Wednesday, March 29, 2017

To the Next Water Quality Frontiers- Beginnings with Small Steps

India  is  facing  new  kinds  of  drinking  water  problems  with  growing  dependence  on groundwater  and  changing  landscapes  of  agricultural  and  industrial  pollution. Beyond microbial problems of drinking water, problems like Fluorosis, Arsenicosis and nitrate contamination are threatening our drinking water sources.  These are complex problems that interact with nutritional and healthcare issues – especially in the child and maternal health context. 

Water Quality Awareness session in a school
These ‘new drinking water problems’ that are emerging will play themselves out concurrently – making them new public health problems of high complexity. The new  drinking  water  problems – such  as  is  already  discovered  in  the  case  of  fluorosis,  a condition resulting from prolonged consumption of drinking water contaminated by excessive  fluoride content – also tend to have strong nutrition, child and maternal health linkages. The nexus between Water and Sanitation (watsan), Nutrition and Health in this new context will be particularly critical. The solutions will need to view  and  address  these as  public  health  problems  rather  than  merely  watsan  problems.

While visiting affected habitations in Kolar and Chikballapur districts helped us understand such complexity associated with Fluorosis. I and my Colleague Shreyas S put down our observations in the field which gave us an inspiration to develop a program for Fluorosis Mitigation in affected districts in Karnataka. The basis of the program is that Fluorosis is not a standalone problem, but a result of multiple factors. Hence, a plan to mitigate Fluorosis should be integrated rather than sectoral. Understanding the problem and evolving simple  solutions, that  the communities  can  be  empowered  to  seek,  adopt  and  adapt will be vital. The Program is being conceived and developed during the phase of the Fluoride Fellowship with our advisors, mentors and incubators- Biome, The Fluoride Knowledge and Action Network (FKAN) and INREM Foundation, which is the secretariat of FKAN. 

To seek support for the program, we had applied with Wipro- one of the leading tech firm in the country. We are glad to inform that we have won the Wipro Sustainability Seeding Fellowship 2017. The Fellowship is for the duration of two years. This is our small step in building the program. We are currently pitching the idea of the program with other potential funders to support other components of the program.

Kiran Kumar Sen,
Wipro Sustainability Seeding Fellow

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Fluorosis and Local Champions

For the last couple of months, I and my colleague Shreyas are constantly working in bringing together stakeholders from various institutions to work on the agenda of safe water and nutrition to mitigate the effects of Fluorosis in the state of Karnataka. We have been most active in the districts of Kolar and Chikballapur. In these districts, we have worked to establish relationship with the Officers from the National Programme for Prevention and Control of Fluorosis (NPPCF). We have been touch with the Health Department of these districts. During this phase, we have come across many persons, whose commitment to work on the issue of Fluorosis is phenomenal. Below are account of meeting such persons.

In Kolar, during one of the field visits, we had found cases of Dental Fluorosis in school children in Malmuthenahalli village in Bangarpet Taluk. We brought this issue to the NPPCF Officer Miss Archana for Kolar. Very soon, she visited the village school and conducted the Dental Fluorosis Survey and gave awareness to children, teachers about the importance of drinking Safe water and having adequate nutrition. She ensured that adequate attention will be given to identify cases of Fluorosis. She is in continuous touch with the Primary Health Centers to track the presence of any cases of Fluorosis. She believes Kolar as district requires more focus on providing safe water. 

Miss Archana conducting the awareness session

Miss Archana Conducting Dental Fluorosis Survey

In Chikballapur, we were able to conduct Fluorosis awareness training with the field officers in Bagepalli of BAIF Institute for Rural Development- Karnataka (BIRD-K). Mr. Pandit Patil, Additional Chief Programme Coordinator of BIRD-K and Mr Nagraju supported us to conduct such training. BIRD-K has worked on the issue of Fluorosis Mitigation through rooftop rainwater harvesting to provide safe drinking water in Tumkur, Chikballapur, Gadag districts, through its Sachetana Program. We look to continue working with them together on Fluorosis Mitigation.

Training at the BIRD-K Office at Bagepalli

We also got in touch with the NPPCF officer for Chikballapur, Mr Vinod who is young and an energetic person. He is concerned with the water scarcity issue in Chikballapur and believes there has to be alternatives to RO Water Plants, which often waste 40-50% as reject water. He has been helpful at various instances and also in connecting us with the District and Taluk Health Officers of the Chikballapur. Most importantly he is open to ideas and want to implement them to mitigate Fluorosis.

Recently, we met the Taluk Health Officer of Bagepalli, Dr. Satyanarayana Reddy. He is a busy person with myriad healthcare commitments, but he has a humble personality. On speaking with him, he told “We are ready to help you guys in whatever way possible”. He intends to do something for the people of Bagepalli, he doesn’t want Fluorosis to cripple people. He believes that solutions must be local and bottom up approach has to be followed to produce results. His team consists of committed officers like Subhaan Saab, who works tirelessly to provide healthcare to even the remotest places.

Dr. Satyanarayanareddy, Taluk Health Officer, Bagepalli

Both Mr. Vinod and Dr. Satyanarayana Reddy believe that Chikballapur as district requires focus both on Safe water and Nutrition. The issue of constant anaemic cases in women has been one of their priorities. 

Another key person in Bagepalli, we met is Dr. Anil Kumar, who runs a clinic in Bagepalli town. The Clinic gives free consultation to around 8500 identified families which are economically weak. On speaking with him, he tells “To mitigate Fluorosis, just providing safe water won’t work, there is a need to work in an integrated mode at Household level.  Nutrition of those affected is equally important, they must get atleast 2000-2400 Kilo Calories per day”. Dr Anil has formed “Village committees” in 75 villages in Bagepallli Taluk to work on Health care and plans to increase the number throughout Bagepalli. 

                                                                       Dr. Anil Kumar at the People's Surgical & Maternity Home

I’m sure there are many more committed people across both Kolar and Chikballapur working on water quality issues. But, having come across such people, gives hope and boost to the larger objective of a healthy childhood and adolescence for people in such water quality affected regions.

Kiran Kumar Sen,
Fluoride Fellow, 
Fluoride Knowledge and Action Network
Biome Environmental Trust

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Grass Cutters in Bellandur Lake

Seenappa is the Lake gardener for Lower Ambalipura Lake. His work timings are from 9:30am to 5pm and he keeps to it quite strictly. However, he also works a morning shift prior to coming to the lake. This is at the Bellandur Lake - where he cuts grass - from 5am to 8:30am. The grass is cut for the herbivores in Bannerghatta National Park, for the animal shelters (goshaala) in Hoodi, Ulsoor and elsewhere around Bangalore and also for some individuals who own cattle. And this he does gratis - since he thinks the animals need good grass to eat. In this activity he is not alone. He is joined by about 20-30 other grass cutters  every day. Works start at 5am and they go on till about 11am or noon. Small Trucks from each of these animal shelters come to collect the grass. None of the grass cutters are paid. They are not supervised. They are not assigned any work. They do it of their own will. They think it needs doing. The grass cutters have known each other for 20-30 years and there is a pleasant familiarity as they get to work. Each of them find their own patch in the lake from where they cut grass. Infact if you are not told or the cutters are not pointed out - you can almost not see them - surrounded by grass. Each of them have their own coracle - that they use to row upto the point where they want to cut grass from and then quietly go about their work. I still find it hard to believe that they do it almost everyday, without fail, and they take/charge no money for the work they do

The truck
The grass cutters in their coracle
Look hard to spot the grass cutter
Cut grass
Seenappa showing me around

Nature in Focus : h2-uh-oh

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Open wells in Yelahanka New Town

Meet Mr. Shyamsundar and Pankajam, a couple who have been using this well water for the past 25 years for all purposes-including drinking. The well is about 3ft dia and 40ft deep. The well had water at ~30ft from the ground-so almost 10ft of standing water. They got cauvery connection but disconnected it since the pressure was not enough to reach their sump. They closed off the sump too after some years. They are dependent only on this well water. Also started doing rooftop rainwater harvesting and are diverting the water into this open well after filtration. They haven't tested the water for quite sometime but they say that 'the water is good and we haven't encountered any health issues so far'.
They also told and showed couple of open wells in their neighborhood. Borewells dug 200ft deeper in the neighborhood are getting muddy water. Open wells 40-80ft deep have good water. Majority of the houses are using that water for some purposes.





Tuesday, March 7, 2017

DPS visit to Rainbow Drive Layout

On 2nd March, 2017 a visit to Rainbow Drive was arranged for DPS 9th grade students. The visit was arranged as per the request by Reap Benefit. Reap Benefit has been engaging with the students on water and wastewater issues. Some activity based learning sessions were also conducted with the children. This visit was to show the students that the practices/theory/concepts of water audit, flow measurement, rainwater harvesting, wastewater treatment implemented on ground and how the community can come together to solve some issues.

Biome facilitated the interaction with the students. Mr. Vinod, Ms. Bharathi and Ms. Shilpa interacted with the students about the initiatives in the community.

We would like to thank Rainbow Drive community for enabling this interaction.

Some images captured: