Water, waste water and hyacinth

It is summer time, and this time it is particularly severe summer. Like every summer, this time as well, besides talking of rising mercury, the talk of the town is scarcity of water, water levels of dams. I am seeing change this time though-I hardly hear people talk of load shedding of electricity. Does it mean that problem is solved more or less? Not sure, need to find out. I was in Bengaluru few days back. I was expecting a better weather compared to Pune. But Bengaluru was also hot, citizens of Garden City were in rude shock on how summer has played this year for them. Now is that a surprise? This was writing on a wall considering the mindless concrete jungle sprouting up all over, tree cover disappearing fast.

Bengaluru also was known as city of lakes. Many of the lakes have been land-filled and reclaimed for buildings. The ones which are still around, are breathing their last. It is absolutely sad for to see the state of those lakes as I traveled around the city passing some of them. India Water Portal has detailed report on it. Back in Pune, we are not so lucky to have lakes all over the city, but we are lucky to have 3 rivers flowing through the metropolitan city of Pune which includes PMC and PMC-Mula, Mutha and Pavana. Can anyone call them rivers now? Can anyone call those lakes as lakes now? They are dead. Same thing happened to Pashan lake in Pune(which was mecca for bird lovers in Pune), and river Indrayani near Talegaon, 40 km from Pune. The rampant construction activity disturbing the ecosystem surrounding them, plus dumping untreated waste into them, turned them into hell now, and this has happened in last 8-10 years. Anyone can see a green cover called hyacinth(जलपर्णी) which keeps growing on the river and lake surface. Every time that happens, we see citizens making noise, we see photographs in the newspapers, and after some time local authorities making tall claims on how they managed to remove them. Has anyone been thinking of what root cause of getting unwanted this weed? We also keep hearing about Ganga river cleaning project and big funds Japanese government extending towards that. But why they got polluted in the first place?


Hyacinth cover over river in Pune. Image courtesy Indian Express

The problem is waste water management. Have you noticed waste water being dumped into these rivers and lakes, by no other than gutters and drainage pipelines of our own local authorities. Anyone who travels by road near Dapodi, via Harris bridge can see the big waster water pipe flushing itself rapid rate into river. Similar is the situation for lakes in Bengaluru. The unchecked dumping of industrial waste, human waste/sewage water, into these water sources is killing these rivers and lakes, there by disturbing, killing the natural ecosystem of flora and fauna. Besides making these water bodies dead, they also are filled with unwanted silt. I have talked of desilting here. The solution is effective waster water management by having water treatment plants, waste water treatment plants. In fact, many housing societies and IT parks have started having their own water water treatment plants for recycling water.

Many of us have visited and also lived foreign countries, especially, developed ones. One of the most noticeable different besides development, the attention and care for nature. Due to strict laws and its enforcement, water pollution is controlled, and particular attention is paid to ensure water bodies such as lakes, rivers, streams are maintained and preserved. In fact, they are developed as areas for recreation. Can we imagine going to a river side for recreation these days? I used to work water utilities company in Pune called MWH(now part of Stantec) for some time consulting them on big data analytics for water utilities. During my stint there, I learnt about interesting projects in water utilities and waste water treatment and management. I was surprised to see to what extent these countries are looking to take water utilities and water water management problem by applying cutting edge technology.

I recently read that Pune is hosting, first time, an international conference on sustainable water & waste water treatment systems(ISWATS). In fact it is starting today(April 23). The conference is going address various topics including:

  • Integrated urban water management

  • Natural & compact technological solutions

  • Upscaling water & waste water treatment solutions

  • Solar driven disinfection techniques

  • Community participation in water and waste water treatment

  • Promoting involvement & capacity building of SMEs for replication

  • Technological propagation in government & public sectors

The news report said, in India, only 30% water water is treated. Out 816 sewage treatment plants in the country, 522 are in working condition. We, of course, need to build more of these for sure. But the law enforcement for industries towards releasing waster and untreated water also should be stricter and sans corruption. The other things impacting these water sources is obstructing the flow and course of rivers or lakes, by dumping construction waste. This is also on rampant and needs to be checked.

I just hope that conferences such as this, and also smart cities initiatives take care of this basic issue to solve water related problems. I have written about other ecology related issues on this blog, which you may be interested in.


Jaldindi(जलदिंडी)-Unique movement for water literacy

I have talked about water, rivers, conservation, efforts of different organizations and people in this area, in the past on this blog. Recently, Pune witnessed Muthai Utsav also to spread awareness of river and its ecosystem. Today, I am going to talk about Jaldindi(जलदिंडी), which is unique movement initiated by Dr Vishwas Yevale.

Dindi(दिंडी) is a Marathi word meaning procession. The 700 year old warkari tradition in Maharashtra and Karnataka, where devotees throng to reach holy place of Pandharpur in the months of June/July every year. This pilgrimage happens in the forms of different dindis participating in this grand event. Two of the main dindis are from places like Alandi and Dehu. Likewise, Jaldindi aims do similar thing, but with difference which is, by river. The brainchild of Dr Vishwas Yevale, this dindi(rather jaldindi) is taking place every year right after Dasara festival for last 14-15 years now. The purpose behind this is study river ecosystem, record observations and help the organizations with the data to act upon it. The whole gang rides kayaks, rowing boats, sail boats, and sail all day long rivers on the way such as Pavana, Indrayani, Mula, Mutha, Bhima etc, and take rest for the nights, in the villages on the way. The distance of over 400 km by river, takes about 10-12 days to cross. This, now, has become people’s movement, and is perfect example of using tradition, cultural aspects to educate and spread awareness in society on water resources and its conservation.

Few years back, in 2001, I had visited Lakshdweep islands with organization called Pugmarks. Dr Vishwas Yevale was with us during that time. I distinctly remember our interaction with him. He introduced himself as doctor and later as boat/yatch expert, who along with his son had a hobby of sailing. I also remember he explaining the group about technical things such as rudder etc of yatch, or a sail boat, when we noticed a yatch on the sea shore on one of the islands in Lakshdweep. I also had experienced kayaking in the lagoons of Lakshdweep islands. Till that time I had never met anyone with experience with boats, except during my stay in the USA, I had had some opportunities with boats(specifically motor boats), and have seen and heard many of my friends and acquaintances there owning them or seriously into sailing etc. Many homes on the sea side towns, have parking for boat in front of their homes. Back in Pune, we, of course, have been hearing about boat club and special event on row boats called Regatta by College of Engineering Pune.

So when I learnt about he and his colleagues starting this experiment of Jaldindi, I was not surprised. This not only has helped to study the water and river ecosystem, generate water/river literacy among the people, but also has helped to promote rowing, sailing as a sport. Now it is up to the government authorities to enforce the laws and ensure that our rivers are not polluted by industries, “river-view” apartments, ensure that treated waste water is released into them. This will only save them from getting polluted.

Jaldindi now is running under their NGO called Jaldindi Pratishthan, you can check out more about it here. Feel free to write back on this to me.

Dam Desilting-novel way to save rain water

On this blog, I had written about World Water Day sometime back. Few years back, I had also introduced to my friend’s(Dinesh Gapchoop) son’s efforts towards spreading awareness on water conservation by making films and also demonstrating some innovative ideas.. Dinesh recently had informed me about a NGO run by ex-serviceman which is working on dam desilting in Pune. And I just read more about it in yesterday’s Indian Express. Silting is a process in which soil accumulates on the bed of dam reservoir thereby decreasing its capacity to hold water. The details given in the news item are mind boggling. Thought I should share those with you and highlight the significance of the work.

Since 3 years, two NGOs are working to remove silt from Khadakwasla dam’s reservoir in Pune. They have removed more than 70,000 truckloads of silt and have re-purposed for farms and tree plantation. Silting is a major problem for dams in the country. Desilting helps to regain the capacity of dams to withhold water. Two NGOs involved are Green Thumb-ran by ex-servicemen entirely. The other being Parivartan. Such efforts are not possible without support from society. Praj Foundation, Cummins India Foundation, and even local corporation has extended support.

Dam desilting removes soil from the dam, thereby increasing its capacity to withhold and store water. Dams are built to store water, and what good they are if they cannot be used to its fullest capacity. There are more than 40,000 dams in the country and most of them need such activity to be undertaken to increase dam’s effectiveness many fold.

Isn’t this a great initiative and effort?

Water-Past, Present and Future

World water day was celebrated last Sunday(Mar 22). It is observed to underline the importance of water to human life and ensuring society in general acts to ensure to preserve, conserve and use it judiciously. I had briefly consulted for a water utilities engineering company couple of years back wherein we were developing few software applications for water utilities industry. I had interesting time there, learnt more about water as an industry. I thought of sharing few thoughts on this significant occasion of World Water Day, which generally passes as a day wherein we see full page ads of water purifiers and that is it. I know subject is vast, as on each of these topics, there are multiple books and research material available.

The very fact that life form came into existence on this planet is availability of water. Since very early days, humans have starting managing water resources. In fact, all the great civilizations in the past have flourished by the river sides. There are references to water and oceans in every major mythological accounts, for example-churning of ocean in Hindu mythology, end of world due to water and mankind escaped by Noah in Bible. Water has been systematically managed since vedic ages. There are traces of dams and other material evidences of how water was managed. Even in recent history, kings and rulers have made attempts to store water, supply water through canals or through passages built out of stones etc. Mankind also has learnt to live with seas as well. It is well-known historical fact that one who ruled the seas has ruled the world.

As the world population grows, demand for water has been going up. The cities are under pressure to supply clean, potable water to every one. The major social movements have been because of water, dams and the way it affects the society. The biggest problem these days is water pollution due to unchecked industrialization. Every country is taking steps to control the pollution by industries and sewage. Water utilities(both private and public) are taking major part in cleaning water before usage. They also helping waste water management, watershed management. Some countries have thought of inter-connecting rivers to ensure the supply is even.

The side effects of global warming on polar regions is also been understood and world leaders are making efforts to reduce it. The society is in general aware of water conservation and preservation. Many parts of world has seen bad impacts of water pollution, toll taken because of that. In India itself, we have seen Mumbai hit by floods due to unchecked invasion of Mithi river. I, myself have written on this blog on water conversation movement at grass-root level and how it is impacting.

The future of water is very critical for mankind’s existence. Scientists have been working hard to make potable water out of sea water in cheap way. Water companies will rely more and more on technologies such IoT, and big data analysis to ensure that clean water is supplied all the time, with minimum cost of operations and maximum benefits to users. Technologies such as GIS are being used to map water resources effectively and take actions. Man has reached moon and mars. Before humans can start living there, we need to ensure that water is available there.

Water has been integral part of man’s life and the very existence since beginning. Water manifests itself in everything man has been doing and will be doing include arts, literature, food, transport, industrialization. Water will continue to be important and mankind will take every step to ensure that it is used judiciously. If you remember, there used to be a political slogan Roti, Kapada aur Makan. I guess, it should be now, Roti, Kapada, Makan aur Swach Paani!

Save water

Last month got a message from my Architect friend, Dinesh Gapchoop, about his son’s, Viraj’s, participation in Vasundhara International Film Festival(VIFF), where his short film was selected for screening.

I have been knowing Dinesh, as campaigner of sustainable living & life style, since last 5-6 years. I also kept on hearing about his and his son’s extracurricular activities in dramas, photography, etc. When I heard that his film was selected for screening, I was not too surprised.

I always wanted to attend VIFF since it started, 4 years ago, a novel initiative on educating general public about environmental and allied issues. This time I had additional motivation to attend and I did. I plan to write about general experience about VIFF at some other point…but this one is for Viraj’s film. It is about simple tips and techniques about saving water by tweaking your life style.

For anyone interested, take a quick peek here and here..it is 7-8 min film.


Soil Conservation

Couple of days ago, during my morning walk around my residential complex, I met my ex-colleague at Saba, Abhijit. I have been knowing him as trekker and adventure enthusiast, besides a good technical architect at Saba. He updated me that he and his some of friends are working on soil conservation program on an emptly defense land adjecent to the residenstial complex area.

This very noble work, and the very need of the hour in the society where we face day-in day- out, water scarcity, deforestation and other related issues. I have seen this myself on my trails in Sahyadris in the summer. I know of lot of NGOs and people like Rajendra Singh are doing lot of work in this area.

I intend to join him over one of the weekends to understand it further and extend helping hand. Let me know if you also want to join hands here.

Save Trees, Save Ourselves!