Water way to be!

Bangaloreans pushed to the brink by acute water shortage could learn a thing or two from A R Shivakumar, who has not received a water bill in the last 16 years

Rain Water Harvesting

He has not been given a water bill in the last 16 years, and the BWSSB doesn’t mind a bit. A R Shivakumar, principal researcher of Rain Water Harvesting, KSCST, and his family of four, have been meeting their daily needs with rain water for the last sixteen summers.

Shivakumar offered to take us on a tour of his eco-friendly house Sourabha, in Vijayanagar, to display his advanced rain water harvesting system that makes him completely independent of Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB).
Shivakumar’s wife Suma is used to his eccentricities as a scientist.

But when he suggested that they forego a BWSSB line completely, in the new house they were building in 1997, she thought it was extreme. He convinced her then that she would not have to depend on neighbours for water, and eventually ended up building the house without depending on BWSSB.

“I created a shallow reservoir at the lowest slope of my site for the water to collect and we used just that to build our house,” he says. Today, Suma says, “We have never had a dry day and neither have we depended on tankers to help us out.”
Shivakumar has a two-level roof with two overhead tanks on each level. The roof acts as a catchment area connected to the second floor tank which is in turn connected to the linked underground pumps.

“During a full season, I have 45,000 litres of water in my house which can be used for 110 days. And in the last 100 years, the time gap between two showers in Bangalore has never exceeded three months. In Bangalore, we get about 40 inches of rain and with my surface areas, that translates to about 2.3 lakh litres of water every year. As a family of four, we use about 1.8 lakh litres of water. Where is the question of shortage?” he says.

But he does have a back-up for a (non) rainy day. The excess 50,000 litres of water that is not stored by the family in any of the tanks is directed to a shallow borewell which has water within the first 30 feet.

For clean drinking water, he uses a silver sheet that is immersed in a 10 litre tank. Put it in the water for six hours and what you have is zero-bacteria drinking water available, he says.

Water supply system
* Number of over head tanks – Two of 5,000 litre capacity
* Number of underground tanks – Two of 25,000 litres and 10,000 litres capacity
* Number of  motor pumps – 3
* Number of borewells – one

Manasi Paresh Kumar – From Times Group – Bangalore Mirror

Relearning the role of water in our cities

Rain is the modern-day tragedy in our cities: we desperately wait for the monsoons and when it rains, we weep because roads are flooded, life is disrupted. Mumbai, just a few months ago, was so thirsty for the monsoons that it was close to rationing its water supply. But then the rains came. The city did not rejoice. Instead, it went under water, all mixed with sewage and garbage, drowned in bad health. This scene is not very different in Delhi or any other city you can think of.

But the real tragedy is that in a few months, after the rains, our cities will be thirsting again. But then, rain is not part of our plan.

We believe we are all-powerful. Water greed will make us draw water from surrounding areas. Today, our cities get their water supply from further and further away – Delhi gets Ganga water from the Tehri dam, Bangalore is building the Cauvery IV project, pumping water 100km to the city, Chennai water will traverse 200km from the Krishna, Hyderabad from Manjira and so on. The point is that the urban industrial sector’s demand for water is growing by leaps and bounds. But this sector does little to augment its water resources, it does even less to conserve and minimize its use. Worse, because of the abysmal lack of sewage and waste treatment facilities, it degrades scarce water even further. But even after all this, its water greed is not met. Groundwater levels are declining precipitously in urban areas as people bore deeper in search of the water that municipalities cannot supply.

So, when it does not rain it cries and when it does rain, it cries. The cycle of water deprivation continues and we have done nothing to change our tomorrow.

This when we can do so much more. The water imperative is that cities must begin to value their rainfall endowment. This means implementing rainwater harvesting in each house and colony. But it also means relearning about the hundreds of tanks and ponds that nourished the city. Almost every city had a treasure of tanks, which provided it the important flood cushion and allowed it to recharge its groundwater reserves. But urban planners cannot see beyond land. So, land for water, has never been valued or protected. Today, these water bodies are a shame — encroached, full of sewage, garbage or just filled up and built over. The city forgot it needed water. It forgot its own lifeline.

Lakes are the vital sponges of the city. Every city gave its land for rain. Bangalore, at the beginning of the 1960s, had 262 lakes, now only 10 hold water. The Ahmedabad collector — on directions from the high court — listed 137 lakes in the city but also said that over 65 had been built over already. In Delhi, 508 water bodies were identified — again on court orders — but are not protected.

But to rethink the role of rain in our city, will require new learning in society. Just consider: builders and architects have simply never been taught how to hold water. They have been trained to see water as waste and to build systems to dispose of it as quickly as possible. German cities are learning from our experience. To save investment in building stormwater drains, the city charges a tax based on how much rainwater has been harvested by the household.

But this even this will not be enough. Each of our cities will have to learn the real value of rainwater: we will have to minimize water use and work on conservation and reuse. We will have to take our sewage and treat it so that we can recycle it — either for recharge or to make it fit for drinking.

Otherwise we will be the ultimate lost generation, which has forgotten the art of living with water. Our tragedy and our water crisis.

SUNITA NARAIN –  (The author is director of Centre for Science and Environment) – TOI

Bangalore: Don’t drink the Ground water!

Major study confirms that borewells and other sources of potable water in Bangalore are contaminated with Radon, a radioactive substance that can cause cancer

Most of Bangalore’s ground water resources is radioactive. Yes, radioactive! This is no Cassandra call by some foreign-funded eco-warriors subsidised to spread alarm.

Exhaustive research conducted by the Department of Environmental Studies, Bangalore University, in collaboration with Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC), Mumbai, Government College, Mandya, and Central Ground Water Board, Bangalore, have established the presence of high levels of Radon in the the city’s ground water.

Radon is a carcinogenic substance. Experts say drinking water which has traces of this substance can directly lead to stomach and lung cancers. The permissible level of Radon is 11.83 Bq/litre. Levels of Radon in Bangalore’s ground water is estimated between 56 Bq/l and 1000 Bq/l.

“The presence of Radon is due to the presence of Uranium in the geological profile. Random samples collected across the city indicate Radon’s presence in the ground water is beyond permissible limits,” said BU’s Prof R K Somashekar. He and Dr K Shivanna, from the ISOTOPE Application Division (BARC), are the main researchers of ground water contamination in the city.

Radon is produced as a result of the decay of the radioactive substance Radium. Radon enters ground water reserves like borewells. Bangalore’s rich granite source is one possible reason for the production of Radon. Rampant drilling of borewells allows Radon to seep into the water. Those dependent on borewells for their drinking water are at high risk. It’s alarming that 30 to 35 per cent of city residents consume borewell water.

“Ground water contaminated by Radon if ingested can lead to stomach cancers,” Prof Somashekar said. “Reverse osmosis and other filtration methods will not eliminate Radon,” he added.

Dr Bindu, Resource person, Cancer Studies, Kidwai Memorial Institute Of Oncology, said, “Radon is a radio active substance. It cannot be found every where. But then, there are chances of Cancer spreading if people are exposed to it for a long time. There are other factors to be analysed like the percentage of pollutants and the levels of exposure to people in water.”

While Radon is one cause of Cancer, there are other pollutants which can mix with under ground water too leading to Lung and Stomach Cancer. “Usually, chemical pollutants are the culprits. When they penetrate into the water tables, their alkalinity mixes with the water causing ground water pollution. But, this happens in the outskirts as landfills are usually made in the out skirts of the city,” she said.

Chief Radiologist and Oncologist, Bharath Cancer Hospital, Dr Vishweshwara, said, “This cannot happen overnight. If the person is exposed to Radon over a long period of time, a chance of malignancy can be high. The fact that ground water contamination can cause Cancer cannot be ruled out. These cases happen where land fills and dumping of chemical wastes are high.”

Neutralising Radon
Here are some measures to counter this menace:
* Ensure borewell water is not consumed directly.
* Ensure all storage tanks, sumps etc are ventilated.
* Ensure storage tanks etc are kept open for a brief period after water has been pumped in from a borewell.
* Reduce use of granite in construction work.
* Strict enforcement of rain water harvesting.

From Bangalore Mirror

No potable water may be a national crisis, says Premji

BANGALORE: Wipro chairman Azim Premji finds it frightening that water safety, management and recycling are not high-priority areas for the government.

He expressed concern over depletion of the water table and degradation of groundwater during a lecture on “Sustainability and Innovation” at the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) forum on Friday.

“Tap water in our towns is not potable. Even village wells are polluted with effluents/external impurities, and villagers are falling ill. It is going to be a national crisis if the government does not take systematic measures to manage water,” he pointed out.

While political factors have forced the government to focus on the power front and increase electricty generation, water issues are yet to get adequate attention, he felt. The country has a very low, inadequate and semi-inefficient installed base on the power-generation front, similar to the telecom landline scenario before the mobile phone revolution. India’s strides in wireless telephony were triggered by the lack of an installed base in landline networks and long waiting time for connections. In the same line, power-capacity requirement is so huge that it could kick-start the renewable energy industry, which is enjoying perks and incentives from the government, he said.

The IT czar expressed concern over climatic changes and suggested that there be stringent checks on abuse of resources. “The younger generation is increasingly becoming sensitive and responsible in terms of sustainability issues, thanks to societal pressures,” he added.

From TOI

Bangalore: Expert team to review law on plastic bags

BANGALORE: So far, the ban on plastics in the state has remained on paper, but this time the Ministry of Environment and Forests is planning to give teeth to it.

A new, eight-member expert team on plastics has been asked to review the draft plastic waste management rules of 2009 to make it more effective.

The ministry has also asked the committee to find an ecofriendly and practical alternative to plastic carry bags.

Karnataka State Pollution Board (KSPCB) Chairman A S Sadashivaiah said though most states in India, including Karnataka, had imposed a ban on plastic bags less than 20 microns in thickness, the ban has remained only on paper.

This, he said, despite the fact that 80 per cent of plastic disposed everyday comprised of plastic bags.

Sadashivaiah said there should be a multi-pronged approach to tackle this. Pune was an ideal example in this regard, he said.

In Pune, an organised sector of ragpickers has been able to successfully collect a huge quantity of plastics. Sadashivaiah said they had also installed a diesel production plant from plastics in Pune.

He said the BBMP had to take proactive measures for collecting, disposing and recycling plastic bags.

“A change of lifestyle is also required,” he said.

A member of the expert commitee, Ravi Agarwal of Toxics Link, said the ministry was trying to reveiw the draft rules at the fundamental level so that the law becomes more practical.

He said there were many alternatives to the plastic carry bags and the job was to create more space for them.

From Express Buzz

Bangalore: Ulsoor dig unearthing 1,200-year-old pond

BANGALORE: The excavation site of a kalyani (pond) in Ulsoor is a rather happening place. Not long ago, it was just an encroached patch of craggy land. With 20 feet of earth removed, the ten-day excavation is finally close to uncovering the 1,200-year-old kalyani (pond) closed by the British over a century ago.

Neglected for decades, it’s now the centre of attention of a huge crowd which looks on eagerly through the day. “We knew there was a kalyani but none of us have seen it. The steps around the pond were hidden!’’ an excited Jayanti, who has been living on the same lane for 25 years, told TOI on Thursday.

Even old-timers like Yuvraj, who stays right next to the site, didn’t know about the pond till excavation started at 9.10 am on April 19. “We’re happy that the kalyani is finally in sight. I’m just keeping my fingers crossed that the digging doesn’t extend to my house,’’ he said.

There are rumours aplenty of valuable treasures and artefacts being unearthed and that’s drawing people from all over, giving police a tough time. “It’s hard to keep them away. The crowd starts coming in at 8 am and stays patiently till evening. Many women bring their children along and in their excitement, they forget about their kids who wander all over,’’ said an officer.

Temple trustee S Gunashekhar said the excavation has also attracted many outstation visitors. “Many people are coming here from far-off places like Mysore and Tamil Nadu,’’ he said.

There are no records but legend has it that this pond (belonging to the ancient Someshwara temple, the oldest temple in the Mandavya Kshetra) was closed down by the British almost 150 years ago as the tank had dried up.

The excavation struck water at 20 ft and the pond could be at 42 ft. “We don’t have any records about this pond, not even its physical dimensions. We’re eagerly awaiting the findings of the dig based on the survey conducted by the BBMP, muzrai department and Survey of India,’’ V Govindaraj, organising committee president of the temple, told TOI. The rejuvenation exercise is estimated to cost about Rs 4.5 crore.

Some old-timers recall there was a dairy on this plot some time ago but it was shut down in 1992. The cows and a few sheds continued to remain. There was also a small veterinary clinic here, but it faded away over time.

History has it….
There are no records but legend has it that this pond (belonging to the ancient Someshwara temple, the oldest temple in the Mandavya Kshetra) was closed down by the British almost 150 years ago as the tank had dried up. Some old-timers recall there was a dairy on this plot some time ago but it was shut down in 1992

From TOI

Bangalore: Her mission: water for all

BANGALORE: For Sarala Mohan, the newly elected corporator from ward No 114 Agaram, there are several tasks cut out. With most localities housing people from the lower strata of society, Sarala is concentrating on their basic necessities.

For instance, the 750 houses at Dinabandhu Nagar are situated beside a huge drain clogged with garbage. Sewage running in the area overflows into the houses whenever it rains and also contaminates the drinking water line adjacent to the drain.

Residents said they were fed up with the mess and staged a dharna last year blocking Cambridge Road to demand that the authorities act. But nothing moved. Now, the new corporator is giving them some much-needed hope.

Sarala and her husband Mohan got down to business even before the oath-taking ceremony (on April 23), addressing problems of the people.

Sarala who contested from Agaram, an SC (women) ward in Shanthinagar constituency, won over nine other contenders with 3,873 votes. It was a closely fought election with only 43.97% voting, with her namesake, an independent, giving a tough fight. “Mohan and his wife had worked for betterment of the people much before the election. That is what tilted the votes in their favour,’’ said a resident.

Her major worry is overflowing drains. Sarala showed she meant business: clogged drains near Dinabandhunagar are being desilted. “Over the years, thanks to apathy of the people and the authorities, drains have been clogged with garbage leading to numerous problems,’’ said Saravana, a resident.

Apart from drinking water and overflowing drains, Sarala has plans to ensure proper garbage collection as residents, too, are responsible for the pile-up of muck in the drains. She wants to build small houses for the poor in slums with BBMP’s support.

Sarala, though a greenhorn, is confident of bringing sunshine and smiles.

From TOI