Sunday, January 28, 2018

Withdrawal well to the rescue from basement seepage

A corporate office in the heart of the city got flooded in the last years rain. So much so that we could still see the water seeping in during our visit in (End of) December. The Office had basement seepage apparently since the time of construction and water had to be dewatered continuously to construct a 22 ft double basement which is a parking place and generator space.

The corporate office tried to address the problem by water proofing, however that hasn't resolved the problem.

After observing the prominent basement seepage locations and talking to couple of well-diggers who have dug wells in the vicinity, the withdrawal well locations and depth was finalized. 2 Withdrawal wells are dug so far and has hit water at 19 ft and 20 ft depth from ground level respectively. The details of the two withdrawal wells are as below:

Details about WW1:

6 ft
35 ft
Water struck at
19 ft
Number of rings
6 ft rings: 26 in number
4 ft rings: 11 in number
3 ft rings: 1 in number
2 ft rings: 3 in number
Pumping frequency
Pumped 4 times a day with a 2 HP pump for 20-25 minutes, yielding a quantity of 4 – 4.5 KL each time (total 16 – 18 KL per day)

Details about WW2:
6 ft
35 ft
Water struck at
20 ft
Number of rings
6 ft rings: 31 in number
4 ft rings: 10 in number
3 ft rings: 3 in number
2 ft rings: 3 in number
Pumping frequency
Not pumped so far as well digging is still in progress

The plan is to connect the withdrawal well water to the existing overhead tank after water quality testing. 

Well Diggers: Men at work on-site

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Jakkur Lake Report

Authored by Shreyas Sati and Alana Helin as part of the BIOME Trust Wetlands & Lakes Project

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. It is frequented by local residents who enjoy the provided walking path and kalyani. As of our visit on 28 November 2017, there was work being done to complete a walking path and plans for two citizen engagement/activity regions on either side of the lake. 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. A constructed wetland covers approximately 7 acres in the northern part of the lake.

Overview and Observations
Jakkur Lake is located in Northern Bangalore.

Lake Area
160 acres
A 10 MLD STP is located on the northwest side of the lake outside the lake premises which typically discharges about 7 to 8.5 MLD of treated water into the lake. The STP was set up by BWSSB in 2004.

Jalposhan, a not-for-profit trust organization, 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. While Jalposhan is presently an independent group, it originally was a part of a program under Sathya Foundation, a not-for-profit organisation which was involved in the conservation program at that time. Also, institutions such as ATREE and IISc have provided technical support in conducting studies on water quality and lake bed profiling. There are four primary inlets: three stormwater naalas and one where treated STP water enters the lake. Of the four inlets, two (Naala 2 and STP treated water) both enter the lake in the north. There are two outlets in the southern side of the lake.

There is a wetland in the north side of the lake into which the STP treated water (Inlet 2) and wastewater from naala 2 (Inlet 3) flows. After passing through the wetlands, the water flows into the lake through an opening in the bund.

On the western side of the lake, near the guarded entrance, there is a kalyani, boat jetty, and community centre building.

There is a 5.4 km walking path around the lake. There are specific sections of this walking path on either side of the lake which are frequented by locals to use the available amenities. Around the lake boundary, Jalposhan plans to create distinctive marked areas for various purposes. Part of the section of the lake perimeter will fall under the group’s conservation area where significant plantation has been done. There are also plans for a bird and butterfly habitat, a permaculture plot, toilets, children’s play area, community centre upgrades, and additional plantations in the coming months. We observed some algae buildup on the sides of the lake.

Fishing is done in Jakkur Lake through specific contractors. There are 3-4 fish species like Rohu, Catla, Jalebi, etc. that the fishermen breed into the lake.

The Lake
Four inlets were identified from which water would enter Jakkur Lake and are summarized below.
Naala 1 Overflow
Mix of storm and sewage flowing from Agrahara lake outlet enters from the east of the lake.

STP Treated Water
About 7-8.5 MLD of treated water and wastewater enters the lake through a wetland from the north of the lake.

Naala 2 Inflow
Mix of storm and sewage enters from the north of the lake.

Naala 3 Inflow
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.

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.

Eastern overflow outlet from Jakkur Lake (near southern lake entrance)

Western overflow outlet from Jakkur Lake

A 10 MLD STP was set up by the BWSSB1,2 and constructed in 2004 just outside the lake premises . The STP uses an upflow anaerobic sludge blanket (UASB), a secondary level of treatment, for the treatment of sewage water. An average of 7-8.5 MLD of treated water is discharged into the wetland, which then flows into the main body of the lake.

Jalposhan would like to organise STP tours for interested people from point of view of education.

The Wetlands
There is a 7-acre constructed wetland in the north of Jakkur Lake, which has mostly been left to grow naturally. This wetland accounts for approximately 4.4% of the total lake area. There is a small area of water hyacinth growth at Inlet 1. At Inlets 2 and 3, there is natural growth of wetlands which includes water hyacinth, typhae, and alligator weed to name a few. Similar to Inlet 1, there is also water hyacinth growth at Inlet 4. Jalposhan is trying to create a self-sustaining model by way of allowing specific wetland species to grow, which at regular intervals can be harvested and sold to create additional income to the labourers. At this time, women from nearby communities who have formed a self help group (SHG) work at the lake every day doing a variety of tasks.   

Currently, there is one floating wetland in the main body of the lake which was not functioning at the time of our visit. However, there are plans to install floating wetlands at two inlets in the future. When planning these and other wetlands, the group is hoping to add to the existing diversity of plants - particularly as they search for alternatives to hyacinth such as lotus or lily plants.

At the time of our visit, our Jalposhan contact had expressed interest in creating a type of wetland maintenance plan which would allow the grasscutters, fisherman, and other stakeholders to agree upon and work under the same guidelines with regards to the harvesting of various plant species.

Contact Info
Jalposhan - Annapurna Kamat : 09731401881,  
ATREE - Veena Srinivasan :


Monday, January 22, 2018

Details of our visit to KLCDA/KSPCB

As a part of the project STP Wetlands and Lakes, Alana and I have been trying to collect the water quality data for some of the lakes in Bangalore. There are numerous lakes in Bangalore each of which falls under the jurisdiction of one of the following government bodies: BBMP, BDA, KLCDA, KFD and MI.

KLCDA manages 4 lakes in Bangalore. However they have water quality data for 18 lakes, which fall under various authorities. These lakes are:
     Puttenahalli (JP Nagar)
     Giddana (Hoodi)

.This link provides the water quality report from July 2017 maintained with KLCDA. Because the lakes in this report fall under different authorities, the custodians of each lake are responsible for creating an action plan based on the sample results. It is not the responsibility of the KLCDA to do this for all of the lakes, only those 4 that it is a custodian of. 

Seema Garg, the CEO and an IFS officer not only shared the water quality data with us but also suggested us to chose a group of upstream lakes from a chain of lakes to conduct studies on wetlands, water quality, water and Wastewater Treatment Systems etc.

Few other data we are trying to collect and understand are: 
     1. Sampling methodology, locations and frequency
     2. Water quality testing methodology and frequency'
Based on our last conversation with the KLCDA, we are planning to visit with the KSPCB to better understand these two points.

-Shreyas S. 

Talking About Water With University of Washington Students

Bright and somewhat early on Thursday morning I arrived at Kaikondrahalli Lake where Shubha was to give a presentation to students from the University of Washington – Seattle (USA). Shubha and I, along with another Biome Trust volunteer, met approximately twenty students plus their five advisors – two from the US and three from Bangalore – to discuss all things water-related. The students are here in Bangalore as part of an immersive study abroad course which focuses on sustainable international development and design thinking. Their topics range from waste management to urban development to education to water security – all learned through visits with local organizations working in those sectors.

Once we were all situated at the amphitheater, the students were given a brief history of Bangalore and its water story – the source rivers, construction of tanks for dry season storage and flood reduction, pollution problems, rain distribution, etc. With that context, we moved onto the story of Biome and how it evolved into what it currently is. From the early days as Rainwater Club to Biome Environmental Pvt. Ltd. and Biome Environmental Trust and the various roles each group plays within the water sector. We walked around the lake a bit more during which time the students asked about the wetlands, our projects, and anything else that came to mind. 

As someone who experienced the same visit during the second week of my stay in India, it was fun to go back and see it from the other perspective. I hadn’t realized just how much I had experienced and learned until I started answering some of the questions students had, though it also reminded me how complex these issues are and how much I have yet to learn.
Our next stop was a nearby school complex which included both government and non-government classrooms. Biome Trust had previously done some work at the school with another group of students from Washington to design and install a rainwater harvesting system. Following this project, the government became more active in providing for the school they finance.

The last stop of the day was Rainbow Drive, a planned layout off Sarjapur Road. We sat in the clubhouse while I explained a bit about how the layout developed and addressed their water concerns. When the borewells started going dry, the layout began relying on more tankers to provide water. Because this was expensive and detrimental in the long-term, they began looking for alternatives. With help from Biome, a graduated tariff was decided upon and individual homes were charged for their use based on a meter in order to manage the demand. Almost every home also has rainwater harvesting for either storage/use or for recharge. Additionally, there are recharge wells throughout the layout – several small ones in the drains and about five larger ones. With the lower demand and increased shallow aquifer levels from recharge, the layout began to see cost savings. This cost savings was used to help finance a phytorid water treatment plant for the layout.

All of these practices were observed and discussed during a short tour of the site, with the students asking questions along the way. Rainbow Drive is now an example we use for those who are interested in water management and learning what actions they can take.
-Alana, Project Intern

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

The girls of Umthli school in Meghalaya win a Basketball match

Umthli Secondary School in Meghalaya was one of the schools where BIOME helped implement Rainwater Harvesting along with several other groups. The implementation team also gifted the school a football as the students were very interested in football as well as very good at it. They were short of a football too.
Today, the sports teacher writes in with a note of thanks and a picture of the sub junior girls team that is playing Chennai today in the finals of the Reliance Foundation School Football , in Mumbai. The BIOME team is now rooting for the Umthli girls to win. How we connect in various ways !! And yes Rainwater Harvesting is always there - to be happy about. It rained and their tanks filled up too  The match is streaming live at

A LAKE as a WETLAND or a WATER BODY : Re-imagining a lake as GREEN

Our preferred imagination of an urban lake is mostly blue water with a well maintained walking track all along, some trees on the periphery and some birds on them too. That imagination is of course broken when the lake stinks, froths, has plastic strewn around. That imagination is ALSO broken when we see overgrown typha reeds in the lake, floating hyacinth and alligator weed. When the lake turns from BLUE to GREEN that imagination is broken. And then we want to rejuvenate the lake and turn it BLUE again
If we were to step back and think why is it that we really want the BLUE or for that matter the WATER for, we realise a couple of things. These lakes were man made, created for purposes of flood control, irrigation, fishing, for live stock, for domestic purposes. However in most urban lakes, (especially the smaller ones) even if the water was of good quality
- we are not allowed to swim or bathe
- we are not allowed to fish unless we are a fishing contractor (with permissions from the fisheries department)
- we are not allowed to row a boat
- we are not allowed to immerse idols or other offerings. Immersions are to be made in a Kalyani that is specifically made for the purpose
The above aside (things that we cannot do), what purposes does the lake continue to serve us
- it still serves very well as a flood control mechanism when the streams do connect to the lake (and the flows are not obstructed)
- it allows for groundwater recharge and places nearer the lake do observe an increase in ground water tables
- helps regulate temperature. The area around a lake is always much cooler
- is a pleasant place to walk around/socialise
- provides spaces for birds, reptiles and other living beings to breed and nest
- is a place where societies/governments let in their treated/untreated waste water
- is a place where grass as fodder mostly grows abundantly and allows for cattle grazers to collect cattle feed
The above purposes could largely be met even if all or more of the lake were more of a GREEN wetland not a BLUE water body. Birds and reptiles prefer the WETLANDS for nesting and stay in the WETLANDS for large parts of the day. There are fishes in the WETLANDS too. Infact WETLANDS provide for a lot more bio diversity. The green in the WETLANDS possibly increases the oxygen levels in the surrounding areas too. The nutrient in the waste water is drawn out by the WETLAND plants and hence the water leaving the WETLAND is a lot cleaner
Given that we cant swim, bathe, fish, wash in the lake. Given that a GREEN WETLAND serves almost all and more of the purposes that a BLUE WATER BODY can, except for changes in aesthetics and some changes in volume. Given that we are increasingly looking at lakes as being receptacles for treated/untreated waste water and that we are also struggling to maintain our STPs in the long term, what if we imagined more of our lakes as WETLANDS and not WATER BODIES. Would that be ok ? The WETLANDS would serve almost all the functions that the current water body does and additionally allow for better water treatment too. Currently most lakes have 1/8 to 1/4 of the total area as a WETLAND - either by design and maintenance or by the propensity of the WETLAND to take over. It does seem a lot more practical and long term and realistic to imagine our lakes as GREEN WETLANDS rather than BLUE WATER bodies. This could mean that more of the lake area could turn green or perhaps some lakes could turn completely into WETLANDS too. The WETLAND would still need maintenance and management (and we would need to learn how to go about with it) and acceptance.
Would we be ok imagining our lakes as WETLANDS. More GREEN and less BLUE ?
All WETLAND and WATER BODY pictures from Lower Ambalipura Lake, Off Sarjapura Road. Roughly 20% WETLAND and 80% WATER BODY, by area


Cleaning a Well in Mathikere

Ravi and Shankar are well cleaners and well diggers. One of the wells that Shankar and Ravi are cleaning in Mathikere, Bangalore is 30ft deep and 3.5ft in diameter. Has water at 8ft below ground level. That means the well has a standing 22ft column of water. This translates to an availability of 4000 litres of water per day for the family. The well is 25 years old and the family uses the water for all non potable purposes. For drinking and cooking they have Cauvery water. The well has never gone dry. This is possibly because the family also lets in rooftop water into the well. So the well is used for ground water recharge as well as a source of water. An open well in a house really does make you a lot more responsible in the way you think of/use water. If anyone is looking to clean/dig a well in/around Mathikere, Shankar is on 96558 52399 and Ravi on 98805 53136