Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Sanitation, Health and Hygiene Orientation Program with slum kids, Bangalore

As a part of GIZ’s Indo-German Partnership program, around 15 boys from different slums in Bangalore were chosen for a ten day cricket coaching camp that was held in the NRA Grounds, Benson Town, Bangalore. Most of these kids are residents of Kamraj road and a few of them are from a hostel in Nagavara. Along with the cricket coaching, GiZ wanted to integrate a Sanitation, Health and Hygiene program for which Biome was the knowledge and resource provider.

The boys who were in the age group of 14-17 years, had a fairly good idea about the source of water to their homes, other possible sources and rainwater harvesting. Almost all of them did have BWSSB water supply connection to their homes. Some of them did have filters in their home to purify the water.

Bacterial contamination of drinking water is one of the major causes of diarrhoea which in turn is a major cause of infant deaths in developing countries. In order to sensitise the boys towards quality of drinking water, a simple H2S strip test was demonstrated to them. H2S strip test is an onsite testing method to detect the presence of Hydrogen Sulphide producing bacteria in water. The test involves adding the sample water into a sterilized bottle which has a sterilized paper strip. If the water sample has bacteria which produce Hydrogen Sulphide, then the water will turn black in colour within 36 hours. This is a simple indicator of the presence of bacteria and thereby ensuring that the water is not of potable quality.

The second demonstration was on eliminating the bacteria from the sample through abundantly available solar radiation. Solar Disinfection, commonly called SODIS requires the affected sample to be filled in a plastic bottle and exposed to sunlight for around 8 hours on a clear sunny day. It can be exposed for an increased duration if the sky is cloudy.

The third demonstration was a modified version of a Tippy Tap. A Tippy Tap allows the user to wash his/ her hands with soap without ever touching the tap with their soapy hands and thus preventing wastage of water. It generally has a foot operated lever which is connected to a jerry can filled with the water and having a hole on its neck. The jerry can is suspended on a stick which in turn is propped up on a couple of sticks on either ends. When the user presses the lever with his/ her foot, the can tilts and discharges water in a trickle through the hole in its neck. To drive home the principle behind a Tippy Tap, a plastic bottle filled with water was taken and the Biome resource washed his soapy hands with the water being discharged through the open cap of the bottle. The amount of water used was noted by marking the drop in water level. Next, another similar bottle filled with water and with a hole in its neck was taken to wash soapy hands. The water used was much lesser than before. This demonstration attempted to introduce two vital behavioural changes in the boys viz. Washing with soap before eating and using water more wisely.

Illustration: Distribution of H2S strip vials and demonstration of hand wash using less water

To reinforce the lessons learnt, the boys were given two H2S strip vials each to test their drinking water samples and report back their observations a week later. Almost all the kids except one reported that the water did not turn black, but rather a light shade of brown which indicates the absence of bacteria. One boy who observed the water turning black had subjected the sample to SODIS. After SODIS, he tested the same sample for bacterial presence using the second H2S strip bottle and observed that the water did not turn black. The results reported by the students presents a good case for the BWSSB’s efforts in treating the water pumped from the Cauvery which is no mean task considering the fact that we are talking of volumes to the tune of around 1200-1400 million litres a day. On the other hand, it will be interesting to see if the kids do spread their new learnings to their peer group as well.

Monday, April 14, 2014

An Informal School for the Children of Migrant Labour

Construction on first floor.
Cricket on the ground floor
Children of parents working on construction sites often go unnoticed by most. But when you start to look there are many such children. Most of them are very young and do not go to any school. Larger construction projects run day cares for these children. However, during the construction of smaller independent homes in layouts there is no such infrastructure that is provided or mandated
Children at Work or Play ? 

BIOME trust has been toying with the idea of putting together an informal school for these children - where food is provided to them and the children get an opportunity to learn the alphabet, dance , draw and sing. In the world we live in we might take literacy for granted - but only when you speak to a construction worker and ask him for his phone number and when he hands over his phone to you so that you can read out his number from a small tag that is stuck to his phone - that you realize that he cannot read. He wishes he could learn the alphabet and the numerals. Conversations make it abundantly clear that the parents are not happy having their children hanging around the construction site. They would much rather the children be in a safe and secure place and learn to read and write.
The local tea vendor - knows all the
childrenin the neighbourhood

The men are a little wary when we ask them if there are kids on site - since they think that we might be officials on a lookout for "child labour". The women warm up when we suggest a free school to them. They are confident that they can help spread the word and get many kids to join this school.

Nobody complains and these children find their own little joys amidst all the construction work.

We now know that there is a need for such a school. Now have to figure out how to get-it-going

Kids run behind the ice cream man on
a hot sunny afternoon
A Grandma baby sits.
A sari is a jhoola

Pragathi Trust - Also associated
with the cause

Saturday, April 12, 2014

A Rainwater Harvesting System for his Alma Mater

2 old friends - designing a rainwater filter
Mr Venkataswamy Reddy (one of the contractors who helps us implement rainwater harvesting) decided that he should contribute towards a RWH system for his school ( Swamy Vivekananda Rural English Medium High School in Chandpura). And what better way to help out than providing his knowledge and experience to implement a RWH system in the school. He had completed classes 8 to 10 in this school and was the first batch to join this school in 1963. He says he owes a lot of who he is right now to this school.

The school has close to 4000sqm of rooftop with a potential to harvest upto 3 million litres of water annually. Keeping this in mind a 2 lakh liter rainwater storage tank has been created. The overflow from the tank is let into a dried up borewell for ground water recharge. A large silt trap and filter has also been designed, and implementation is currently underway.
Checking the static water level in the borewell

Mr Venkatesh Reddy (a classmate of Mr VV Reddy from their school days) is ensuring that the implementation gets done.

Both these ex-students (Mr Venkataswamy and Mr Venkatesh) are taking a lot of pride in their work and contributing diligently to their alma mater. They also reminisce the days when just alongside their school the Chandapura kere would be close to overflowing for most parts of the year. Their next plan is to ensure ground water recharge

The school with the downtake pipes
Filter work in progress

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Greenbazaar on 29th March at TERI lawns

Greenbazaar was an activity organized by The Alternatives, Bangalore on 29th March 2014. It was an initiative towards sustainable products, foods. Talks from guests and hands on workshops were also part of it. Biome was invited for a rain gauge making workshop for kids as a part of this initiative. We (Subhomita, Rajeev) joined the activity during afternoon and we were able to make around 6-7 rain gauges with the kids. Also there were discussions on ideas from kids on how to save water or how to harvest rainwater. We got a quite enthusiastic response from the kids on this regard in their own simple words.

Monday, April 7, 2014

about Biome in Hindi...

Visit to Rainbow Drive on 5th April - to see how Ground water Recharge works

About 50 residents and estate managers from apartments and layouts  around Sarjapura Road gathered on Saturday morning to see how Ground water recharge had been implemented in Rainbow Drive and how it had worked for them. This event was organized by BIOME Trust, MAPSAS and Rainbow Drive

Gathered around the 6ft diameter and 40ft
deep recharge well

Rainbow Drive as a community has implemented 300+ Recharge Wells of more than 4000 litres capacity each which can recharge upwards of 1.2 million litres of water during every rainfall event. This ground water recharge project has made gradual progress since 2008 till date. The results of the project have started to materialize now when a 250ft borewell is able to discharge about 150,000 litres of water daily (for most part of the year). Ground water recharge coupled with other measures like an increasing block tariff for water, metering and regular awareness sessions around water have enabled Rainbow Drive to be autonomous for fulfilling their water needs

There was a 1 hour walk around the premises during which the participants saw the recharge wells and engaged with Bharti and Majunath of Rainbow Drive to understand how the citizen participation had been catalysed.

A movie that shows how water comes into a borewell was quite eye opening for some of the participants. To see that it is small streams of water flowing underground and not a large reservoir of water that is available as you dig deeper

Subsequently there was a presentation by BIOME to launch the Aquifer Mapping Project.  Key questions and discussions were around
  1. Whether recharge at an individual apartment level would help - Yes
  2. Whether lakes were sufficient for recharge - No. Need recharge wells too. Not all lakes were meant for recharge in the first place
  3. Can treated STP water be used for Ground water recharge ? - No. More details here

Participatory Aquifer Mapping Project : Resource Sharing

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Hado Siddapura and Gattahalli Lakes

Hado Siddapura and Gattahalli are 2 lakes at the South Eastern boundary of the aquifer that we are looking at. Todays's site visits took us to these lakes.  Both these lakes are completely dry. Some interesting observations were

  1. The Forest Department had planted trees on the Hado Siddapura lake bed. Did that mean that they had given up on it ever being a lake full of water again
  2. There were new transmission towers setup on the lake bed (the transmission lines still to be drawn). Did anybody know that this was a lake bed ? 
  3. 3 large open wells by the Gattahalli kere. Muniraju (from Prakriya School) who led us to these wells as well as others around the wells told us that these wells had water overflowing out of them some 15 years ago. These wells are only about 40ft deep indicating that water would have been available at that depth. Now the wells are bone dry.
All this a mere 3kms from Sarjapura Road

Open Well 1 near Gattahalli kere

Open Well 2 near Gattahalli kere

Open Well 3 near Gattahalli kere

New transmission towers

New temple adjacent to the erstwhile lake

Tree plantation on the lake bed

Participatory Aquifer Mapping Program : Visit to Rainbow Drive on 5th April 2014

All of us use groundwater and are familiar with openwells and borewells.  All of us have gone through or witnessed the agony of our or our neighbours' borewells going dry.  We are beginning to get interested in and invest in groundwater recharge in the hope of keeping our wells alive.  

We however have to understand our groundwater better - where does our groundwater reside ?, does it flow and how ?, how much of it is there? What are the different things that we do knowingly or unknowingly that affects groundwater ? How do we ensure the quality of water from our wells ? How are lakes and groundwater connected ? How deep can we keep digging ?  How can we use our dried up borewells ?.  Our city is grappling with all these and many more questions.  

The funny thing is this :  It is our stories and observations of our own open and borewells at home that is a window to understanding our groundwater.  All of us could together share these stories. And we could get help from geologists and hydrogeologists to interpret our stories - the science of hydrogeology is the science of groundwater.  And this can result in a much better understanding of our groundwater - our "aquifers".  This will help us then improve our practices, optimise our investments in recharge and manage our groundwater better.  For us as a community and for each one of us in the community.   

To facilitate this we - WIPRO, BIOME, ACWADAM and MAPUNITY - are working together for a "Participatory Aquifer Mapping Program".  We want to invite all of you to be a part of it.  What better place to talk about this than after seeing all the rainwater recharge work that Rainbow Drive has done ?