Thursday, December 20, 2018

Responding to Bird kill at lakes...

Biome Environmental Trust has been involved in multiple projects in and around the lake ecosystem and has come across cases of bird kills at the lakes. We wanted to understand how one should respond to such incidents and in this context, we approached Dr. Shankar who is a senior Veterinary doctor in Bangalore. He is associated with Institute of Animal Health and Veterinary Biologicals (IAHV), Hebbal, Bangalore.
From our interaction with Dr. Shankar on 2ndNovember 2018, we gathered the following:

1.     A dead bird should be taken to labs for autopsy within 16 hours after its death. However, if the dead bird is stored in Ice soon after its death, one will have about 48 hours to take it to autopsy. 
2.     He mentioned that a bird kill can happen due to many reasons and some of them are
a.     Death due to Starvation
b.     Death due to exposure to polluted/contaminated water (Chemical or sewage exposure)
c.     Old age
3.     He mentioned that when birds die in many numbers (say above 5) at the same time, that is when it requires them to conduct various tests to understand the cause of death. When the bird is taken to IAHV, an autopsy is conducted. If the cause of death is not easily detectable by an autopsy, then bacteriological, toxicological and viral tests are conducted. If certain tests cannot be conducted in their lab, then they refer the concerned party to private labs where the tests can be conducted. The cost of an autopsy and Bacteriological/Toxicological/Viral tests at IAHV are Rs. 25 and Rs. 100 respectively.
4.     During initial observation and testing, if they detect bird flu, then all the birds in that region (a few kilometers from the epicenter) is culled and the epicenter is isolated. 
5.     He also mentioned that there are no statistics available on the number of incidents of bird kill.

Contact Information:
Dr. Shankar B P- 9844287557
IAHV- 080-23411502

Biome Environmental Trust

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Initiating People-Centric platform for addressing fluorosis in Chikkaballapur

31st Oct 2018.  

When I type the word “convergence” on my dictionary app, one of the meaning reads “the merging of distinct technologies, industries or devices into a unified whole”. This seems so apt for something like assembling a computer desktop, right? But more relevant usage is also seen in the development sector or projects, where bringing diverse actors together to achieve a common goal is increasingly put forth as a solution to many development problems.

The word is heavily used by different actors in different context. I’m no exception to this.

I would like to share my experience when I put this word into practice. I had organized a stakeholders meeting in Bagepalli in southern district of Chikkaballapur in Karnataka with help of our INREM team and Taluk Health Officer, Bagepalli. This is part of an ongoing European Union (EU) funded project on fluoride and arsenic issues across India.

After sharing observations from our team we opened the floor for discussion.  Participants shared objectives and numbers, of their presence and outreach. The issue and history of fluorosis in these parts of Chikkaballapur was well known among them. Some of the highlights of this meeting are as follows.

One, when participants expressed gratitude to INREM for enabling coming together of these actors, some of them pointed us that it is time to have “such meetings”, where there is representation of government, NGOs and other civil society groups seated together to discuss how to mitigate fluorosis. Because in real world, all problems have multiple linkages or causes to it. Hence there is a need to share or draw knowledge from different disciplines like Water, Sanitation, Health, Education, Nutrition, Agriculture, Ecology etc. Based on this specific inputs from participants have been noted, converting plans into action for fluorosis mitigation is next phase of our work under this project.

Second, participants used words like “convergence”, “forum”, “co-ordination”, “platform” to describe this meeting and wanted to contribute through their own work. We also have a name, it is “people-centric platforms” to ensure civil society have a voice on complex water quality problems. Whatever is the name, people want to solve such problems. Participants requested us to hold such meeting once in 3 months. If such spaces are coordinated well enough, the goal of safe drinking water and good nutrition for all, can be achieved. 

Finally, such meetings need to happen closer to the area of work. For instance participants felt Taluk or block level meeting are good way to initiate and build “people-centric platforms”.   

As this meeting ends, there are handshakes as they see possibilities opening for working together on this issue before they savor bisibele bath and curd rice for lunch.

                                                     KIRAN KUMAR SEN

INREM Foundation

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Session on Stakeholder Mapping and Engagement at Anil Agarwal Environment Training Institute

Between September 25-September 28, a training program was co-organized by Biome Environmental  (Biome) in partnership with Center for Science and Environment (CSE), New Delhi. The training program was focused on 'Urban Wetlands Management'. The location of the training was Anil Agarwal Environment Training Institute (AAETI), Nimli, Rajasthan. The campus is an education and training initiative of CSE equipped with rainwater harvesting and wastewater treatment systems (reed bed and soil biotechnology).

Biome also conducted a session on 'Stakeholder Mapping and Engagement strategies: bringing together stakeholders for robust wetland management' on 27th September. The presentation is available at: The session included a presentation and interactive session followed by a short documentary on Kaikondrahalli lake.

Biome's session focused on lakes of Bangalore, historical and current narrative, and community led and managed initiatives in Bangalore. 


Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Water quality testing kit from FFEM

On 25th September, 2018, Foundation for Environmental Monitoring(FFEM) conducted a training workshop on how to use their low cost smartphone-based water quality testing kits. Training covered water quality testing for a few very important parameters like pH, Nitrates, Phosphates and DO. 

The training session was attended by members of Biome Environmental Trust, Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment(ATREE) and Jakkur and Kaikondrahalli lake groups.

FFEM is a Bangalore based nonprofit organisation, which create products that are designed for field use. Their products are integrated with apps that posts test results to online databases. Some of their products are fife water and fife soil. More details about the testing kits can be found in the following link.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Map of Bangalore Lakes and BWSSB/BBMP STPs

The link shared in this blog takes you to Google My Maps in which there is information about various lakes, and existing/proposed STPs of Bangalore that are documented by Biome Environmental Trust. Upon clicking on each icons under each layer, you are prompted with either some set of information or a few links which will provide more information.   

Friday, September 14, 2018

Hebbagodi Lake Report

Hebbagodi Lake is on 38 acres and is located very close to Biocon Limited in Electronic City, Bangalore. We visited the lake on 29 May 2018, and gathered that although the lake falls under the jurisdiction of Hebbagodi City Municipal Corporation, it is maintained by Biocon Limited since 2016. There is no STP at the lake, but the pollutant load of raw sewage entering the lake is reduced by addition of a certain type of bacteria based enzymes. There is one raw sewage inlet entering the lake from SW direction, and an outlet in the NE of the lake. Apart from the main inlet, there are four storm water inlets and a few inlets from individual houses where raw sewage enters. Upstream of Hebbagodi is Thirupalya and Shikaripalya lakes. Also there is Veerasandra lake which joins Hebbagodi from the North. There are 400 floating wetlands in the lake which are placed at the edges of the lake and near the outlet.

Hebbagodi Lake series Map

Overview and Observations
Hebbagodi lake is located in Electronic City, Bangalore.

Lake Area
38 acres
No STP exists at the lake but bacteria based enzyme is added upstream of the lake to reduce the pollutant load of the sewage entering the lake from SE direction. Floating wetlands and aerators in the lake also help in maintaining the water quality in the lake.
There is a motorable road around the lake. About half of the lake perimeter is fenced. There exist a childrens play area and a plan to install benches around the lake. Many shrubs, flowering plants and about 300 trees are planted around the lake. There is one primary inlet through which the sewage from the SW direction. The only outlet from the lake is located in the NE. Although there are fishes in the lake, no commercial fishing takes place. There are three gates around the lake to prevent the cows coming in and grazing. There are five people who work at the lake to maintain it. The Lake
Only one inlet was identified from which sewage would enter Hebbagodi Lake. It is summarized below.
Sewage inflow
Partially treated sewage along with storm water enters the lake from SW direction. Upstream of the inlet is Thirupalya and Shikaripalya lakes. About 2 MLD of water enters into the lake.

The outlet from the lake is an overflow system in the NE of the lake.

No STP exists in the lake premises. However, a bacteria based enzyme provided by Jalavahini Management Systems added at various locations on the upstream side of the lake has helped in reducing the BOD levels from 250 ppm to 30-40 ppm near the outlets along with the reduction caused by wetland species. There are eight aerators to keep the DO levels in right amounts. Water quality is tested twice every month at Biocon labs and once a month at some external lab. The points of water sample collection are at the the inlet, centre and outlet.
The Wetlands
There are about 400 floating wetlands at the edges and near the outlet of the lake. These floating wetlands are tied to the edge of the lake bund. Also, There is no stone placed on the slopes of the lake to hold the sand. To control the erosion they have planted vetiver on the slopes whose roots grow deep and helps in holding the soil together and prevents erosion. Vettiver is also found  in the floating wetlands. Other wetland plant species are Canna, Colocasia, Nutgrass and Aligator Weed. The size of each floating wetland is about 4ft*8ft.

Contact Info:
Ashwin, Engineer, EHS, Biocon:8884501116
Naveen, JMS Biotech: 9964755220
Shashank, JMS Biotech: 9742415496

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Open wells in Vile Parle, Mumbai.

Got to see these 2 old open wells in Vile Parle, Mumbai. Both with water at about 5ft below ground level. One is at the station road in a market place and the other is called the sarkari well. Both are within 200 metres from each other. Most people in the area didnt know about the wells and said there are no open wells in Mumbai - but those that knew of the wells could not think of a time when the wells were not there !! They said the wells were a 100 years old. Both wells are used - for non potable purposes - and have never gone dry. The people around seemed to think they are 100ft deep - but I could not get around to fathoming it and had no measuring tape to confirm !! There were turtles/ fishes in the water and the water looked clean - though there was some garbage dumped - but there was no smell/grease. The wells were in public places , open (no grilles)- never had been thought of as a safety concern  A hand pump near the sarkari well was now dry and had not been used for a while

Well on the station road - in the main market

They cant think of a time when the well was dry

Fishes - that the camera could not capture

its as easy as that - drop a bucket - get the water

safety does not seem like a concern- kids are careful

a hand pump close by - but its dry

Monday, August 6, 2018

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Tree Plantation in Arsenahalli and Gangavara Government School

Biome Environmental Trust (Biome) has installed Rainwater Harvesting (RWH) system in 10 government schools around Devanahalli. This project is supported by Wipro Cares and Wipro Aerospace & Defence Plant, Devanahalli.

As part of the program, Wipro employees have visited the government schools. One of the observations from the school visit and after interacting with the teachers in the school has been that many of the schools’ lack ‘green spaces’ inside the campus. The schools have large open land which is either used as a playground or otherwise remains unused and not maintained.

On occasion of World Environment Day 2018, Wipro and Biome conducted a tree plantation activity in 2 schools, out of 10 schools. The two schools were Arsenahalli higher primary school and Gangavara higher primary school. The intent was to increase the green cover as well as engage with the students, staff and the community.

Wipro volunteers, HEADS (a partner organization of Wipro engaging on health aspects) and Biome participated in the event. The event started with Biome team explaining RWH in the school, HEADS team spoke about importance of health and hygiene to the students and Wipro employees engaged with students on the theme of World Environment Day i.e. beat plastic pollution. After the introductions, the plantation activity was started. Below pictures capture the event:

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Wetland Maintenance - Jakkur Lake

Jakkur Lake is on approximately 160 acres and is located in the Northern part of Bangalore to the right of NH44 near Yelahanka. The lake falls within Hebbal Valley as part of the Yellamallappa Chetty lake series in northern Bangalore. There are two entrances to the lake. One from the South and the other from the East.
To the northwest of the lake, there is a BWSSB-operated 10 MLD STP which discharges an average of 7-8.5 ML into the lake each day. BWSSB checks the water quality before it is let into the wetland.
In 2008 BDA/BBMP constructed a wetland and rejuvenated Jakkur Lake.  Since then the lake has seen lots of changes - a walking path, Community Centre, Security building, Fishermans hut, Toilets to name a few.

A constructed wetland covers approximately 7 acres in the northern part of the lake. There are various species of aquatic plants in the wetland. Typha is planted at the inlet and on the edge of the wetland, followed by an algal pond. Fishermen at the lake maintain the wetland and the lake by trimming/harvesting the plants as required. Women from a self help group cut the grass around the wetland. Grass cutters also cut grass and harvest alligator weed for fodder.  Grass cutters sometimes cut Typha too.


There are four primary inlets: 
  • STP treated water  enters from the north into the wetland.
  • Naala 1 -  Mix of storm and sewage flowing from Agrahara lake outlet enters from the east of the lake and is let into the lake directly.
  • Naala 2 - Mix of storm water  and sewage water enters from the north of the lake into the wetland.
  • Naala 3 - Presently, there is no inflow of wastewater from this inlet as that part of the drain opening into the lake was reportedly blocked by some chemical industry. We were also told that, prior to closing the drain, the overflow from Shivanahalli lake used to enter Jakkur Lake through this inlet


There are two outlets in the southern side of the lake. Both of the lake outlets are overflow structures in the south of the lake. The two outlet naalas converge downstream and flow to Rachenahalli Lake.

Maintenance of Wetland 


 A 7-acre constructed wetland in the north of the lake has mostly been left to grow naturally. This wetland accounts for approximately 4.4% of the total lake area. There is a bund created with an outlet into the lake. There are species of plants in the wetland such as Typha, Alligator weed, Water Hyacinth.

Alligator Weed                                                           Duck Weed

Water Hyacinth                                                          Typha

Harvesting and cutting of Hyacinth and Typha

  • With untreated sewage water entering, there is growth of Hyacinth in the wetland and lake.  It is observed that the growth of Hyacinth increases when the inflow of sewage water increases. It is also observed that the plant species thrive during monsoon season.
  • Hyacinth is harvested to control their growth. They are usually left to complete their life cycle and removed when dry.  
  • Typha is also seen in plenty around the wetland. Dry Typha is cut by the women and the grass cutters.

Water Quality

  • Water quality data of the STP treated water which is let into the wetland is maintained by BWSSB.
  • KSPCB collects water from 5 different locations and does the analysis periodically.
  • Atree research paper:  
  • Dr TV Ramachandra’s  research paper:
  • Dr. Chanakya’s(IISc) students check for microbial and algae growth.  They are studying water quality for  microbial content.

Maintenance of lake and surrounding area
  • Jala Poshan, a not-for-profit organization officially took over the lake in 2014. It has played an important role in rejuvenating the lake by organizing resources such as labour and finances and driving the work at Jakkur Lake by coordinating between various organizations and monitoring the progress of the work. They have recently started  experimenting with floating wetlands in the lake.
  • Installed leaf composters, Vermicompost pits, Composting sheds and hedges
  • Created Butterfly garden and planted trees. There are over 5000 trees around the lake.
  • In addition to Jala Poshan volunteers, there are 3 groups involved in maintenance of the Lake. 
    • Women from self help group 
    • Fishermen
    • Grass Cutters

Women from self help group
  • 160 acre lake with 5 km perimeter requires lots of maintenance. Jala Poshan has appointed 6 women from the self help group to clean the land area around the lake. They deweed, cut grass and prune the trees which are then composted. Male labourers are hired temporarily whenever required.
  • Leaf composters are placed around the lake. Cow dung slurry is used to accelerate the composting process.  Twigs are composted in pits. 
  • There are Vermicompost pits, 

Grass Cutters

  • Are from nearby villages who cut grass in the lake; Grass Cutters harvest Alligator weed from the shoreline  which is used as fodder for their livestock
  • They visit the lake everyday and have free access to the lake.  
  • Being native to the area they are sensitive to the environment and do not destroy it.  
  • They cut grass/weed in a manner where it shoots again and take only those species of plants/grass which is useful to the livestock.
  • They are not paid by Jala Poshan but are able to take the grass for free for their own purposes

Pic by Dr. Annapurna
  • Spend their time fishing and keeping the main water body clean. 
  • Keep the lake clean from garbage(paper/plastic).
  • Harvest hyacinth and other weed which may then be used for compost. 
  • Maintain a narrow line of hyacinth along the shoreline and also at the inlets and outlets at all times.
  • Fisheries department is notified if there are issues with water quality. The department suggests solutions to the fishermen who are then responsible for carrying out those tasks. It is in their interest to ensure the lake is healthy as it will allow for a better fish population. 
  • When Jala Poshan brings an expert to the lake, fishermen are always present in order to understand and make the required changes. 

Safety Measures
All the workers have access to a shed that holds protective gear such as gloves, shoes, and life jackets. In many cases, the workers prefer to go without as they believe the gear hinders their ability to work. However, Jala Poshan requires them to wear shoes when working in areas with tall grasses which may be home to snakes. 

The maintenance of the lake costs between 1.5-2 lakh INR per month. While the BBMP does not allow official income-generating activities at the lake, it allows Jala Poshan to hold fundraising events that help offset the costs of maintenance and improvements. In addition, this work is funded through Jala Poshan by their donors and any dedicated BBMP funds. 

  • Maintenance of Wetland has been a challenge as it is growing naturally since it was constructed in 2008. Jalaposhan is waiting for funding from BBMP to rejuvenate the wetland. 

STP downtime
  • It has been observed that sometimes the aerator of the STP stops. The reason for this and the quality of water entering the wetland is not known.

  • Sewage enters directly into the lake through some inlets. Plan is to raise the height of the inlet by one brick to increase the retention time of the water. Water Hyacinth growing at the inlet will help in purifying the water to some extent before it enters the lake.

Chemicals in SWD
  • Some textile industries (side stream of the lake) use dyes, and waste water from these industries was being let into the storm water drain without treating.
  • Fisherman and Jala Poshan members look out for the turbidity and frothing of the water which enters from the storm water drains. If the turbidity increases they get the water analysed. Frothing in the water is an indication of effluents/chemicals in it. This is then traced back to the industries.

Disconnected SWD
  • A SWD has been disconnected as part of the drain is blocked by some chemical industries. There is no water entering the lake from this inlet. Jala Poshan members plan to define the SWD and rejuvenate the 3 SWD at the lake by approaching the SWD department of BBMP to get the work done.
  • Also, one of the outlets is closed due to a railway line.

Future plans
  • Jala Poshan members are thinking of recreating/rejuvenating the wetland and provide easy access to different parts of the wetland by means of vertical and horizontal partitions. 
  • Increasing the bund height by 1 to 2 feet will help in maintenance and retention of water for longer period in the wetland before getting into the lake.
  • Have a wetland maintenance plan which would allow the grasscutters, fishermen, and other stakeholders to agree upon and work under the same guidelines with regards to the harvesting of various plant species. 
  • Engage with experts Dr. TV Ramachandra, Mr.Yellappa Reddy, Atree, Mr. Vishwanath and others to scientifically come up with a plan for maintenance of the wetland.

Contact Info