Thursday, May 30, 2019

Urban Water Workshop

The Urban Water Workshop was held on April 25th and 26th at the School of Ancient Wisdom, Bangalore. The WIPRO funded workshop provided a platform for experts across the country to come together and share their experiences working in the water field. There were around 42 members who attended the two day event, that includes academicians, lake group members, water professionals and government officials, to name a few.

  Group photo taken on the last day
One the first day we had presentations and open house discussions on 4 major topics that are listed below. Dr. Himanshu Kulkarni , Shubha Ramachandran and S. Vishwanath set the context for the workshop.

Topic 1: Groundwater and its participatory management
1. Dr. Himanshu Kulkarni, ACWADAM
  • Through citizen participation ACWADAM created an aquifer map, which was 85% accurate when compared to a technical survey
  • Pune states that it is completely dependent on surface water but ACWADAM’s research showed that 50% of the water supply in Pune comes from groundwater
2. Yogesh Jadeja, Arid Communities and Technologies
  • Case Study of Bhuj, making Bhuj self reliant on its water resources through participatory groundwater movement
  • Government officials, volunteers, academicians, citizens and NGOs all came together. Trained ‘Bhujal Jankars’ for aquifer mapping and monitoring. With everyone’s help they have created a groundwater recharge plan for Bhuj
3. Shubha Ramachandran, Biome
  • Spoke about Participatory Aquifer Mapping in Sarjapur road in South East of Bengaluru
  • Most of peri-urban Bangalore depends on groundwater as they are not connected to the Cauvery water supply
  • Move away from the idea that the deeper you go the more water you find. 
  • Rainbow Drive, a private layout that is completely independent of public water supply shows the benefits of shallow aquifer recharge
4. Eklavya Prasad, Megh Pyne Abhiyan
  • Created a group of students from Carmel school to become the future water leaders, they are called the Gang of 20
  • Student participation survey showed that 65% depended on groundwater, 31% on piped water supply and 4% depended on both.
  • Why Dhanbad Municipal Council (DMC) is so focused on piped water supply when majority of the people depend on groundwater?
5. Shubha Avinash, Karnataka State Natural Disaster Monitoring Center (KSNDMC)
  • Marked 174 most floodable areas in Bangalore
  • Rain gauge, weather sensors and water level sensors set up in Bangalore. There are 100TRG in BBMP area, 6 TWS and 6 water level sensors to monitor and manage water levels.
  • Use hydrological modeling and flood forecast systems to create an early warning system
Bhakti Devi from Neer Infinite provides hands on training to teach participants how to provide solutions to apartments, Bala Bangalore Apartments Federation (BAF) stated that BAF has over 4000 apartments that is participating in better water management and they also created the “half bucket challenge” to encourage citizens to save water during the summer, and Virupax from Smarter Homes spoke about their water metering systems that help communities save over 35% of their water.

Discussion- Some key points that came up during the Open House are: 
  • How do we ensure equitable distribution of groundwater? 
  • How do you ensure everyone in the “community” is involved? 
  • Once groundwater data is shared publicly, how will it affect real estate, migration and government deals?
  • How do we change the psychology related to groundwater?

 Ekalavya sharing his experiences 
Topic 2: Local water resources in higher education 
1. Mona Iyer, CEPT University
  • Spoke about the learning pedodgy at CEPT, learning is emphasised through practical research, lectures, field visits, studios and by taking into account different stakeholders such as NGO/s, civil society organisations and government organisations.
  • A studio project is where students engage with local governments and practitioners to work on existing development plans and projects. Some water and sanitation studio exercises are City Sanitation Plan for Kalol Nagarpalika, Water services and sanitation: Surat Metropolitan area and Water and Sanitation in Vadodara
2. Neha Sarwate, MSU
  • Vishwamitri River System, lessons towards reviving Vadodara’s vital lifeline
  • Meandering river indicates that its living, common trend to straighten its path indicates that the river is being killed
  • Taking a multi and interdisciplinary approach by working with architects, geographers, botanist, zoologists, engineers, wildlife experts, students, activists, economists, sociologists and hydrologists
  • Understand the importance and role of academia
  • inclusion of ecological sciences and ethics across all levels of academic curriculum.

3. Sachin Tiwale, TISS
  • TISS created a center for water policy, regulation and governance
  • Interdisciplinary approach to education; law, economics, finance, hydrology, hydrogeology, water chemistry and social sciences
  • Moving beyond centralised water supply system to meet the water requirements

4. Ananth Mariganti, Hyderabad Urban Lab (HUL)
  • Definition of local varies with time, there is no clear definition of what is a local. New sewage lines added to a local storm water drain, eventually becomes “local”.
  • Before proving solutions, the problem itself needs to be understood thoroughly. It’s important to redescribe the existing problems in understandable ways, instead of proving new solutions.

Discussion- Some key points that came up during the Open House are: 

  • Improve the connection between education and policy, think more about real life applications rather than theories.
  • How do you improve communication between departments in an institution?
  • We need both soft advocacy and hard advocacy, but hard advocacy costs a lot of money and time
  • What approach do you take for riverfront design at universities, is there a fixed way of thinking or a question up for debate?
  • Start education on environment and ethics early not just in higher education.

 Ananth sharing his insights on local resources

Topic 3: Lakes/rivers/canals revival and community participation

1. Akshay Agarwal and Lokesh Ohri, Been There, DOON That

  • Reviving Uttarakhand's Heritage of Irrigation Canal through citizen participation
  • Organise history/cultural walks and talks about the canals
  • They have been able to save small stretches but hope to work more with the locals and the government bodies to save the canals in Dehradun
2. Ajay Nayak, RIVER-se
  • Revival of Dahisar, Boisar and Oshiwara river in Mumbai
  • Focused on how to create an identity with the river for people to connect with
  • Community engagement from local stakeholders, tribal communities living along the river, dhobis, missionary workers, social activists, students
  • Organised workshops, volunteering activities, tree planting drive and River March
3. Dr. Annapurna Kamath, Jalaposhan
  • Nurturing Jakkur lake
  • Jakkur lake receives treated wastewater which enters a constructed wetland before entering the lake
  • Considered all stakeholders from fishermen, grass cutters, washer men, local residents, migrated residents and elected representatives
  • Collaborate with all stakeholders to resolve issues, the citizen group acts as point of convergence for all agencies
4. Shailaja Deshpande, Jeevitnadi- Living River Foundation
  • Revival of river Mutha through public participation
  • All programs organised by the river banks: Kathak, puppet show, nature trails, science magic, street plays, kirtan and saritayan
  • Organised different events such as Muthai Festival, Muthai Walk, River Story, Adopt a Stretch and Toxin Free Lifestyle
Discussion- Some key points that came up during the Open House are: 
  • How difficult is it to start an initiative? 
  • Are these initiatives sustainable? 
  • How do you get funding for these initiatives and is it hard to get funding?

   Akshay and Lokesh talking about the Revival of the Irrigation Canals in Uttarakhand

Topic 4: Protecting and rejuvenating local water bodies: battling vested interests and citizen-governance engagement
1. Chetan Agarwal, Center for Ecology Development and Research (CEDAR)
  • Mostly worked in Himalayan and Aravalli towns
  • Case against the State of Haryana that claimed an area was not part of a forest, planned on cutting 7000 trees for a housing project but the NGT judgement stated that the land in question is held to be a ‘deemed forest’
  • Zoning and protection of natural recharge areas such as the Aravallis, water bodies, nullahs and flood prone areas will reduce the risk of flooding
2. Sarang Yadwadkar, Justice for Rivers
  • Encroachment of lake beds, so drastic that a lake bed was moved from the left side of a river to the right side of a river
  • Floodline maps, ignored during construction.
  • A question he posed is “Are we only tackling the symptoms or are we addressing the root cause? What are the root causes?” Some possible root causes are insufficient laws, incompent bureaucracy, greed, apathy and shortage of natural resources.
3. Ramprasad, Friends of Lakes
  • Conflicts within lake groups themselves, no clear solution or idea
  • We need both soft advocacy and hard advocacy groups to get work done
Discussion- Some key points that came up during the Open House are: 
  • How to legally fight an encroachment case?
  • Experience taking up a case against the NGT

The second day started with site visits in Devanahalli, we first went to Bettakote lake, behind the airport, to learn more about groundwater management in the area. We learnt about the borewells and open wells in the region and also learned about the different entrepreneurial borewell services that have come up in the area, one innovative method to prevent water from shallow aquifers draining into deeper aquifers is to place a deflated volleyball at the required depth and then fill the volley ball with air to block the borewell at that depth. We then saw farms where wastewater was reused for cultivation and our last stop was at the Fecal sludge treatment plant(FSTP).
Avinash starting the site visits by introducing Devanahalli Town
The site visits were followed by a discussion on the site visits and ended with a discussion on how to move forward with the workshop. Dr. Himanshu Kulkarni listed his 6 major learning from the workshop, it is shown below on the right side of the image.
Concluding thoughts on the workshop
Overall, the workshop was a great place for people from different backgrounds to interact and share their knowledge and experience. For me personally it was an enriching learning experience, and I look forward to more such workshops.

Wipro Water Volunteers Workshop

Biome along with Wipro organised a workshop for Wipro water volunteers on the 25th of May 2019. Over 15 volunteers gathered at Kaikondrahalli Lake amphitheater. Everyone shared their reason for being part of the group. Some of the reasons were 

  • That the borewells were dry and dependent on tanker water
  • To figure water from the apartment can be sent to recharge wells in a public space as they do not have space in their apartment to dig recharge wells.
  • Few were engaged in rejuvenation of lake near their community.  This would help in ground water recharge
  • Some were interested in knowing about rain water harvesting
  • And some to understand the water situation in the city
  • To know more about Water Meter in apartments
  • Cost and maintenance of STP in apartment and communities
  • Water quality testing

Shubha from Biome shared history of water in the city and issue with respect to fresh water and wastewater. Wider issues for urban planning and design were also discussed.

The group thought that small workshops for the following would be useful
  • Getting trained on basic plumbing
  • Fixing aerators (home/apartment/office) to reduce water consumption

One of the ideas that came out of the discussion was
  • Grey water and black water to be separated at source. Smaller capacity STP for treating black water. This will reduce the load on the area level STP

The group has decided to meet often and discuss progress/issues related to Water.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Systems Maps that Identify Visible Problems at Bangalore Lakes

ATREE and Biome, along with Janaagraha are working on a project to better understand the problems at Bangalore lakes. The objective is to create a systems maps that identify the visible problems at the lakes and narrow down on the causes for each of the problems. Based on the information collected Janaagraha will create a public report which will provide policy recommendations to government bodies. The figure below shows the general procedure that will be followed for the project.

Attached below are the pdfs to the systems map drafts we have created for each visible problem we have identified. After meeting with various experts and verifying the data, we will publish the final version of the systems maps.

2. Fire
3. Smell

University of Minnesota Students

Students from the University of Minnesota met with Biome on May 24th, 2019 to better understand the water context in Bangalore. It is part of their Design for Sustainable Development course, where they work in teams with local partners to research and design sustainable solutions for social and environmental challenges. 

Visiting the water treatment plant at Rainbow Drive
Learning about rainwater harvesting at a residents house
Shubha from Biome took the students to Kaikondrahalli Lake and Rainbow Drive (RBD). The students got to learn about the various roles lakes play in the city, the existing water challenges in the city, some laws and regulations pertaining to water management, different rain water harvesting methods, and about the water treatment plant at RBD.

Friday, May 24, 2019

College of Fisheries Alumni Association Meeting

The College of Fisheries Alumni Association (COFAA)- Bangalore Chapter organized a meeting with Citizen Lake Groups and the Fishermen Association to discuss how everyone can work together to solve issues at the lake. The meeting was held at the Fisheries Research and Information Center in Hesaraghatta on Tuesday, April 23rd. There were around 25 members who attended the meeting including COF alumni, different representatives from the Lake Groups and Fishermen Association. Everyone introduced themselves to the group and brought up points they thought were relevant to the discussion. Some points that were brought up were:

  • Ramprasad from Friends of Lake mentioned that it would be helpful to work with COFAA and learn from their experience, for instance when it comes to plant diversity at lakes and the nutrient absorption capacity of wetlands. 
  • Lakshman from the Fishermen Association group emphasized that fish death is the best indicator that a lake is polluted. He also mentioned that it is extremely important to stop polluted water from entering the lake as it cause fish death.
  • Annapoorna from Jalpooshan shared their positive story of collectively working with the fishermen at Jakkur lake to revive and maintain the lake. She said that the fishermen are the first to notice any contamination in the water and take the best care as the lake directly affects their livelihood. Jalpooshan include the local fishermen in all discussion pertaining to the lake, and also share any knowledge that could benefit them.
Dr Eknath, the president of COFAA Bangalore Chapter ended the meeting with some points on potential ways to move forward. He mentioned organizing a workshop where key organization can come together to ficus on problem and see how they can work together to solve it. He also mentioned it would be helpful to create a list of good management stories that could encourage and motivate other to act. This was the first collaborative meeting organized by COFAA to bring together COF alumni, the Fishermen Association and different Lake Groups.

Art in Transit Meeting with Well Diggers

Image 1: Art in Transit meeting at Cubbon Park metro station
Art in Transit is an art project developed by Shristi Institute of Art, Design and Technology that creates artwork that is deeply rooted in stories about Bangalore particularly about the people, places and communities that live around the area. As part of the Bangalore Sustainability Forum funded project Shristi partnered with Biome to work on a mural at the Cubbon Park metro station that represents the groundwater story in Cubbon Park. To better understand the groundwater, Biome set a meeting with local well diggers called Mannu Vaddars to learn from their experiences and to listen to their stories first hand. Biome has also being working with Mannu Vaddars for the 'Million Recharge Wells' program to increase the water level in shallow aquifers, as they play a vital role in alleviating the water situation in Bangalore. The first meeting Art in Transit with the Manny Vaddars was organized on May 21st, at the Cubbon Park metro station itself, with over 30 well diggers who attended the event.

It was an introductory meeting to create a platform where all the stakeholders could interact. Christi introduced the Art in Transit project, and took everyone around the station to show the existing artwork. The well diggers enthusiastically participated in all discussions and shared their experience working in the field, they also sketched some of their entrepreneurial practices and pinpointed their area of work on a map. This is the first of many meetings to follow, to better understand the work and experience of the Mannu Vaddars.

Articles on the event were published on The Hindu and The Indian Express and can be accessed below:

Image 2: Exploring the existing artwork at Cubbon Park metro station
Image 3: Sketches by the Well Diggers showing their innovative designs
Image 4: Discussion with Pedant on the different types of soil in Cubbon Park
Image 5: Group discussion on work done by well diggers in different parts of Bangalore

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Wells at Cubbon Park : In the media

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Nallurhalli: Vision for Lake Development

Come summer, Water shortage and wells drying it is a common seen around Bangalore.  Communities living around lakes are coming together to revive lakes which helps in ground water recharge and flood control.

Nallurhalli Lake is part of a 1000 years old lakes network in Whitefield. On May 12, 2019 communities living around Nallurhalli lake came together to brainstorm the Lake Development Vision.  Friends of Lake, Biome Environmental Trust, Next Drop were part of this meeting as facilitators.


We saw a huge turnout of people from  Nallurhalli, communities living around the lake and stakeholders.  Subgroups were formed for working on Solid Waste Management, Water Quality and medical waste dumping in the water. Various other requirements for the Lake were also agreed upon.