Thursday, July 2, 2015

My well, Our water: Year End Workshop


Urban India is grappling with multiple water management challenges. The groundwater abstraction is increasing day by day yet, our understanding of aquifers- logical unit for groundwater management- is very poor. To understand the nature of aquifers, water balance and most importantly demystify the science of groundwater for citizens by taking the learnings back to the citizens; an experiment was initiated in 2014 called Participatory Aquifer Mapping (PAQM) in Yamalur watershed. It’s been a year since the start and we thought it is time to share the learnings to the citizens and experts -who have been supportive throughout this year- to take their feedback and also to know from them on further process.


The agenda therefore was to share the learnings from the project so far and take feedback from different stakeholders as to how to proceed further. This was important to understand as the aim of the project is not to confine within the academic limits but bridge the gap by demystifying the science of groundwater.


The workshop started with P S Narayan, head of Wipro sustainability initiatives sharing his idea behind Wipro technologies partnering with this project and lending financial support for the initiative.

Dr. Himanshu Kulkarni from ACWADAM- project partner for PAQM- initiated the workshop with a presentation giving overview of groundwater aquifers in the country and the need for participation from citizens and governance institutions in collaboration for effective groundwater management. The presentation can be found here: Groundwater overview in India.

Avinash Krishnamurthy from Biome Environmental Trust, elaborated on the groundwater situation in Bengaluru to set the context of the Participatory Aquifer Mapping project (PAQM). The presentation can be found here: Catalysing a social response to manage groundwater.  The presentation highlighted the fact that in absence of formal institutional services, communities themselves be the champions by sustainably managing the groundwater. A community called Rainbow Drive  layout, located off Sarjapur road, has managed to close the water cycle loop by successfully managing the water within their campus.

Shubha Ramachandran from Biome Environmental Trust then elaborated on the process of aquifer mapping by describing the objectives, outcomes and outputs expected, data collection methods  as well as challenges encountered while collecting data. The detailed presentation can be found here: Process of aquifer mapping

The highlight of the event was indeed the citizen stories: Mr. Naganath Iyer from SJR redwoods shared his experience on the story of their borewell, Mr. Manjunath as an estate manager with Rainbow Drive, Mr. K P Singh from Rainbow drive on a layout's effort towards sustainable water management and lastly Mr. Muniyappa, a well digger from bovi community now involved in construction of recharge wells all across Bengaluru. The stories can be found here: People and Groundwater

The last set of presentation was sharing of interpreted results from the first year of the project. This was done by Kaustubh Mahamuni from ACWADAM. The detailed presentation can be found here: Interpretations of aquifer- interim results. The interim results so far show that the rock type in this region is mostly granite-which is of crystalline typology- with hard rock as a major constituent. Based on the geology it shows that the porosity is low in the region and hence recharging will take a long time as it'll only be through fractures and joints. Furthermore, the data shows that the borewells in the region are tapping water from confined aquifers i.e. at deeper depths where again the recharging becomes difficult.   

The presentation above were interspersed with Question and Answers so that a space is provided for interaction. This was moderated by S. Vishwanath from Biome Environmental Trust.

Mr. Ashwin Mahesh, founder of MapUnity and project partner lending support for developing software component of the project also spoke about knowledge sharing as the existing gap in the current urban scenario. The software component is developed with the intent of creating space for all to share their stories, discuss and engage in communication for knowledge development.  

Responses by participants during the workshop:

Prof. Mohan Kumar, IISc: While appreciating the effort of PAQM, he shed light on the journey of water abstraction from open wells to borewells and stated that it is required to move from borewell to dug well! Sharing his thoughts on recharging aquifer through treated waste water, he cautioned that there shouldn’t be direct recharge. The treated water should first be passed through soil barriers as an additional filter and then only after due care the treated water should be disposed into aquifers.

Sharad Lele, ATREE: He touched upon an important aspect in this exercise- what do we consider better groundwater management, how do we define best practice,, how is sustainability and equity addressed in the project? He suggested that these are some of the questions one should be aware of and should flag of normative concerns right in the beginning so that readers and viewers become aware.

CGWB: Dr. Sawkar from CGWB emphasized on the importance of understanding the geology and heterogeniety due to geology so that better knowledge about recharge and discharge can be known.

Mr. Siddaramiaih, KSPCB: Sharing his thoughts on self regulation and managing one’s water he mentioned- Communities like Rainbow drive managing their own water and closing the loop puts less burden on the agencies. Also, a proper cost benefit analysis to elaborate on the strategies of rainbow drive would be useful. Furthermore, he cautioned that recharge of groundwater through treated water should only be done when proper care for removal of nitrates and phosphates is taken.

Rohit Chakravarthy, NCBS: Drawing on his experience of participatory experiences in different sectors like e-bird portal and season watch for documenting birds and monitoring trees, Rohit explained the outreach mechanisms. Season watch and e-bird are two initiatives which call for citizen participation and tapping onto already existing citizen science. He cautioned that the scale and data quality issues are very critical and hence need to be considered.

Dr. Lingaraju, Department of Mines and Geology: Drawing on his experience of working with department of Mines and geology as well as Kumudvathi river rejuvenation project; he elaborated on the necessity of understanding geology. He suggested that obtaining the thematic geomorphology map as well as drainage map is essential as it can help in identifying zones feasible for recharge.

We would like to thank all the participants for sharing their views during and also after the workshop through different channels of communications. We hope to continue this engagement with you all!

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