Sunday, October 31, 2021

Biome at Bhoomi College 2021

Biome Environmental Trust conducted a three day training program at Bhoomi College from 27th to 29th October 2021. 

Day 1:
The very first session of the training was taken up by Mr.Vishwanath. He started by setting a context to water management in urban and rural areas and discussed the best practices, challenges and trends in sustainable water management practices. 

The second session of the day was taken up by Rakshitha who discussed wastewater management in Indian cities and towns. She introduced the concept of wastewater by discussing on-site and off-site sanitation systems in detail. In her presentation she focused on the water and sanitation practices in Devanahalli town in detail and quickly walked through the formal and informal sanitation practices in Tumakuru city and Bengaluru metropolis.  

Day 2: 

The second day of the training was a field trip day. Suma took the students to see the recharge wells at Cubbon Park. They also interacted with the well digger Ramakrishna who had dug the recharge wells. After the Cubbon Park visit, they visited Sanjay Nagar government school where Shivanand and Srivalli took them around the school to explain the implementation, design and work process of the rainwater harvesting system implemented in the school.The last destination was Devanahalli town. Shivanand and Srivalli explained the prominence of Sihineerukere and wells and the change in paradigm after urbanization. They explained the present importance of lake with entry of treated wastewater under the HN valley project which in turn recharged the old wells bringing back their past glory. They briefed the group about the rejuvenation of  an old well with a view to integrate the well water into the panchayat water supply making it the first of its kind in town water supply. 

Day 3:

Day 3 was an open house session. Shubha started the session by creating a checklist of questions that the students wanted to discuss (and yes the board  was full). Rakshitha presented the Million Wells campaign. Post tea break Shubha walked everyone through the "" website, played videos on water management in schools, the recharge wells and the Earth mural etc. Post lunch students were taken to Prakriya school in the same campus to see the DEWATS (Decentralized Wastewater System) which treats the grey water from the kitchen. Students opened the lids of the settling tanks, the monitoring pipe lids and walked on top of the jelly packing in the phytorid system. 

It started to rain while walking back to Bhoomi college which triggered students to ask practical questions on the gradient, flooding and to show us the stormwater recharging pit in their campus. The last presentation was on two case studies from Million Wells - Railwheel Factory and Nandideepa apartment which was discussed by Rakshitha. Shubha wound up the session by answering the questions listed on the board. 

It was my first visit to Bhoomi College. I was told Bhoomi has a beautiful campus, it follows an informal and holistic education, students from diverse backgrounds and age groups would be participating. The intro was exciting. This was in fact the first group gathering post Covid. I loved the beautiful earth block buildings, the calm and serene campus, the garden, Carbon (the cat with bright green eyes) and of course the wholesome food. I personally enjoyed talking about Devanahalli and Railwheel Factory's best water management practices. I loved the questions students asked, the favorite one being "Who coined the term Honeysuckers?". This was my question too and it was so much fun to figure out it is Vishu sir's coinage!. Cheers to all the giggles, laughter and mischievous fun!. 

- Rakshitha

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Wells stories from Vidyaranyapura (Part 2)

On 11th visit to Vidyaranyapura, I witnessed interesting stories on wells. I am sharing few stories here:

1. The significance of open wells

" The question on water supply to households by the government came only in 1987 when the housing society started to supply the water to households. Before 1987, households had to find a source of water themselves. Back then the lakes were full and every household dug open wells. There was no thought on drilling borewells. Open wells played a significant role before the formal supply of piped water by the government. After piped water, there was no need to use open wells as there was sufficient water supply. People ignored open wells. That was also the time of borewell intrusion. The borewells have led to the collapse in groundwater table. Majority of the households closed their wells as they ran dry".

- Mr. Raja Mani is the resident of 2nd block, Vidyaranyapura

2. Community connect with the wells

People had a strong connection with their wells irrespective of they using the well or otherwise. Though it was bit difficult to start a conversation but it would go smooth once they start to share their stories.  I have seen 20 wells and spoken to 10-12 people. There were hardly two to three people who were not open to have a conversation on their well. Majority of the welcomed the conversation on well and water and few people very enthusiastic to share their views and stories. It was very great to see people coming forward to talk about their wells. 

3. Re-digging of open wells

Every time I am on field, I would notice a sense of regret from the people for closing their wells. They would decide to close their wells for reasons like space constraint, sewage contamination, vastu, sufficient piped water supply etc. They may not have always taken the decision out of their choice. When they are initiated with the conversation on well, they would take a pause and think if closing the well was a right idea or would they have done something better. In a nut shell most of the people in Vidyaranyapura residents are connected to their wells emotionally. 

1. Mr.Raja Mani had dug an open well in 1983, he was using the well till 1987. After getting piped water he closed the well from top. Later during 2015, while renovating and rebuilding the house, he closed the well with debris. While applying for building approval, the form mentioned rainwater harvesting is mandatory for the approval. He then removed the debris and re-dug the well for 7ft. 

Mr.Raja Mani's well

2. Mr.Kamesh Mahadevan had an old open well which was more than 20 years old. He had closed the well in 2019 as it was not in a right location according to vastu. He was inspired by Mr.Vishwanath's post and wanted to dig an open well again. He was interested to use the well water. He got in touch with Biome and dug an open well in 2019. He has allowed the rooftop rainwater to recharge the well. The well is 4ft in diameter and 20ft deep. The well hit water at 7ft and as of now the well is not holding water and working as a recharge well. He is planning to re-deepen the well to 30ft as neighbor wells of 30ft deep has water. He expects the well will start to hold water  in the coming year.

Mr.Kamesh's well

4. Groundwater recharge

The residential households in Vidyaranyapura have taken up the initiatives of groundwater recharge. 

There are residents who are just using their open wells to recharge the rooftop rainwater(not using the well water) to comply with building bylaws. Households who use the open well water extensively have directed the rooftop water into the well to improve the water level and also the water quality. Households have dug recharge wells as a conscious step towards sustainable water management. 

1. Mr. Sathish is the resident of Chamundi layout, Vidyaranyapura. He dug the recharge well to fulfill the building bylaws which mandate RWH and he was also interested in sustainable water management in his house. The recharge well was dug by Plumber Mohan. It is 4ft wide and 20ft deep. The well did not hit water and Mr.Sathish is interested to re-deepen the well to 30ft like Mr.Kamesh as the neighbor wells which hold water are 30ft deep. 

5. Use of open well water for construction: 

Mr.Raghuram built his house during 2017. He chose to dig an open well over borewell to build the house. The well was dug by Well digger Shankar(Ph:9900283755) and team and it went up to 18ft deep and 3ft in diameter. He hit water at  8ft and got 5 inches of water. The entire house was built using this water and no additional sources of water(water tankers) were used. Currently the well has water at 5ft from the ground level. The well water is used for all domestic purposes. In addition, he has let rooftop rainwater into the sump tank(9000litre) and channelized the overflow towards the open well.  

Mr.Rajamani's well mentioned above was used to build a neighbor's house during 2015-16. The entire G+2 house was built using the open well water.

 Raghuram's open well

Filtering borewell water using rainwater filter

Mr.Sham Prasad is the resident of Doddabommasandra, Vidyaranya post. The water management in his individual house is bit different and I have captured it below:

 He is receiving two types of piped water - CMC water and Cauvery water. He has a borewell which is more than 20 years old. The water supply from both CMC and Cauvery is not sufficient to meet the requirement of two households (located in the same compound). The borewell yield was decreasing and he wanted to dig recharge well to improve the borewell yield. He got in touch with BIOME and engaged with plumber Mohan for the service. 

Plumber Mohan dug the recharge well in 2019. He connected the rooftop water into the sump tank after passing it though a masonry filter. There are two sump tanks in each house. The overflow from one sump enters the other sump. Once the second sump is full, overflow water reaches the recharge well. 

Mr.Sham Prasad was facing the accumulation of sand particles in the borewell water. The initial thought was to install a sand filter. Plumber Mohan(Ph: 9986922193) who implemented the rainwater harvesting suggested passing the borewell water through the masonry rainwater filter and there was no need to install the sand filter at all. Mohan connected the borewell water back into a masonry filter during September 2020. The issue of sand particles accumulation in borewell water has been resolved completely. 

Water from the borewell is pumped to masonry filter and from the filter water reaches the sump through gravity. During the monsoon when the sump is already filled with rainwater, pumping the borewell water back into the masonry filter would cause a trouble, but Sham Prasad uses the borewell only during the scarcity that is mostly in summer. As of now there is no issue found. 


- Rakshitha M L

Community connect with the wells

I am very eager to meet people especially elder generation during my open well visits. Most of them would have closed or stopped using the wells. Though the wells were closed, bhavi(well), kallu kattada(stonelined), the hagga (rope), the bindige pot, the pulley, the rise in water table during monsoon was deeply  engraved and stay fresh in the minds. 

I would hear people saying it used to be a good exercise for ladies in particular. The elderly women and gentlemen would initially say they do not have well and they have closed it long ago. I would quickly give them a small introduction on Biome and Million wells. Here goes my fixed intro:

"I am Rakhsitha from an organization called Biome Environmental Trust. We work on sustainable water management. Bengaluru gets water from Cauvery which is 90kms far and 300m below the ground level. It cost Rs.24 for BWSSB to supply 1KL of water. It supplies water at just Rs.8 for households. We run a campaign called "Million wells for Bengaluru. We say, if Bengaluru has 10 lakhs wells we could reduce the dependence on Cauvery as much as we can. We have to save the existing wells and dig more recharge wells to replenish the fallen groundwater table."

They would be nodding indicating their acceptance. Now its their turn - "we were using the well water extensively. But this was once upon a time". Then I would ask them this was when? Then they would say the well was dug before the house was constructed? "The house was constructed in the year 1970, 1984, 1998...", women would say accurately with the sense of belonging. 

From now on I do not have to ask them any questions and they would go on and on with a smile on their face and actions in their hands. 

"Madam you know the well water was used by many households? EE mane, ha mane, indina mane,mundina mane..." basially I would hear all manes

"Well water is the purest. We were drinking the well water without any purification."

"Well water is sacred. We were performing sandhyavandane, gange pooje..."

Open wells are not always cheerful. They have their darker phases too... 

"After getting municipal water we stopped using the well water. The well will have water in the monsoon. But we have not maintained the well. Thus we cannot use the well water..." 

"We have thrown debris inside. 

"Our  neighbors dug deeper borewells! The water level depleted then on"

"The water would stink. I think sewage is entering the well"

"Yes you are right. Cauvery is from farthest distance. There is huge cost involved. We should think of using local resources". 

I would say I am very happy to hear their stories. 

Everyone has an open well story.  

Just that they should be Dug from the memory lines

Shall we come together to Dig 1 million wells???

- Rakshitha M L

Thursday, October 14, 2021

Vidyaranyapura wells: Overview (Part 1)

On 12th October 2021, I saw the wells in Vidyaranyapura and the learnings are captured below:

Vidyranyapura is located in North of Bengaluru, it is a residential location closer to Bharat Electronics Limited(BEL), GKVK and closer to Yelahanka. It is surrounded by Doddabommadra, Narsipura, Singapura and Veerasagara lakes. The region started to urbanize post 1990's and the lakes started to go dry. The lakes are now been taken up for rejuvenation by BBMP.

Map of Vidyaranyapura

Vidyaranyapura is known for open wells. Before the formal piped water supply from BWSSB the households had to depend on groundwater alone. Majority of the houses built during late 1980's and 1990's dug the open well first and then sourced the water from the well to build the house.  The groundwater table there is less than 5 ft from the ground level in many areas. The wells in this region are mostly dug by well digger Late Muniyappa (from Bhovipalya, Sarjapura) and team. 

Images of open wells in Vidyaranyapura

I took the help from well digger Shankar (Late Muniyappa's son) to locate the wells. 

  • On this day 20 wells are mapped using "Google Mymap". 
  • Many households have closed the wells after getting Cauvery water from BWSSB. Currently we could only see 60-70% of the wells and the rest are been closed using debris, etc. 
  • After BWSSB's Rainwater Harvesting mandate few households are using their open wells to recharge. 
  • Residents are using the well water only for domestic use and Cauvery is used for portable purposes. 
  • Majority of the households are not using open well water as they find they have sufficient Cauvery water supply. The households using well water say they receive Cauvery water twice a week which is not sufficient and they prefer open well water over Cauvery.
  • The well water quality is good in the words of residents.
  • Residents find relying only on open well water is not possible as the water level would go down in summer. 
  • Residents who have allowed rooftop rainwater say the well will have directed rainwater only during the monsoon and it will go dry completely post monsoon. 
Well digger Shankar would go door to door asking for work (mostly well cleaning) during the summer. He has also got to clean few of the wells as a result of this task. While mapping the wells residents who are using the well water were interested to get in touch with Shankar to get their wells cleaned in summer. 

- Rakshitha M L