Posts Tagged ‘wells’


On an urban community managed water system

November 11, 2013

The traditional in the modern – a community at work

At first glance you see a protective fence which is not impressive but as you approach the magnificence of the structure strikes you , a beautiful 120 feet diameter open well full of water and you wonder whether this is the Bangalore where groundwater is supposed to have sunk to 1250 feet. This residential layout on the South of the city has done a magnificent job of managing its water purely through community action. A dynamic association has taken charge and the committed team first cleaned up the ‘Rajakaluve’- the main stream linking water above and beyond , passing through the layout. Its attention was then focused on the beautiful heritage well on campus. The well was cleaned and a 100 truck loads of silt removed. The silt was place in the gardens and the open spaces rich in fertile soil.


A beautiful old well revived and recharged – full of water 

The well now becomes a supplemental source of water for non-potable use and in case of an emergency with treatment for all uses. Each house in the layout has been encouraged to go in for rainwater harvesting. In the storm drains which run around, all of them are maintained clean and percolation wells are being placed so that the road run-off is recharged into the ground. Ultimately all run-off will be sent into the aquifer with the site becoming a zero discharge area for storm-water.


Modified storm-water drain for silt trap and recharge – easy to replicate

A waste water treatment plant hums daily, treating and cleaning 200,000 litres of sewage from the entire colony. This treated waste-water too is reused in the layout. A 100 trees are planted every year and the waste water is used to feed the trees and the parks.

The community building where the residents meet , collects every drop of rainwater falling on the roof in large rain barrels and reuses them.

Begur 080Rainwater Barrels collect rooftop rain



On the day one visited the campus children had gathered at a science fair and were demonstrating various experiments that they had set up. Most of them centred around water. A group of them had already been taken for a tour  of the layout explaining what was happening with water and the necessity to keep the roads and storm water drains clean as well as to take care of the trees for the birds that are around.

A turtle was spotted in the well and was swimming about merrily, a cause for some excitement.

When communities come together it is possible to achieve the unthinkable, that is a clean environment and plenty of water with a bit of heritage thrown in. The more we expand thisn space the better for our urban areas. In this community awareness and action lies water wisdom.


The well diggers of Bangalore – a craft in renaissance

June 10, 2013

Well digging has been the forte of the ‘Mannu Vaddar’ community in Bangalore. They are the people who work with earth for many centuries. They have dug the many lakes of Bangalore and also the many wells that dotted the landscape. Then their cousins the ‘Kallu Vaddars’ would take over and line the well with stones . The craft is at least 6000 years old in India.


The stone lined wells of South Karnataka

Since the 1980 ‘s , especially during a period of 3 continuous years of bad rainfall, the construction of wells stopped and people shifted to the bore-wells. This rendered the well diggers jobless and they shifted to digging foundations for buildings as well as digging pits for toilets.

With the recent rainwater harvesting interest in the city and the coming in of the bye-law , wells are being dug again, only this time to recharge water from the rooftops and from storm water drains.


Muniyappa – is now known as ‘Bhavi’ Muniyappa or Well Muniyappa in Bangalore

People like Muniyappa have dug more than 2000 recharge wells . He is a legend in the community. Of course strong competition has cropped up and there are many more well diggers in Bangalore.

A good policy , such as the rainwater harvesting policy , introduced in Bangalore not only works for ecological benefits such as increasing the groundwater table , preventing floods , supplementing the water needs of citizens but also provides social benefits such as work to many well diggers. This is truly the ‘green economy’ kicking in and traditional crafts being revived.

Even though the well mentioned by Mr Balsubramanian is more than 30 years old he still remembers Arumugham who dug it for him, everyday he says.

The memory of the well is crucial to Bangalore. On groundwater will depend the city s future. Well diggers and the recharge wells they dig will become the water warriors of the city. Time to salute ’em.





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 ?


Approach and solutions- Water crisis in Bangalore

May 17, 2013

As a blogger and a columnist in a newspaper it is still very pleasant to get e-mails like this below. 

Water Shortage – an Open well Rainwater Harvesting solution.

These are the days of water shortage. Krishnarajasagar (KRS dam on the Cauvery) is at an all time low in water level. Water rationing is round the corner.
Bangalore is well known for its open wells. So why don’t we revive and take care of our open wells?  Places like Malleswaram, Basavanagudi, Jayanagar and VV puram have large wells in the gardens of houses.
Of course, many old houses have been demolished giving way to apartment blocks. These depend on borewells and tanker supplies for their water needs. Occasionally BWSSB water is supplied.
I have a house in Jayanagar which is 50 years old. I have a well which is 35 feet deep and about 3 feet in diameter. Many years ago – around 15 years ago I installed rooftop Rain water harvesting structures. I collect around 1 lakh litres of rainwater each year of  three rainy seasons. I filter the collected water from the roof and feed it to the well. In about two weeks of rainfall, the well is full of filtered water. The attached photos will show the well Imagebrimming with water. These photos were taken last season.
I have estimated that I consume around 40,000 litres of water  each year from the well. The remaining 60,000 litres feed the ground water acquifers.  This is a substantial amount of water both for home consumption as well as ground water recharging. During the rainy season I am happy to shut off the BWSSB supply valve. When I use well water for all our needs, I not only save on my BWSSB bills but also precious Cauvery water which is now available for other users. 
The rain water harvesting solution is simple and one can do it oneself. It is a self help aid. The cost involved is only for the PVC pipes and filter. In my case I did the plumbing work myself.
I wish other citizens of our State help themselves and become self reliant as regards water needs. 
Kindly publicise and popularise this concept so that we can overcome the present water crisis.
Thanking you,
S. Chandra Shekar.

Water lifting devices – the development of hydro-technology

March 12, 2013

In other posts I have argued that the first epoch making move for human-kind came from the discovery that a hole in the ground could yield water. Till then tied to the tyranny of rivers , lakes and springs ,humankind could but hover around surface water bodies.

The well allowed them to move into the vast landscape of the earth and the countryside was now all to occupy. Around this idea developed the science of water divining. Where to dig for water , how to read the signs on the land to determine the best places to dig, how deep to dig and how wide to dig.  Water provided the first codified , shareable knowledge.

Technology - the pulley

Then came technology . The pulley must have been the first technology to be invented. This made lifting of water easier from the wells. The pulley then became the wheel I hazard. Water was necessary before locomotion.

An improved pulley

One of the water lifting devices is still in use in certain parts of India . This is called the ‘Chadas’ or simply the lifter.

Here is how the Chadas works. Beautiful isn’t it?

Here of course is the Persian Wheel

A basic device based on the principle of the fulcrum and lever was the Joto or the Yeta


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.


A groundwater civilization – the history of the well

December 28, 2012

A constant point from me is that India has been and continues to be a groundwater civilization. As early as the Harappan civilization (Indus-Saraswati) wells were the primary means of drawing water . Wells also apparently were used as a form of purifying water with the earth as a filter.Image

Well at Lothal – possibly 2650 B.C.

It is quite amazing to see wells in the Harappan excavations , at Sarnath and at Konarak. Each with its own character based on soil and groundwater conditions.

The well at Lothal was one time close to a river and had to cope with floods. Now the river and the sea have receded and there is high salinity in the area. It therefore has to skim the surface rainwater from a maximum depth of 20 feet.


Wedge shaped bricks have been developed to give the well stability and it has been lined by pottery rings in Bengal and Orissa. The well gives us 24/7 water and also water without electricity.

The well talks to us telling us summer is coming and that one has to be careful with the water that one uses. It is both a functional device providing water as well as a communicator of the scarcity of ecological resource that is water.

The well has perhaps been humankinds first effort at accessing water through ingenuity and effort. Previous access being through natural sources. A hole in the ground yielding water must have liberated us from the tyranny of rivers and lakes.

This would have been also where agriculture which was rain-fed could now be supplemented and thus was born the first technology the pulley. The pulley later on became the wheel .

The well is a fascinating construct and more as and when one explores this beautiful thing.Image

At Lothal..another well next to a drain.

The ornamentation and the architecture followed when there was enough accumulated capital with kings to invest like the Rani-ni-Vaav at PatanPatan 106

Here for example is a well not on an individuals land but on community land . The waters are shared and farmers have come to an understanding as to who can use it and how. This is a shared community resource but with greater knowledge perhaps even more sustainable use is possible.

Community owned wells and sharing of groundwater, Rajasthan.

 Here is another example from when a well used to be dug in Bangalore. With rainwater harvesting the gentleman has revived it and is getting 24/7 water at Rs 2.50 a kilo-litre. Ecological, sustainable,economical and with full stakeholder participation and ownership of water

Recharging and reviving an open well in Bangalore through rainwater harvesting

This open well at the Alliance Francaise de Bangalore was abandoned and its memory lost. When revived and cleaned it now produces more than 90 % of the water required by the establishment.

Cleaning and reviving an old open well in Bangalore

and this bit of news sent on twitter by a friend on the oldest well in the world

The oldest well in the world -9000 years old from Syria  and one from Israel with this quote

“Israeli archaeologists have uncovered a well dating back to the Neolithic period some 8,500 years ago, Israel’s Antiquities Authority said on Thursday, adding that two skeletal remains were found inside.

The well, discovered in the Jezreel Valley in the northern Galilee region, contained a variety of artefacts, as well as the remains of a woman approximately 19 years old, and an older man, the IAA said. ”

This homage to the freedom fighters of 1857 is also emblematic of the well