Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Teaching RWH at Nammashale

We are currently teaching rainwater harvesting at Nammashale school, Bangalore. Ms Rama and Mr Ramjee approached us to develop a curriculum and teach children the basics of conserving water. The students are aged between 12-14 (classes 7th and 8th). Nammashale follows a slightly different teaching system as compared to the mainstream schools. It can broadly be summed up as “cosmic education”. In this, one avoids the regular demarcations of subjects and instead students are encouraged to try and find connections or look at the “bigger picture”. So for instance when we talk about water quality and introduce the idea of water being acidic or basic, the school ensures that in the coming days, the chemistry teacher will also elaborate further on this concept. Thereby it is easy to see how a concept learned in one area is being applied in another sphere.

We teach 2 classes a week of two hours each. To begin with we tried to familiarise the students with the water situation in their school. We asked them to map out the water facilities within their own campus and also try and estimate how much water they were actually using for different activities like gardening, washing, kitchen etc.
We then looked at the sources of water. Nammashale gets its water from a tanker supplier who in turn uses a borewell as his source of water. We explained the basics of groundwater and even made a visit to the tanker water supplier.

Students learning where their water comes from

Here is a video of Avinash from Biome explaining the fundamentals of grounwater

Our final aim is to have a working rainwater harvesting system installed on the campus and for the students to play a large role in setting this up. This week we will freeze on a plan to harvest rain and then begins the implementation :)

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

David, Nitin and Lam: recipients of the "Davis Projects for Peace"

Three students from the USA have gotten together to help implement rainwater harvesting in 5 schools of rural Karnataka, India. David Pierce, Lam Hoang and Nitin Sajankila from Trinity College (Hartford, Connecticut, USA) are recepients of the "Davis Projects for Peace" (www.davisprojectsforpeace.org) and decided to use the grant money to help construct rainwater harvesting systems in Pavagada, Karnataka.

The Davis Projects for Peace was started by Kathryn W. Davis who sponsors 100 projects for peace every year to various groups of students at over 90 colleges/universities throughout the U.S. The overall goal of these projects is to promote peace. The village in question - Pavgada, is part of a belt where extensive deposits of fluoride are found in the groundwater. People drink this water and over time develop Fluorosis, a debilitating disease which affects the teeth and skeletal system. David, Nitin and Lam argued that capturing and drinking rainwater would reduce the terrible effects of this disease.
Davis Projects awarded the students US $10,000 for the project. They also managed to raise another US$ 4,850 from their college deans and president.

A completed rainwater harvesting system, acknowledging the donors :)

Hanpump provided for using the rainwater. In this school it will be used in the kitchen

Views around Pavagada

The students had first contacted Biome Trust in early 2010. Nathan Stell who was then working with the trust helped them extensively during the application process and to firm up the grant proposal. Nathan was also the one who encouraged them to raise more funds to maximise the impact of their work.

The Biome Trust then contacted a Karnataka based NGO called BIRD K (www.birdk.org.in) to help out with the project. BIRD K has done extensive work in the fluoride affected areas and accepted our suggestion of utilising this money effectively. They identified 5 schools located in villages around Pavagada where they could build rainwater collection systems. Main part of the work was building large tanks where the rooftop rainwater could be stored. We decided to build these tanks underground and the materials used were essentially bricks and cement.

One of the chosen schools in Kilarahalli village, Pavagada Taluk

Half pipes (gutters) to capture the rainwater coming off a sloping roof

Nitin, David and Lam stayed in Pavagada for a month to learn more and make sure that the project was moving in a satisfactory manner. Living out of a single room, they braved the odds to last out the entire month and even made friends while they were there :)

The students also worked with school children and educated them about the work that was happening. Any rainwater harvesting system needs to be constantly maintained in terms of keeping it clean and dust free. Towards this end, the Trinity kids helped form student committees who would take care of the system once it was implemented.

The students can be contacted at the following e mail id's

Friday, October 1, 2010

Working with students from the University of Washington

The University of Washington has donated $ 550 towards building and repairing rainwater harvesting systems in Kuruburkunte, a village on the outskirts of Bangalore. A group of 24 students led by Prof Catherine Goethals were visiting India as part of their program titled “Half the Sky~Women and Entrepreneurship”. During their visit, Catherine contacted the Biome Trust and expressed a desire to participate in some community work. We arranged for them to visit and work in Kuruburkunte, a village where we have already worked. During 2005-2006, Biome (then the Rainwater Club) had worked with the local community to install rainwater collection tanks in peoples homes and also the local school. This has been documented by film maker Sushma Veerappa in the film titled “Bringing Home Rain”. It can be viewed at:

On 18th September, the entire group sans two students who had fallen sick (upset stomach!) headed out to the village. Mr Ramakrishnappa met us there and after the initial round of tea and snacks we got to work. Mr Ramakrishnappa has been associated with Biome for over 5 years. He is the person who anchored the effort first time around in terms of organising the villagers and actually building the tanks. In the process Mr Ramakrishnappa acquired masonry skills which he has since been putting to good use, building rainwater harvesting systems in and around Bangalore.
We divided ourselves into three groups and tackled different tasks. Catherine had indicated that they would like to spend about half a day in the village so we broadly identified the following jobs:
- Painting an existing rainwater collection tank in the village school
- Installing a 1000 litres “rain barrel” to collect rainwater from the temple roof
- General cleanup

The group kicked off work, mixing cement, carrying bricks, cleaning up and painting the tank. By the end of about 3 hours we had pretty much achieved what we wanted to accomplish. There was some work remaining in terms of fixing pipes etc which Mr Ramakrishnappa completed over the next 2-3 days. The students have recorded their day on their blog, complete with photographs.


Saturday, July 24, 2010

Screening of "Mean Sea Level"

On 16th July, 2010, the Biome Trust organised the screening of Pradip Saha's “Mean Sea Level” at Alliance Francaise, Bangalore. Pradip works with the Centre for Science and Environment, New Delhi. The screening was well attended with a near full house.

After the film, Pradip (who is the writer, director and producer) interacted with the audience and fielded questions.

The movie looks at climate change as seen through the eyes of people living in the sunderbans of West Bengal.

Mr Vishwanath of the Biome Trust interacting with the audience

The opening scene shows a villager sitting on a boat trying to locate his erstwhile village. Seemingly in the middle of the ocean, they are actually at the very spot where their village once stood. It is a poignant moment as the villagers try and guess at where the defining features of their past life (temple, church, house) once stood.

Mean Sea Level captures the great beauty of the sunderbans, as well as a sense of foreboding at having to tackle a seemingly unsurmountable problem. There are some outstanding cinematic moments like when the camera pans all along the length of an aerial tree – down to its roots, or when a lone sailboat slowly passes by.

With a striking music score Mean Sea Level made for a powerful viewing experience.

The film's opening scene

Director Pradip Saha fielding questions from the audience