Posts Tagged ‘urban’


On the sludge management and reuse potential in Bangalore

May 12, 2014

One of the many critical factors affecting productivity in Indian soils is the absence of nutrients such as Nitrogen, Potassium and Phosphates. Even Carbon is in short supply as well as micro-nutrients such as Zinc and Boron.  AA substantial part of our artificial fertilizers is imported and we run up quite a huge bill. Fertilizer prices too are shooting up leading to an imbalance in their application. It has been reported for example that Urea which is relatively cheaper is over applied on soils causing more harm than good.

Cut to urban cities. Sewage treatment plants are coming up in large numbers. The Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board –the utility responsible for sanitation and sewage, will eventually be setting up 25 sewage treatment plants treating nearly 1100 Million Litres Per day of sewage. These plants will mostly be secondary and tertiary treatment plants. Each million litre of sewage generates nearly a Tonne of sludge. Imagine 1100 Tonnes of sludge will be generated in the city of Bangalore alone. This is 120 truckloads of sludge.

There are smaller sewage treatment plants dotting the landscape in apartments and layouts too. These too generate smaller quantities of sludge. Overall this represents a management challenge of large proportions.

Research:  Currently at the GKVK-University of Agricultural Sciences – research work is going on to understand the nutrient value of this sludge. A Ph D student is pursuing her Doctorate and is experimenting on field trials using the sludge as manure. The initial test results show very good amounts of Potassium and Phosphates in the sludge.



Separately sludge is also being picked up from Ecosan toilets. These are source separating composting toilets which segregate urine and solids. The solids are covered with ash after every use and desiccated before application as a fertilizer on soils. Farmers of Kamasamudram and H.D.Kote have such toilets in their homes and are very happy with the fertilizer they get. In fact this compost is priced at Rs 10 a kg.


Sludge sells for upto Rs 10 a kg.

Similarly the landscape of rural India is dotted with pit toilets, more than 130 million of them at the last count. These too accumulate solid sludge and need to be emptied using mechanical systems. They are also found to be rich in Phosphates and Potassium.

All these various forms of sludge will be taken, tested applied on fields and crop productivity tested under expert supervision.

When research and application come together in a spirit of cooperation, it is possible to find solutions for India’s vast water, food and sanitation problems. At the base, this is a nutrient cycle at play. How we scientifically understand and manage it will show us the path to solutions. If every gram of sludge generated in our Sewage Treatment Plants become useful as manure it will partially solve India’s fertilizer needs and eliminate pollution. It will also increase productivity and richness of our soils as well as enhance the livelihood opportunities of farmers.

Recognizing and converting waste to a resource will help thousand of apartments and layouts, small and medium towns and even metropolis to manage their sewage efficiently for reuse and recycling. This would be water wisdom.


Functional , beautiful and a heritage – the need to integrate wells into our water plans.

June 6, 2013

This large beautiful well is close to Jakkur Tank in the Northern part of the city . The farmer draws 50,000 litres from the open well over a 12 hour time frame. Another 50,000 litres is drawn from a bore-well which is drilled inside the open well. This magnificent structure is about 50 years old. It is fed by the large Jakkur Lake with a 50 Hectare waterspread. The tank itself is designed to receive an eventual 10 million litres per day of treated waste water which should keep the lake full for the whole year. This well too will be full . Can we preserve and integrate the well into the water plans of the city ?


Water dreams for 2013 – Bangalore and any city.

January 5, 2013

This is the time of the year when you do a round up of what went by but perhaps more importantly what can occur in the near future. Here then is a wish list for 2013 vis-à-vis water in all its forms.

2011-09-11 21.42.56

We will all become water warriors – Let us imagine an active citizenry engaged daily in wise water use, water conservation, solid waste management such that water is not wasted or the environment polluted by any one of their actions. It is not too difficult and as Gandhiji said ‘Be the change you want to see in the world’.

A blue rainwater filter

A blue rainwater filter

The institution will achieve universal coverage – Each and every home in the city will have a water and sanitation connection, be it ‘pukka’ or ‘kutcha’ , be it legal or not , be it in a slum or in a posh neighbourhood . Difficult?  Not really if each ward of the city measures the connections achieved on a monthly basis.

The tanks in the city will ALL be revived – That every neighbourhood will have a clean expanse of water body to gaze at, to walk around, and to see the birds and that it will be a community property resource for all to enjoy.

Tanks need revitalization

Tanks need revitalization

The storm-water drains in the city will be cleaned – sewage treatment plants distributed all across the city will clean all the waste-water picked up by an efficient sewage line network. The treated waste water will be let into wetlands which abut tanks and thence will fill the water body to the brim. Only rainwater from roads will flow in the storm drains.

The rainwater in storm-water drains will be recharged into the aquifer through a series of recharge wells

Storm-water recharges an aquifer through a recharge well

Storm-water recharges an aquifer through a recharge well

Rainwater harvesting in every home – Rain barrels will dot every home and every apartment, collecting rainwater for supplementary use. Those buildings which cannot will collect rainwater in sumps or make recharge wells to allow it to go into the aquifer replenishing it.


Bore-wells– The mad drilling of individual bore-wells will stop, instead a sharing of ground-waters through community bore-wells will happen. People will instead contribute to keeping these bore-wells recharged through individual point recharge structures in storm water drains and within the plot.

Every bore-well will be recharged with clean, filtered rainwater

Recharging a defunct bore-well with rainwater

Recharging a defunct bore-well with rainwater

Septic tanks and pit toilets – those buildings not connected to the sewage lines will have well designed septic tanks and pit toilets emptied at regular intervals by the mechanical sludge removers called Honey-suckers. This removed sludge will be scientifically composted and reused as fertilizer to revitalize soils all across the city.

Schools, colleges, anganwadis and hospitals – Special attention will be paid to these institutions where the young and the vulnerable occupy. Water and sanitation will be available 24/7 thus ensuring health, hygiene and water literacy.

Parks and playgrounds – Most of the parks will become tree based instead of the water guzzling lawn based parks. Each park will harvest its own rainwater correctly by linking catchment, conveyance and recharge properly.

Here is wishing us to become a water sensitive city in this year alone.’ You may say I’m a dreamer but I’m not the only one’ as one of the Beatles has famously said.


Small towns and the water sector – time for a focus to reform

December 29, 2012

Small towns and reforms

While big cities struggle to match their water and sanitation demand the situation has been worse in small and medium towns all across India, starved as they are for human resource skills and financial requirements. A slow transformation seems however to be occurring almost under the radar at least in some towns and it would be good to learn from these examples.

The town of Udupi in coastal Karnataka is one such example. the city has a population of 120,000 with about 50,000 properties ( ) With an old and leaking water supply infrastructure sourcing water from a myriad open wells and bore-wells the system was difficult to manage. Revenue collection against expenditure was skewed with the town struggling to balance its budget particularly because the water sector was a drain on the revenue. It recently took up a systematic overhaul of its water supply and completed it. Sourcing water from a single source a river consolidated its supply. 2 Ground Level Surface Reservoirs were placed on the hills of Manipal adjoining the town. Water is pumped from the Swarna river 17 km. from the town to these reservoirs. From here they feed 12 Overhead tanks in the city by gravity. Water supply connections have now been dramatically increased and over 60% of the town households are now connected to the daily water supply which has a residual head of 6 metres thus filling up overhead tanks on single storied homes directly.

Leakage has been brought down from over 50 % to close to 25 %. Tariffs have been revised and collection has gone up. The town is recovering its Operation and Maintenance cost for water supply and thus in a better position to invest for other much needed infrastructure. Daily water supply of 135 lpcd is now a reality.

An underground sewerage system is now being placed which will collect sewage and treat it before releasing it into the environment. The challenge for the town will be to recover the O and M costs for sewerage collection and treatment and ensure that the treatment plants run effectively.

With improved water supply and sanitation property prices tend to go up thus ensuring buoyancy in property tax collection which it has in Udupi. Better services mean a higher quality of life and better revenue means that the poorer sections of the populace can be assisted with the monies now available. A recent initiative to provide health insurance to the SC/ST population through the City Municipal Council has been a pioneering one for the state and has become possible because of a balanced budget.

Ullal is another neighbouring town which too has replicated the effort of improved water supply and sewerage services. The town of Bantwal developed a hand held Simputer based water billing and collection system and thus upped its revenues. It now bills its households on site and collects monies at the house itself. This seems to be the first of its kind innovation by a small town in using a Simputer for this job.

The town of Maddur targeted 5 slums within the town and gave every household a water connection, toilets and sewerage connections. A dramatic improvement in quality of life is the result.

Towns too are learning to roll out a pro-poor water and sanitation policy. With the 22.75 % funds , by law meant to be expended on SC/ST category, towns are giving universal individual water and sanitation connections, funding toilets and even generating health insurance for the populace. This is social targeting of the vulnerable and helping them overcome infrastructure access hurdles at its best.

The interventions in small towns with a population of less than 100,000 seem to indicate that much less energy and capital is necessary for reform. Even a single committed politician or bureaucrat or engineer seems capable of bringing radical change and improvement. Of course institutional support from state level agencies like the KUIDFC and KUWS&DB is essential. The focus should be on unleashing innovations and supporting new ideas emerging from these towns.

By focusing on the 214 small and medium towns in Karnataka the budget to be presented next year can bring about dramatic transformation in the quality of life of people and draw investments away from the primary cities in the state thus ensuring a relatively more spatially spread urban development.

Water and sanitation services are key followed by roads, energy and solid waste management systems. Given a buoyant economy investments in these sectors can only spur employment and further economic growth. It is time we focused exclusively on small and medium towns and brought about a radical change in infrastructure. That would be water wisdom.


Managing the periphery – Water and sanitation design for Bangalore

November 25, 2012

The peripheral areas of cities are seeing an unprecedented growth and Bangalore is no exception. Land use is changing from agricultural to non-agriculture use and sites are being developed in ‘layouts’ all across. While infrastructure like roads and electricity can and will eventually reach the layouts the case of water and sanitation infrastructure is more difficult.

The Bangalore Metropolitan Regional Development Authority assisted by 11 Local Planning Authorities is the planning approval authority for over 8000 square km. of area around the city of Bangalore.


Since no more water is likely to be pumped from the Cauvery River with the completion of the Phase IV Stage 2 it is groundwater that most of the peripheral development must depend on. Ground water is however getting increasingly overused in the surrounding semi-arid areas of the city where the rainfall is 700 mm on an average.

How can the authority make sure that the people who move in to these developments have water and sanitation in the future?  One good way to begin is to get the layout  developer do a yield test for the bore-wells dug or available on site. If this is done in summer it is likely to give a better understanding of reliable yield for the entire layout. A quality test of the bore-well waters would also establish potability or otherwise. Water treatment plants may become necessary if the water is hard or contaminated. This should be basic information with the authority as well as what potential buyers of sites or buildings should demand from the developer.

No individual bore-well should be permitted to be drilled and only common use of groundwater under metered and tariff conditions should be encouraged in the layouts.

While rainwater harvesting is insisted upon by the entire local planning authorities a more detailed implementation and design would help both the authority and the consumer. For example it should be made conditional that all homes and flats have rainwater harvesting structures to store or recharge 60 mm of rainfall .

It should also be made conditional that all storm-water falling on non private plot area is completely recharged in to the ground. The recharge structures should be site specific and should be based on infiltration and recharge data from each site. Only in case where recharge is not possible should storage and reuse be permitted. In any case each layout should be designed as a zero run off area for rainwater.

However all conditions imposed should be easily implementable, should bring tangible benefits to the occupiers, should be easy to monitor and should have clear ownership so that it is maintained in the long run and is therefore sustainable.

At the macro-level, the BMRDA would be better off generating a detailed micro-watershed map of the area under its jurisdiction. It should then be able to push for the maintenance of these tanks and other water bodies plus their inter-connectedness through adequate policy, legislative and fiscal incentives.

The BMRDA should also map the aquifers and detailed sub-aquifer maps overlapping with the micro-watershed maps should be generated so that groundwater situation is better understood and managed with the development that will take place inevitably in the megalopolis area.

Sanitation: The Karnataka State Pollution Control Board insists on a sewage treatment plant for each development in the BMRDA zone. While this is motivated with a need to prevent water pollution and to add to reuse and recycling of water, the practical aspects of what happens to these treatment plants and who maintains them should be studied. Resident Welfare Associations and Flat owner associations find it difficult to maintain these units. As units or houses are built incrementally, it is difficult for the treatment plants to become fully functional until occupancy is at least 50 % and above.

As a matter of choice individual on-plot sanitation systems like septic tanks and baffled reactors with the right design should be permitted. These have the benefits of being maintained by individual owners and also they demand much less water than piped sewerage. A dual system of grey-water disposal and back water disposal on plot should be permitted.

While on-plot sanitation systems can be maintained with as low as 70 lpcd of water, piped sewerage will demand at least 135 litres per person per day especially for self cleansing velocity requirements.

The sustainable management of water and sanitation outside the BWSSB influence zone is a challenge. The BMRDA has to think wisely and move ahead quickly so as to avert a serious water shortfall situation.

This would be water wisdom for a city.