for scalable solutions, possibly looking at hyperlocal centralization rather than individual apartment-level treatment plants.
  9. Design and Operation Challenges: There's a disconnect between the design, construction, and operation of sewage treatment plants (STPs). Often, those who design and those who operate these systems are not in sync, leading to operational challenges.
  10. Nexus Skills and Stakeholder Involvement: There is a lack of collaboration among different stakeholders, including government, consultants, developers, and technology providers. Incentives should be aligned not just for builders and technology providers, but also for end-users, to encourage more sustainable practices.
  11. Regulatory Framework: The regulatory framework, while comprehensive, often faces challenges in implementation. There's a need for more practical approaches and incentives for compliance.
  12. Training and Capacity Building: Initiatives like training programs for STP operators and helpers by the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board are crucial for improving the operation and maintenance of STPs.
  13. Standards for Reuse of Treated Wastewater: There is a necessity for in-depth studies and standardization for the reuse of treated wastewater, especially in construction. Standards like IS 456:2000 and IS 3025:1978 provide guidelines, but more specific standards tailored to treated wastewater are required.
  14. Voluntary Adoption versus Mandates: Market-driven, voluntary adoption of treated wastewater is preferred over mandatory regulations. Mandatory approaches have not been very effective in the past.
  15. Impact on Urban Flooding: The disposal of treated wastewater into stormwater drains can exacerbate urban flooding issues. Proper urban drainage systems need to be studied and redesigned to address this.
  16. Public Awareness and Value of Water: There is a need to enhance public awareness regarding the value of water and the importance of its reuse.
  17. Challenges in Matching Supply and Demand: A major challenge highlighted was the geographical mismatch between the sources of treated wastewater and the demand areas, such as construction sites. Solutions like decentralized treatment and logistics services like Tanker-Wala have been effective in bridging this gap.
  18. Quality Standards and Testing: The importance of maintaining and verifying the quality of treated wastewater was emphasized. Tanker-Wala, for instance, has set up micro-labs at construction sites to test every water load for parameters like pH, alkalinity, chlorides, and sulfates. This approach not only ensures safety and compliance but also helps in building trust among users.
  19. Market and Behavioral Responses: Exploring new applications for treated wastewater in industries beyond construction was discussed. While there's potential, behavioural barriers and market dynamics play a significant role. Educating and building awareness among users, like construction workers, about the safety and benefits of using treated wastewater is crucial.

  20. Regulatory and Social Considerations: The panel touched upon the evolving regulatory landscape and how mandates in cities like Pune have encouraged the use of treated wastewater. However, there are broader social issues related to sanitation workers and the conditions in which they work. The need for investment in their well-being and training was acknowledged as an integral part of the wastewater management ecosystem.
  21. Sustainability Goals of Real Estate Developers: Some real estate developers, like Brigade Group, have set targets to become water-positive and are exploring the use of treated wastewater in their projects. This shift also aligns with their sustainability goals and market demands for more environmentally responsible properties.
  22. Potential for Wider Adoption: Despite the challenges, there is optimism about the scalability of treated wastewater reuse. With technological advancements, stricter regulations, and increasing water scarcity, more industries and residential complexes are likely to adopt these practices.

- Blog by Ayushi

Tuesday, November 14, 2023

Knowledge sharing at Prakriya School

 💧 Wat'er We Learning: A Dive into Bengaluru's Water with Prakriya's Bright Minds 🌏

I recently had the joy of leading a knowledge-sharing session at Prakriya Green Wisdom School, a beacon of learning that transcends textbooks and nurtures a profound connection with Mother Earth and our inner selves.

Our theme? The very essence of life - Water. The brilliant minds of 7th and 10th graders at Prakriya have been immersing themselves in water-themed projects, exploring the depths of this vital resource.

Picture this: a room buzzing with the energy of inquisitive young students. Our topic: water usage and conservation in Bengaluru. We embarked on a journey, starting with the startling fact that despite Earth's vast water cover, a mere 1% is fresh and accessible. Bengaluru, a city with no perennial water sources, heavily depends on rainwater harvesting and groundwater recharge.

The narrative took us back in time, to how Bengaluru has historically managed its water through tanks since the 4th century BC, essential for its water storage and infrastructure. We navigated through the urban challenges of flooding, pollution, and waste management that plague the city.

The students were engrossed as we delved into Bengaluru's primary water sources like the Cauvery River and borewells, and the pressing issues of overexploitation and inefficiency-related water loss. The irony of urban flooding, despite water scarcity, highlighted the critical need for effective rainwater management.

Our discourse wasn't just about problems; it was about solutions. We explored rainwater harvesting, recharge wells, and greywater treatment to counter these challenges, aiming to conserve groundwater, prevent flooding, and improve water quality.

To connect with our Gen Z learners, we infused the presentation with elements of their world - from Taylor Swift song references to Korean heart symbols. It was a delightful blend of science and pop culture, quenching their thirst for knowledge like a refreshing drink on a hot day.

At Prakriya, education is about understanding the symbiotic relationship between humans and nature. The students' understanding of water system challenges was profound, their solutions - innovative and forward-thinking.

Their engagement level was remarkable, displaying knowledge and insight that belied their age. They keenly observed and pondered over every detail of the presentation, showcasing a maturity that was both surprising and inspiring.

As the session concluded, my heart swelled with hope. These young minds are not just being educated; they're being groomed to be the change-makers of tomorrow. For us adults, it's a reminder that sometimes the most enlightening lessons come from the young and enthusiastic.

So here's to the future custodians of our planet. Wat'er we doing about water? We're learning, understanding, and gearing up to make a significant impact. Cheers (with a glass of water, of course) to the next generation of Earth guardians! 🌍💧🌱

Blog by Ayushi

Monday, November 13, 2023

Water workshop in Yugantar Festival - Bhhomi College

Yugantar Festival

Venue: Bhoomi College
Date: 1st and 2nd October 2023

The Biome team attended the Bhoomi Yugaantar Festival at the Bhoomi-Prakriya Campus, Bengaluru. Envisioned as a platform for fostering community ties deeply anchored in nature and indigenous cultures, Yugaantar drew inspiration from the profound teachings of luminaries like Gandhi, J.C. Kumarappa, Vinobha Bhave, and Baba Amte. 

The event spotlighted the urgency of localized action in sustainability and holistic educational transformation.

The festival was a vibrant tapestry of engaging workshops, illuminating talks, and insightful discussions delving into pivotal themes ranging from Green Economics and Climate Action to Community Building, Nature Conservation, and beyond. 

A unique highlight was the 'Seeds of Change' platform where spirited youngsters pitched their eco-project ideas, vying for a micro-grant to bring their dream to fruition. 

The atmosphere was further enlivened by stalls showcasing sustainable products, delectable traditional foods, and performances from community talents such as Vinay Varanasi and Shouri Shanbhog.

The festival proudly announced the recipients of the coveted Bhoomi Senior Fellowship, honouring their immense contributions to sustainability and holistic education. Furthermore, the festival saw the launch of "Education in Tune with Nature," a seminal work encapsulating 23 years of holistic pedagogy, serving as a beacon for educators, students, and parents.

About the workshop:

During this Yugantar Festival at Bhoomi College, the Biome team conducted an interactive discussion-based workshop titled "Wat'er we doing about water." It was designed to educate and enlighten participants about the water scenario in Bengaluru and potential sustainable solutions.

The workshop was divided into two engaging sessions:

1 > The interactive session:  We walked participants through relatable daily-life questions. By calculating individual water usage, we projected the massive water requirements for Bengaluru as a whole. This exercise revealed startling figures on water demand, supply, and the deficit. We also touched upon the uncertainty of water sources, groundwater levels, and potential sustainable measures, including the utilization of shallow aquifers, water reuse, and rainwater harvesting.

2 > Exploratory Tour: In the second half, we gave participants a firsthand look at various water management systems installed around the Prakriya school. This live demonstration covered rainwater harvesting systems, diverse filters involved, grey and black water treatment processes, recharge wells, silt traps, percolation tanks, and more.

The feedback was overwhelming. Many were startled by their daily water consumption values. While students gained a fundamental understanding of groundwater and aquifer systems, several adults were eager to know more about the legalities surrounding rainwater harvesting and recharge structures. Many even reached out, expressing their interest in consulting with Biome for rainwater harvesting installations at their homes. The concept of using open wells for recharge particularly piqued their interest.

This workshop not only educated but also ignited a spark in individuals to contribute positively to our water ecosystem.

Blog by Ayushi 

Wednesday, October 11, 2023

Biome at the Spirit of WIPRO Run

Date & Time - 8th October 2023, 7.30 AM to 11.30 AM
Venue - Kanteerava Stadium, Bengaluru
Biome team members who participated - Suma, Shivanand, Bhavani, Nikita, Srinivas, Srivalli, Krishna, Chethan and Apeksha

        The WIPRO Bengaluru Marathon was conducted by the WIPRO on Sunday, October 8, 2023. Also known as the Spirit of WIPRO Run, the event supported local Non-Governmental Organisations focusing on WIPRO Cares impact pillars - digital skills, youth empowerment and sustainability.
        Biome Environmental Trust has been working with WIPRO Cares for Sustainable water management and Water Literacy in Government schools and revival of public open wells in Bangalore, Devanahalli and Tumkur for many years.
As a part of the event, Biome exhibited various interventions carried out with the support of WIPRO cares which include :
  • Sustainable water management initiatives including Water Demand Management, Rainwater Harvesting, Water supply and Sanitation Infrastructure improvement, water literacy activities and volunteering activities with WIPRO Employees.
  • Rejuvenation of community open wells
       The posters of well rejuvenation and rainwater harvesting systems at schools, booklets on sustainable water management, handouts on water heritage of Bengaluru, a rain gauge model etc were exhibited. Visitors to the stall were encouraged to explore Biome Trust's and the Urban Waters' websites.
      Biome team members also participated in the run and successfully completed the 5k run.
        During the event, the participants of the Marathon visited Biome’s stall enquiring about Biome’s work. Children showed interest in the well pictures and read the colourful handbooks. A few people enquired about the water conservation methods and showed interest in implementing water conservation and sustainable practices in their societies.

In the event, water was served in clean reusable plastic cups instead of disposable water bottles. Breakfast was served in biodegradable plates. This marked a good example for Reduce-Reuse-Recycle .

Blog written by Apeksha Deshpande


Awareness Session for Sama Foundation

        The Biome Environmental Trust team conducted an awareness session on water conservation for the Sama Foundation at Devara Jeevanahalli, popularly known as DJ Halli, Bengaluru. This was the first interaction between the Biome team members and the Sama Foundation members.

Topic of Discussion - Basic understanding of aquifers, importance of well rejuvenation, water issues of DJ Halli, proposing solutions and planning.
Date and Time - 6th October 2023, 11 AM to 2 PM
Venue - Sama Foundation, Youth Center, DJ Halli, Bengaluru
Biome team members - Avinash, Suma, Neelima, Krishna, Ayushi, Srivalli, Nagraj and Apeksha
Sama Foundation members - Sama Foundation Founder- Paul Ramanathan, Climate Action team - Vinodhini and Ashwini, Communication team - Vikram and others

About Sama Foundation:
        The event started with a brief introduction by the Founder of Sama Foundation, Paul Ramanathan. About 20 people from the foundation joined us for the session. The team members described to us how the foundation was started, the work done by them and their short-term & long-term goals.
        Sama Foundation mainly works towards an inclusive society aiming to eliminate hunger, poverty, and all kinds of discrimination and exploitation. The main project taken up by the Foundation, named “Janadhikari”, focuses on three important factors of society - Education, Health and Social Benefits.
  1. Education: Sama Foundation has worked towards reducing the dropout rate of children in pre-primary school. They have introduced post-learning initiatives like tuition. They have brought up the idea of pair learning among the students to build self-confidence and self-awareness. For youth of the age group 18-30 years, they offer a 3-month skill development course, that includes communication skills, digital literacy, guidance for career growth & development, spoken English etc
  2. Health: They conduct health camps from time to time. They coordinate with government hospitals and spread awareness regarding chronic diseases, Government insurance policies (like Ayushman Bharat), etc.
  3. Social benefits: They work towards the holistic development of the community. Given the plethora of government schemes available for marginalized communities, they create awareness regarding financial literacy, pensions etc. They aim to empower women and children by connecting them with government schemes and benefits.
  4. They have conducted surveys on 10,000 households in the locality. They conduct meetings regularly involving at least 300 households.

Biome’s interaction with the Foundation:
        In the previous visits done by Biome, the team had identified 32 wells. As a part of the awareness session, Biome team members Neelima and Avinash conducted a knowledge session for the Sama Foundation members. They explained briefly the different sources of water, the sustainable management of the same, the geology of Bengaluru, the concept of shallow aquifers and the need for the revival of open wells. The session was interactive, with members clearing their doubts. The questions delved deep into the concept of water conservation, helping understand the need for it.
Glimpses of the presentation
Issues faced by the community:
  • The community faces an ongoing water crisis, with many places getting water once every 5 days. As a result, people need to buy RO water for their water requirements.
  • The area faces flooding during the rainy season due to improper solid waste management and the terrain.
  • The quality of the water from the Municipal connection is not up to the mark.
  • The sewage and water pipelines need to be mapped and monitored.

Agenda proposed by Biome:
  1. Understand the Water demand of the community and revive the wells accordingly:  The entire area can be segmented into small settlements, and the water demand of each settlement should be calculated. Accordingly, the wells nearby can be prioritized for revival. A questionnaire can be prepared and distributed to households to understand their water needs.
  2. Water quality study:  The quality of water needs to be monitored regularly for tap water and well water. A module educating them regarding the salts dissolved in water, the pathogens present, the contaminants, and the harmful effects can be compiled and distributed to the people.
  3. Rainwater harvesting in Government schools: Identify a school in the locality for rainwater harvesting and groundwater recharge. This will act as a model of best practices of water management for the entire community.
  4. Local Involvement: Identify the plumbers and masons in the locality and involve them in implementing the work. This helps in social inclusion and skill development of the community youth.

Blog written by Apeksha Deshpande

Saturday, September 23, 2023

Shubha's talk for BMSCA

In collaboration with the Council of Architecture, Pune, BMS College of Architecture, Bengaluru, organised a 5-day online conference on "URBAN COMMONS-Opportunities & Approaches" from September 11th to 15th, 2023. Shubha Ramachandran of Biome was one of the invited speakers - her session was titled ‘Urban Waters: Learnings from Bengaluru City’.

Shubha’s session on the second day was attended by 33 participants.

Monday, September 4, 2023

Day Zero


Day Zero was a play staged at the Alliance Francaise in Bengaluru on Sept 2 and 3, 2023. The India Foundation for the Arts supported it under their Program 360. Vishwanath Srikantaiah collaborated with Ram Ganesh Kamatham in writing the script of the play. 

The following note is from IFA’s website

‘The play’s title Day Zero refers to the imminent water crisis in the city of Bangalore, in the case of a drought. Bangalore has been developed unsustainably in many ways – particularly with regard to the flow of water through the city. Atop the Deccan Plateau, Bangalore has no significant source of water except for a tributary of Arakavathi called Vrishabhavati. With the rapid growth of the population in the city since the 1990s, poor water management in Bangalore has also exposed its urban precarity. The imagery of water movements in the city, like expensive piping from the Cauvery, the water tanker mafia, excessive borewell drilling and a falling groundwater table, points to the story of urban inequalities as well. At the heart of this play are the paradoxes of Bangalore’s development and its disparities,  and a future-focussed approach towards sustainability.

In the play, the movement of the water will be explored, both literally and figuratively. In a literal sense, there is a cascading network of kere (lakes) and kaluve (canals) in Bangalore, through the topographical four ridge-valley systems of the city, involving Hebbal, Chellaghatta, Koramangala and Vrishabhavati. Figuratively, it is about the emotional content related to rainfall, tears and sweat, drinking water, drainage and submerged/ subterranean structures.

The play will engage with the metaphor of water in the city, through intersecting timelines from the past and the future. One potential fragment of the play will be set in a dystopic future in 2035, when the city has been submerged under water, and only a few of the citizens are able to live above the waterline. These privileged few are occupying the superstructures built as a part of the fictional Vrishabhavati Urban Rejuvenation project. This dystopian narrative has a protagonist who is a glass cleaner, originally from the Manuvaddar/ Bhovi caste, who are well-diggers. The story will unfold, from a request for a glass of water. Another fragment in the play will be set in the colonial past of Bangalore when boxing was a craze in the city. The protagonist will be a boxer in the 1930s who wanted to survive three rounds with the local boxing champion, Gentleman Gunboat Jack, whose real name was James Colzie. After challenging him to a fight at the Opera Theatre on Residency Road, the protagonist, who is drenched in sweat, is wondering to himself, how he got himself into such a mess.

The staging of the play will involve soundscapes, cartographic data such as topography and GIS data, and elements of verticality drawn from the aesthetics of climbing sports.’