Archive for March, 2011


Wastewater reuse

March 27, 2011

As apartments spring up in all parts of the city and the availability of water being limited it is imperative that certain steps be put in place for the safe and sustainable management of water and sanitation. Even if an apartment uses as less as 5000 litres of water a day it must have a wastewater recycling system which does such a thorough job that the treated wastewater is reused to replace fresh water and not for simply disposing off into the environment in a safe way. It is simply not good enough for treated wastewater to be used for watering lawns, an unnecessary demand. If the water utility can make it mandatory to put in place such a system it would be wise. It would be even wiser for the builder to implement such a system without the law. It would be the wisest that an aware consumer community demands this from the builder so that the pressure comes from all sides.


A dual line in each apartment will ensure use of treated wastewater for non-potable use. Treated wastewater can also be used for recharging the aquifers and suitable laws, protocols and standards need to be developed for this. It would also help if a standard list of approved wastewater treatment technologies is made available for builders to choose from. A third party inspection and certification would also ensure strict adherence to laws and effective implementation.


Other steps to consider is the complete ban on the use of fresh piped water or groundwater for lawns , swimming pools, car wash, sidewalk washing and other such wasteful uses during summer.


Individual metering for each flat has been seen to reduce demand and penalise huge users of water and reward frugal use. This should be made mandatory for all flats and apartments.


Rainwater harvesting has been made mandatory for all such buildings but again a third party inspection and certification should be made mandatory so that the true benefit from rainwater flows to the apartments and to the city.


Highly dense apartments with many flats and people residing have an incredibly large water footprint. Even with efficient water use they tend to depend on private water tankers. These tankers in turn draw water from bore-wells in the surrounding, drying up wells and bore-wells and lowering the water table. This is terrible inconvenience to many and therefore the water footprint of apartments need to be within non-damage limits to the rest of the community.


Water softeners and reverse osmosis systems used here also tend to consume large amounts of salt and also leave highly salty water into the environment. Apartments tend to do this rather voluminously. Steps will be needed to ensure that this is minimized.


By focusing on large developments and bringing efficiency and reuse their the city can manage to avoid water scarcities. The limits to demand have to be recognized and addressed. In this path lies urban water wisdom.



Death of a lake

March 20, 2011

A huge water-spread, a great place for an evening walk , a childhood remembered swimming in the waters, a livelihood based on the water in the lake, now all this a distant memory.

Captured in this fim , the death of a lake in Bangalore. The replacement large pipes bringing water from distant places, engineering replaces hydrology and ecology. The classic ‘fouling of the nest’.This process needs to be reversed and quickly


World Water Day March 22 2011

March 18, 2011


On World Water Day March 22


The U.N. has declared March 22nd as World Water Day to bring focus and attention to this most precious of natural resource and to urge all – policymakers, governments, NGO’s and citizens- to think about and take action on water. The theme for this year is “Water for Cities- Responding to the Urban Challenge.”

As the UN’s website points out it is the first time in human history  that more of the world’s population are in cities than otherwise and that the urban population continues to grow. Many of the population also occupy spaces of deprivation and live in slums. Access to clean water and sanitation is an impossibility for these residents of the cities and has therefore a tremendous consequence on morbidity and mortality.

How cities will choose to respond to this need will determine the very life and death for many of its citizens. Cities will have to respond with the principle that water is first and foremost a human right. Some water for all rather than all water for some would need to be a goal. The regular, timely , sufficient water of good quality will not only ensure good health of citizens but also help make them economically productive and have an enhanced quality of life with an ability to pursue better quality in their living standards. Standing and waiting for a limited supply of sometimes bad quality of water and  fighting for this access tells on all aspects of civilized living.

In cities too is the challenge of providing water for the economic engines which drive them. Industrial demand for water is a sine qua non for growth and is one of the fastest growing sectoral demand. How will this demand be met while not taking away from other needs such as social and ecological needs will represent another challenge. The clear management of possible pollution impacts of industrial use of water and that it does not end up damaging the environment and the quality of surface and groundwater is another major challenge as evinced by recent incidents of illegal dumping of toxic industrial effluents .

Our institutions will need to transform themselves to be more democratic, accountable and participatory. Transparency on projects and deals will have to be achieved as will the more integrated management of all sources of water such as groundwater, storm water, rainwater and treated waste water in addition to conventional surface water sources from rivers and lakes.

A Groundwater Regulation Bill is on the anvil in Karnataka and hopefully this will provide the right impetus to ensure equal access to all in the community to this rather unseen resource. Especially in urban areas managing groundwater will be a big challenge considering the high density of its abstraction structures such as bore-wells. Managing our rivers and lakes- the source of water for many of our cities- through river basin organisations has not even begun to be attempted but will need to happen very fast as the quality of rivers degenerate.


Old open well in Belur Karnataka

At the National level the Water Policy is being redone and hopefully it will be reworked at the State level too. Specific urban water and sanitation policies as a guiding framework for the better management of water resources is the need of the hour and these too should be on the agenda of our policy makers.

The festival of colour and water – Holi- will be celebrated shortly. The true celebration of this festival will be when there is access to all for water and in a sustainable fashion.



Permaculture workshop

March 18, 2011

Permaculture Course and Work Week

May 1 to 7, 2011 @


(15km south of Udupi, Southern Karnataka Coast)

At & PO: Admar-574119, Tq & Dist: Udupi, Karnataka

This is a very hands-on, work focused introduction to permaculture.  We will work in the early morning and latter afternoon with class mid-morning until lunch. After Lunch is free time. Evenings will be open, with the option to see a wide selection of videos about all aspects of sustainability, or slides of the many subjects covered during the week.  This is an excellent opportunity to learn about sustainabiltiy while staying on a traditional family farm.

Work Will Include

Building a Check Dam, Installation of a Greywater system, continuing work on the Jungle Garden, Banana Orchard, Silt pond Harvesting Micro-Organisms, building a solar dryer, nursery, seed balls, poly house, design landscape around new house  and more

subjects covered will include

[in addition to what is learn from the hands-on]

Permaculture Basics (ethics, principles, flows, patterns, zones), Water, Soil & Soil Building, Plants & Cropping, Resource Management, Appropriate Technologies, Invisible Structures (social, economic and political systems), Maps & Mapping, Design and Design Process, with open time to discuss subjects of interest to class. Bring data storage device or disk as 5gb+ of data will be available

Punarvasu is an emerging permaculture site and traditional family farm. People will stay in the traditional family home with the family and eat Amma’s delicious tradition vegetarian Udupi food.  Sleeping arrangements are dormitory style.

COST: rupees 6,500

Space is limited to 6

write to or

Instructor:  Mr. Richard Rico Zook

Permaculture designer, teacher, consultant, and land restoration expert, he works with private individuals, farmers, and local organizations to create cultural and environmentally appropriate life systems in northern New Mexico, India, and places in between.  Mr. Zook’s work focuses on assisting local and indigenous cultures to preserve traditional knowledge and technologies while becoming active members of our rapidly globalizing world.


What is Permaculture?


Permaculture (permanent agriculture) is a design system to create regenerative & sustainable systems. The concept is envisioned 25 years ago by Bill Mollison and Dan Holmgren, from Australia, it has now spread to over 120 countries.

Permaculture is a design approach to create sustainable, regenerative human habitation. Permaculture creates three dimensional designs that are site specific and resilient. By bringing together elements (orchard, water system, farmer, cow, etc.), techniques (organic framing, natural building, etc.) and strategies (microclimate, relative placement, etc.) a system is designed or altered based on regenerative relationships. It is these regenerative, beneficial relationships that give a system complexity, three dimensionality, and thus, resiliency.

This involves study of different flows (natural, human & invisible resources), patterns (literacy & application), sector analysis (site specific flow mapping), zonation (a tool for structuring time) and other techniques and tools to create regenerative relationships that are the key to resilient, sustainable systems.

The farmer with this deeper understanding of how their farm is functioning, and with the specific tools and approaches Permaculture teaches, will be able to develop a long term design that includes strategies of implementation.   At the beginning of the implementation process there can be an increase in necessary inputs and resources from time and money to labor, materials, and experimentation.  However, as the farmer builds on their successes, as beneficial and regenerative relationships are established between all aspects of the farm, as diversity and complexity become a foundation for the farm, the necessity for external inputs decreases and resources become internalized with less energy needed to maintain the farm.

To summarize, Permacultures offerings can be seen as multilevel.  First, it teaches the farmer how to come to a deeper understanding the flows internal and external that move through their farm. Second, it assembles a wide range of techniques and strategies (from cropping methods, to waste management, to energy alternatives) that a farmer can utilize as is appropriate to their specific site and culture. Thirdly, Permaculture gives the farmer the skills and understandings to assemble these flows, techniques and strategies into a design (including the process and schedule for implementation) that is site specific, maximizes a wider variety of yields, and creates a diversity and complexity that is the hallmark of a resilient system.  Included in this outcome is the decrease in the external inputs so that even if there is a drop in yields due to environmental or market factors the overall outcome is still well within the parameters of sustainability.




Voices from the waters 2011

March 15, 2011

Voices from the Waters- 2011

The 6th International Film Festival on Water


Bangalore Film Society in collaboration with Alliance Francaise de Bangalore, SVARAJ, Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival, Ithaca College, USA (FLEFF), Christ University, Bangalore, VISTHAR, Charter of Human Responsibilities, SAMVADA, Karnataka Chalanachitra Academy, YWCA Bangalore and Water Journeys – Campaign for Fundamental Right to Water are organizing the 6th edition of the biggest international film festival on water- Voices from the Waters 2011.

This festival has established its relevance over the last five years and we have consistently been receiving entries from over 30 countries across the world underlining the global concern for water. The festival is growing in stature year after year with more and more institutions coming forward to collaborate with us and take the festival across India and abroad through the year giving the film makers chance to exhibit their works to a broader and diverse audience to enhance water and environmental consciousness.

2011 does not present a rosy picture at the water front in India. There is pronounced water scarcity. This may as well be the case across the developing world. What is hopeful though is the increasing ‘green consciousness’ across the country to reconstruct a sustainable environment by rethinking development. ‘Voices from the Waters’ add to this consciousness on the whole as the thoughts and concerns regarding the existence and well-being of our rivers and streams are now being voiced in the mainstream. Now more than ever, there is a call for awareness, dialogue and debate to inform the actions on which the future of our life worlds depends. ‘Voices from the Waters 2011 – the 6th International Film Festival on Water’ invites you to be a part of the festival by contributing short, documentary, animation and feature films on water and related issues.

If you have a film in under any of the following categories:

Water Scarcity,

The Dams and the Displaced,

Water Harvest/conservation

Water Struggles/Conflicts,

Floods and Droughts,

Global Warming and Climate Change,

Impact of Deforestation on Water Bodies,

Water, Sanitation and Health,

River Pollution,

The Holistic Revival of Water Bodies,

Water and Life,

You can consider sending it to us. Please note that the categories are loosely conceived and your film does not have to necessarily adhere to them while focusing on the larger theme of water.


Entries to the Film Festival must include:
1. Two DVDs of the film (with English subtitles, if required)
2. A completed and signed copy of the entry form
3. Three high-resolution stills of the film (can be sent via email)
4. A high-resolution photograph of the director (can be sent via email)

Promotional materials are welcome

There is no entry fee.

All submitted films will be subject to a selection process by eminent members of the festival jury.

Applicant must pay for shipment of films to Voices from the Waters.

Submitted films will not be returned but will be part of Voices from the Waters library, one of the largest resources in the world for films on water.

Voices from the Waters is conceived as a travelling film festival. The selected films after being premiered in Bangalore at the main event will be taken across to educational institutions, non governmental organizations, small towns and villages across India for non commercial exhibition and discussions.

Last date for submissions: June 15th 2011


Bangalore Film Society

No.33/1-9, N. Thygaraju Layout, 4th Cross

Jaibharath Nagar, M.S. Nagar P.O

Bangalore 560 033





On the the need to return to a well culture

March 15, 2011

It ‘well’ plays a major role





Open wells talk to us and communicate many things. Now they tell us that summer is approaching with the lowering of the levels, and therefore to use water sparingly, says S. Vishwanath





A classic: The ‘Adalaj-Ni-Vav’ step-well in Gujarat



The open well is one of the oldest hydraulic inventions of mankind dating back to the Harappan civilisation and beyond. In Sarnath, Uttar Pradesh, there is a well which is over 2,300 years old and still has water in it. In Dholavira, Gujarat, beautiful old open wells lined with brickwork still exist.

The well has provided humankind with life-giving water but somehow lost its way with the advent of the borewell and the pumping technology.

In Bangalore, on the outskirts and in places where there used to be old tanks, open wells still exist and provide water. Open wells extract water from the annually replenished dynamic water table. This is rainwater percolating through the soil layers and reaching the aquifer.

Open wells talk to us and communicate many things about the natural resource called water. They tell us summer is approaching with the lowering of the levels of water and therefore to use water sparingly.

They tell us about years of plenty when the rainfall has been sufficient to fill it sometimes to the brim. They last for centuries and have actually been designed and crafted to be works of architecture in many places.

No signals anymore

With modernisation and the coming of technologies this signal has unfortunately been broken. The modern consumer of water which comes in taps has no knowledge of the source of the water or whether it is running out.

Be it from a surface water source such as a river or a dam on the river or even deeper groundwater sources such as borewells, there is no information for a wise ecological decision since one is unaware of the quantum of water available.

In a city where the poor are not connected to the piped network it is groundwater sometimes from open wells which provides a service for free. The well has social equity built into it.

In modern times the well can take on a dual role. While in the past it was meant to draw water only from the ground, now as a recharge well it can put back filtered clean water into the earth and the aquifer during times of rain.

This water can then be drawn in non-rainy times. Rainwater harvesting technologies provide for such a dual measure for the wells.

Protection needed

As a city one needs to ensure that wells are incentivised and protected particularly from pollution through sewage leaks.

Wells also need to be covered and protected for safety reasons and to avoid the dumping of garbage into them, a regrettable but common practice when they go dry.

The culture of the well is one of sustainability and equity. It is about limited use of a scarce resource and about replenishing what we take from nature. A well or wells can be beautifully and aesthetically incorporated into any development from a small home to a large apartment.

They can take care of all rainwater on site by recharging them into the ground and if the aquifer permits can allow for water to be drawn when required.

The best time for making one is now, since the rains are only some months away.

That would be the path to water wisdom.


Ph: 080-23641690