Lakes Important to Urban Areas: The Bangalore Example

drought, film, groundwater, india, lakes

Bangalore in Karnataka, India was once a city of lakes. Around 1,792 lakes existed there 500 years ago built by the city’s founder. In the 1960s, about 280 lakes were left. An estimated 70 to 80 lakes remain today. Lakes were lost from development and surrounding commercial or household encroachment. This is a great loss for cities because lakes help recharge groundwater supplies, reduce the air temperatures, and provide habitat for wildlife and vegetation.

The India Water Portal recently hosted The Lost Lakes of Bangalore contest. The aim of this project was to document histories of lost lakes in the city. The winning entry was “Err- bane” Truth – Dharmambudi Tank. I really enjoyed watching this short-film. It showed, in an easy-to-understand format, the importance of lakes to urban areas.

Guest Post: Photo Essay on Water Loss due to Leaks

community, india, outreach, photos

A guest blog post originally published on the India Water Portal (IWP) by my friend and colleague Praveena Sridhar. She has given me permission to re-publish her beautiful pictures and insightful post about water leakage in India.

As I had been waking up to a leaky tap in my new house for quite some time, I thought it would be interesting to look at the different ways water gets wasted. In this post, I attempt to do a photo blog from my past photo collections on this subject from different parts of the country.

Tanker Leak
This is an image of a leaking pipe from a tanker used by Municipality to provide water in areas with water shortage in Mulbagal, Karnataka. I took this photo during a project visit to the town few weeks ago.

Leaking Stand Post
This is an image of water leaking from a community stand post, again in Mulbagal. Mulbagal is the town where the pilot project for Integrated Urban Water Management is being planned and implemented by Arghyam in partnership with various organizations. I will write more on this project in the next post.

Leaking Bore Well
This is an image of water leakage from a municipal bore well. Don’t think, from looking at the operator’s hand, that he has opened the bore. He is actually yet to open it! This is how the pipe is without opening the hose. This photo is again from Mulbagal taken during a water sample collection for water quality testing.

Although all the above images are from Mulbagal, it’s not just in Mulbagal such cases of leaks are found from tankers, stand posts or bore wells. It is a scene which one comes across quite often through the country.

Leaking Kolkata
Kolkata, the city of joy, is a wonderful place. It lets everyone with any economic background live well. The above is a photo from Kolkata where such hoses are found all through the city on the main roads. These hoses are left on for two hours in the morning and evening. The purposes of such hoses are to provide water for the people who live on the roads and slums to clean themselves and to meet their domestic needs. It is very noble thought and well appreciated, but the municipality could have given a knob to open and close these taps. Whoever wants to use the water can use it even when there are knobs. What is the need to let such open hoses go for two hours in the morning and evening go on nonstop?

Leaking Screw Tap
This is a knob of one of the water pipes used to clean the train toilets when the train reaches a particular railway station designated for cleaning. This photo is taken on one such railway station.

Leaking Steam Engine
This is a photo of a steam engine of the toy train which runs between Metupalayam and Ooty. This belongs to Nilgiris Mountain Railways which is one of the oldest railways in India. This engine is not run on coal but is modified to run Diesel. Diesel produces the steam by boiling the water instead of the coal used in the olden days. This toy train has to be refilled with water at one of the stations in-between Metupalayam and Ooty. This is a photograph of one such refill on the Hillgrove station. A ride on this toy train a pleasurable one, it takes you into the past, gives one a feel of the place during the 1940s. But do we really need to waste water for the pleasure?

It may be a very easy question for me to ask sitting in front of the computer, writing my thoughts. What really needs to be done to reduce such water leaks? How do we address these water losses? It is not an easy answer. The solution is a mix of technology, awareness generation in community, and creation of monitoring systems to check such leaks in systems by the governments.

Note: Next post will be about my visit to Mulbagal and the Integrated Urban Water Management Pilot Project conducted there.

Stay tuned to her posts on the IWP by checking this link for updates.

Kids and Songs for Safe Water and Good Hygiene in Tamil Nadu

india, music, ngo, outreach

About 6,000 children die EACH DAY from water- and sanitation-related illnesses. But did you know songs can save lives? One NGO in rural Tamil Nadu is teaching songs to children about the importance of safe water and hygiene practices to help them and their families lead lead longer and healthier lives.

Around 2.6 billion people worldwide lack access to adequate sanitation facilities. Poor water and sanitation conditions lead to illnesses such as diarrhea, parasites, and malaria. Young children have weaker immune systems unable to protect them from these sicknesses. Simple actions like washing hands with soap, using a toilet instead of defecating in the open, proper food preparation and storage, or keeping rivers, lakes and streams clean could help save 2.2 million lives each year.

Over the past two weeks, I visited Gramalaya. They work on a variety of water and sanitation projects across the state of Tamil Nadu (more to come in a later post). A highlight of the trip was hearing kids from rural villages sing songs about the importance of healthy water and sanitation practices. These songs were written by S. Damodaran, founding-director of Gramalaya, now working for organization called that focuses on funding water and sanitation programs in Latin America, Africa, and Asia.

Singing Songs about Water and Hygiene
Above Photo: A colleague at Arghyam listening to songs.

They had one song about low-cost toilets:

Toilet! Toilet;
Low cost Toilet!

The toilet my mother loves!
The toilet my sister likes!

Toilets for the primary school;
And toilets for the Anganwadi

Toilets for the poor;
and toilets for all!

Toilets for every house;
and toilets for healthy life!

And another about kitchen gardens:

Garden! Garden everywhere;
a garden for every house!
A garden from waste water;
garden to remove disease!

Avaraikai in April;
Next month we can get Pagarkai.
Very often we can get sundaikkai;
and for good taste you can get Suraikkkai

A garden out of waste water;
A garden for vegetables.

A garden to remove mosquitoes;
a garden to ensure cleanliness.

And another about safe drinking water:

Drinking water from rivers
Is to invite diseases many.

Water from ponds nearby
Invites killer diseases.

Drinking water from canal
Attracts diarrhea easily. But

Drinking water from handpumps
Leads to a healthy life.

And, lastly, one about a beautiful village:

A beautiful village
Dotted with houses
Surrounded by feces
Flies rest on it.

Flies with germs
Flies sit on food
When brother eat food
Diarrhea is the result.

When sister also affected
Mother started crying
And the beautiful village
Becomes a filthy village.

Because of the feces in the village
Diseases spread everywhere
Because of the feces, germs
Spread in the village.

Let us build a toilet
One for each house
When everyone uses it
Life is totally disease free.

Here is a video of one of the songs from

New and Improved India Water Portal

india, outreach, technology

An updated India Water Portal was just released, and my internship is at the same place as the people that designed this great website. Here is what they have to say about the remade site:

India Water Portal ( is a knowledge and social portal for exchanging knowledge, experiences and ideas on the water situation in India. Over the past few months, we have been working to transform the website into a much more user-friendly, participative and fun resource. The new website is now released and we encourage you to visit it now!

They have flickr, facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, too!

Water for the Ages in India: Two Weeks at Arghyam

drinking water, film, india, outreach, sustainability, urban areas

Two weeks ago I started my internship, and time has been traveling at unstoppable speeds. I am over my jetlag, learning to cross the road without getting pummeled, increasing my caffeine tolerance by drinking chai and coffee daily, making new friends, and experiencing life working at a dynamic water-NGO in India. The Arghyam office is in a converted bungalow in the neighborhood of Indiranagar in Bangalore. Lucky enough, I live within walking distance.

So what does a week look like for me?

After arriving to the office in the morning, I hear people chatting about water and sanitation projects in one of many languages such as Kannada, Tamil, Hindi, or English. (Everyone here speaks two, three, or four languages or more.) Much of the time, I am preparing for upcoming fieldwork to evaluate gender equity at two water and sanitation project sites in Tamil Nadu. Some of the time, I am working on another project compiling information on participatory groundwater management (a project focus of the Rural Grants Team where my internship is located). The rest of the time, I have been able to attend water and sanitation events held at Arghyam or in the local area. A couple of recent events included:

Voices from the Waters – A Film Festival

Two weekends ago, I visited the largest water film festival in the world. This 4th annual festival, organized by the Bangalore Film Society (BFS), showcased over 100 water-themed films from around the world. Mr. Georgekutty, secretary of the BFS, is the driving force behind the event. He conceived of the festival after hosting a forum in 2004 “to bring awareness about the scarcity of drinking water… and the privatization of water.”

Festival Booklet

Voices from the Waters become a traveling film festival after the weekend is complete. The films are shown in local schools in Bangalore and across the state of Karnataka. Arghyam is supporting this part of the festival which ensures that those without the means to travel are still able to benefit from water films compiled. Mr. Georgekutty hopes the festival will eventually travel to major cities across India. And, in my opinion, it would be great if it could travel to big cities and rural villages across the world.

Here is my interview with Mr. Georgekutty on YouTube.

Field Visit to Hebballi Village and Primary School

Last Thursday, I traveled with Arghyam staff to visit a progressive water conveyance and management system in the rural village of Hebballi and at their local primary school.

We attended a ceremony to celebrate a rainwater harvesting (RWH) system constructed at the Government Higher Primary School. This system was funded by Arghyam in collaboration with an NGO called Geo Rainwater Board. There are RWH collection units on three buildings at the school. Rainwater flows from the roofs, through charcoal/sand filter units, and into an 18,000 liter storage tank. Students access the water through a hand-pump in the main classroom. The school has a rain gauge and chalkboard so students can record monthly precipitation, brand new sanitation facilities, and students grow their own vegetables for mid-day meals. It was apparent that the youth are quite proud of their sustainable school system and rightly so.

Monthly Precipitation Chalkboard
Above Photo: Courtesy Amrtha at Arghyam.

We toured the water conveyance and management system in the surrounding village of Hebballi after the ceremony. All 250 homes in the village have indoor, piped water supply. A community-based committee, as common in rural areas in India, is responsible for managing the water supply system. Through the installation of water meters on each house, the committee is able to recoup Operation and Maintenance fees. Each user pays 30 rupees for up to 8,000 liters of water each month. (In US terms, that is about 62 cents for 2113.4 gallons of water).

For more information, read this case study by S. Vishwanath.

Author’s Postcript:
I am living in India for a four-month long internship with Arghyam, an organization that works on water issues across the country. Along the way, I will document my journey. Please see the Water in India page above for more information.

Water for the Ages in India: Impressions of H20 in Bangalore

general, india

Thursday was my first day in Bengaluru (aka Bangalore). Before arriving, it was impossible for me to comprehend the size of the city. Bangalore is huge with a population of around 6.5 million people. This is the largest city that I have ever visited, and there are people, buildings, and vehicles everywhere. Quickly I am learning to adapt to life (and water) here.

While walking around town, I saw water tankers with pipes going into businesses and buildings. A man from a local restaurant explained to me that the city only provides water on alternate days. On days when the city does not provide water, residents and business owners often buy their own water from private companies.

Another thing I noticed was free drinking water available at stands, in pots, and in other vessels around town. It seems a part of the culture to ensure that all people have, at least, some water to drink. I hope to take photos of these drinking-water sources for the Water for the Ages flickr site.

And, this weekend, I was able to attend a part of the Ganesh Chaturthi celebration. This celebration honors the Hindu deity of Ganesha and lasts for about ten days. Near the tenth day, idols of Lord Ganesh are dunked in water sources. Unfortunately, I missed the dunking, but I did attend some of the evening festivities.

Ganesh in Lake
Photo courtesy mattlogelin on flickr.

So, as you can tell, the importance of water abounds in many contexts in India. I am looking forward to learning (and sharing with you) more about water in India over the next four months.

My Soon-to-be Journey to India: An Arghyam Internship

community, drinking water, general, india, ngo, sanitation, water availability, water justice

Life has been bustling as I prepare for an internship in India. This year, I was accepted for an internship with Arghyam – an NGO that works on water and sanitation projects across India – in Bangalore. This internship is part of my master’s studies at Oregon State University (my major is Water Resources Policy and Management and my minor is Women Studies). It will last from September 1st until December 31st.

Arghyam Header1

My internship with Arghyam will focus mainly on gender and water issues in South India. Such issues are important to understand to ensure all people have fair access to and participation in the management of water and sanitation resources. Through my adventures, I will continue to post on Water for the Ages (both on my internship and other international water issues). Stay tuned for more information to follow. There will be photos, videos, and more.

If you are interested in an international water internship in India, Arghyam has other internship opportunities available. Be sure and check out their impressive India Water Portal for details on these positions.

Rainwater Harvesting at Wadia College

general, india

A group of engineering students have recently designed a rainwater harvesting system for their school in the water-thirsty city of Pune in Maharashtra, India. At full capacity, it will collect 87 lakh liters (around 2,298,297 US gallons) of rainwater each year. The students are collecting rainwater in tanks on several buildings, and the water is filtered before it recharges the main well on campus. Pretty neat, eh?

Update: 1,500 Farmers Commit Suicide in India

agriculture, india

Recently, I drafted a post on a mass-suicide event (because of drought, dropping water levels, related crop failure, and mounting farm debt) in the state of Chhattisgarh based on news reports in the Belfast Telegraph, the Daily Times, and Alternet. Update: this event was not a mass-suicide as defined in these news reports. Rather – and no better – 1,500 farmers committed suicide in 2007 in the state of Chhattisgarh.

Here is a portion of Mallika Chopra’s update:

“According to the National Crime Records Bureau of India, 182,936 Indian farmers have committed suicide between 1997 -2007. It estimates 46 Indian farmers kill themselves every day – that is, roughly one suicide every 30 minutes. An estimated 16,625 farmers across India killed themselves in 2007, the last year that was reported. The numbers are horrifying, and they indicate the sense of despair that the poorest people in the world are facing today.”

And here is a post by Vandana Shiva called From Seeds of Suicide to Seeds of Hope: Why Are India Farmers Committing Suicide and How Can We Stop This Tragedy?

H20 Democracy Documentary: Writing on Water

drinking water, floods, india, water availability

This morning, I decided to watch a documentary called Writing on Water produced by the Transnational Institute. And, let me tell you, I’m sure glad that I did. This story provided uplifting, proactive, and capable solutions to the current world water crisis.

The film detailed the recent meeting of the Pan-Asian Water Colloquium – attended by engineers, water managers, economists, activists, policymakers, and academics from over 18 countries – as a venue to discuss the equitable and democratic management of water worldwide.

Participants at the meeting were able to see a model of democratic water management in-action as they visited various field sites managed by the Tamil Nadu Water Supply and Drainage Board (TWAD). In 2004, TWAD passed the Maraimalai Nagar Decarlation that required consensus-based water management in many villages. It is now clear that this Declaration has been successful at encouraging the development of sustainable, equitable, and low-cost water systems in numerous villages.

For additional information, please check out the report from the Pan-Asian Water Colloquium available on the Water Justice website hosted by the Transnational Institute

Part 1The adverse effects of the privatization of water in various parts of the world becomes apparent as the delegates share their experiences.

Here are the links to other videos in the six-part documentary on You Tube.

Part 2 If the journey begins with the self; the transformation of the individual first; then can individual transformation become institutional transformation?

Part 3The myths propounded the international financial institutions on the trillion dollar requirement for meeting the Millennium Development Goals on Water are demolished.

Part 4The enabling tools of the process of transformation are discussed. “Koodam” as a concept of democratization is elaborated and how the voluntarism generated enthuses true community participation.

Part 5The main issues of the Water Debate are discussed threadbare by the delegates from various countries; reaching the conclusion that one cannot ignore working with the governments.

Part 6Inspired by the vision of a village community who have painted in the wall of a building, what they want the village to be in ten years time; the delegates each take a vow to fight for reclaiming public water and to work to spread the idea of the democratization of water management.

Water from Air: Alchemy or Reality

drinking water, general, india, international, technology, water availability, water treatment

Now, I do not state my support for this new water technology, but Air-Water Corp – a Florida-based outfit – claims to have created a machine that will effectively extract humidity from the air to produce 25 to 5,000 liters of water each day, if the conditions are right. These machines need high humidity (above 55 percent) and high temperatures (above 65 degrees) to operate. Air-Water Corp just delivered their first village-based unit to Jalimudi in Andhra Pradesh, India. The unit cost Rs. 3 lakh, that is 6,156 US dollars. It is unclear how much electricity this machine needs to operate, but it might be able to produce up to 1,000 liters of water each day.

Jalimudi Village Water Supply
Above Photo: Jalimudi Air-Water Station

Really, the concept is nothing entirely new because people have known how to take water from the air for centuries. Rainwater harvesting is used in areas with limited surface water or ground water sources. More recently, people have started to use fog nets to collect condensed water from the air. Some fog nets are able to collect up to 200 liters of water each day.

So, is it worth it to buy a machine for 6,000 US dollars that uses an unknown amount of electricity to create water from the air?

We will have to wait and ask Jalimudi village a year from now. But, one thing is for sure, the fact that Air-Water Corp is pursuing a 2 million dollar lawsuit against a sub-contractor that built these units for “repeated deliveries of faulty and sub-standard machines to Air Water’s customers” is a bit scary.

Public Drinking Water around the World

drinking water, india, international, outreach, photos, sustainability, technology, water availability

BYOB – bring your own bottle (for water), that is.

‘Fatherpur Sikri drinking water stand.’

Photo Courtesy INDIA a County of a Billion People Blog

‘A row of drinking water vending machines in Pattaya, Thailand. A liter of water sold (in a customer’s own bottle) for 1 baht.’

Above Photo: Vmenkov on Wikipeida

‘A drinking water post in the Rohtak district of India.’

Above Photo: Water Supply & Sanitation Branch, Haryana

‘This is a fountain in the Pueblo of Santa Catarina four miles away from Panajachel, Guatemala.’

Above Photo: blog

‘A Mayan woman with a child at a solar water treatment fountain in Guatemala.’

Above Photo: Aqua Sun International

‘Interesting photo of water cooler on the street behind the Niger Embassy in Cairo, Egypt.’

Above Photo: Blog

‘An Italian drinking fountain.’

Above Photo:

LA Tap Project – PSA-a-thon Series

drinking water, film, general, groundwater, india, outreach, PSA-a-thon Series, sustainability

Yes, it’s true.  I am a sucker for any great Public Service Announcement (PSA) relating to water. If produced right, sometimes these PSAs have the ability to intrigue me, bring a smile to my face, educate me, and move me to action or even to tears.

Because I love PSAs about water so much, I am going to feature them on Water for the Ages in a PSA-a-thon Series. Be sure and check out the first in the series: a PSA on rainwater harvesting made for television in India.

The second in the series, today’s PSA, is a little out-of-date but neat nonetheless. It was created for the Tap Project, an outreach effort each year from March 16 to March 22, to raise money for UNICEF’s water programs. Enjoy.

K2K – In Search of Water

art, climate change, drinking water, drought, floods, groundwater, hydrogeology, india, international, outreach, rivers, sustainability, technology, water availability

One man’s dream will soon raise the world’s awareness about the complexity of water challenges occurring in India. Beginning Saturday April 26th in Bangalore, CS Sharada Prasad will travel 19,000 km (11,807 m) on motorbike to document the meaning and encompassing challenges of water to people in India. Crossing 15 major rivers, 28 states, and 7 territories, Mr. Prasad will document his journey on a blog called “K2K – In Search of Water“. His route will be mapped with a GPS unit attached to his motorbike and uploaded to Google Maps. Geotagged blog posts will be updated everyday and photos from his journey will be available on EveryTrail and Flickr.

The trip will take over two months to complete visiting places such as the Khardung La Pass at 18,380 feet to Kanyakumari at the southernmost tip of mainland India. Mr. Prasad will meet with local citizens, organizations, and community leaders to bring light to their accomplishments and challenges regarding sustainable water supplies. This event will be a great opportunity for students, classrooms, and people around the world to follow along with his adventure and become educated about water supplies in India. Sharada Prasad is a project officer for the India Water Portal developed by Arghyam, a non-governmental organization. Arghyam “seeks to support strategic and sustainable efforts in the water sector that address basic water needs for all citizens”.

Visit the cool interactive Google Map of the Journey across India here.

Coca-Cola Encouraged to Close Plant in India

agriculture, drought, economy, groundwater, india, industrial, international

Research has just been released that suggests Coca-Cola (Coke) should close a bottling plant in water scarce Rajasthan, India. The Energy and Resources Institute of New Delhi issued the report on January 14, 2008. This report was completed in response to research last year showing high pesticide levels in Coca-cola drinks in India.

The assessment looked at 6 of the company’s 49 bottling plants in India, but highlighted conditions at the Kaladera plant in Rajasthan. The plant’s presence in this area would “continue to be one of the contributors to a worsening water situation and a source of stress to the communities around,” it said. The company should find alternative water supplies, relocate or shut down the plant, the report concluded.

The New York Times

Atul Singh, director of Coke’s India division, avows Coke will not be shutting down the plant anytime in the near future. Instead Coke declares they will review water conservation measures to be employed. Truth or good PR? I am more inclined to believe the latter given the history of this corporation in the international sector. Coke has a track record of egregious human rights and environmental violations in many countries.

The organization KillerCoke (known as such because of numerous assassinations of unionized employees in Columbia) hosts a campaign to encourage Coke to clean-up its act. The group proposes actions as simple as sending a letter to The Coca-Cola Company requesting an end to human rights and environmental abuses to cutting business contracts with the company. Several universities have already drafted resolutions calling for an end to Coke’s poor practices abroad including Rutgers School of Law, the University of Illinois, Hofstra University, and York University to name a few.