Sunday, 18 September 2022


 The Puttenahalli Neighbourhood Lake Improvement Trust (PNLIT) conducted a BioBlitz on the 17th of July at Puttenhalli Lake in JP Nagar's 7th Phase. PNLIT has been actively working towards the rejuvenation and maintenance of Puttenahalli Lake since 2010. In an attempt to raise awareness about lakes in Bangalore, they have conducted workshops and events including nature journaling, educational trips and guided bird walks. The lake was rain-fed up until 2015. Later, arrangements were made to divert excess treated water from South City’s STP. They have a small wasteland built to filter the water coming from one end of the lake. In 2008, the lake was a marshy dump yard. Due to the combined efforts from BBMP, PNLIT and corporate volunteers, Puttenahalli Lake has now gained recognition as an avian habitat with over 60 species of birds found in and around the lake. Over 400 trees surround the lake which provide a habitat to many species of fungi, lichens, birds, insects and small mammals. The lake teems with fishes, crabs, water snakes, etc.


The BioBlitz event was led by avid birder and biologist Dr. Kaustubh Rau. A group of students and nature enthusiasts were present for the walk. A BioBlitz is a way of creating a biological inventory to get an overall count of the plants, animals, fungi, and other organisms found in a specific region. The inventory can also aid in timeline study to plot the biodiversity.

We covered around 20 meters around the lake and started by discussing different trees, the insects associated with them and their unique properties. We started the discussion with lichens and how they are good indicators of air quality. We saw a rat snake (possibly) thanks to the alarm sets by mynas. All along the path, we found snails, wasps, butterflies and many spiders, particularly a very cool “signature” spider. We noticed fire ants' nests and learned that these ants are not native to India! Among other trees was the Pink Casia tree which attracts many species of insects with its gum; the Arjuna tree, known for its medical properties; the "Buddha Coconut" tree and its unique seed pod; the Kadam, the Badminton Ball tree, a fig tree, a Mahua tree, a gooseberry tree and the flame of the forest. We enjoyed cherries from a tree at the end of the walk.

The bird population present at the lake is quite impressive. It’s wonderful to know the amount of life a lake supports or has the potential to support. The birds we spotted were red-whiskered bulbul, barbets, oriental darter, coots, grebe, spotted billed duck, egret, brahminy kite, grey-headed swamphen, pond heron, great cormorant, little cormorant, Indian cormorant and prinia. The highlight of them all was a grebe family. The mother grebe left her nest with three little chicks following. The reluctant fourth chick eventually got a piggyback ride on dad’s back.

Certain elements of the lake were unique and could be added to other lakes. There are perches for birds to rest on and floating islands for birds to nest and seek refuge. These Artificial Floating Islands bear different bio-filter plants to curtail plant growth in the lake. There are fountains for the aeration of the water in the lake. They have also grown flowering plants on the slope for butterflies and birds to wander. Towards the central area closer to the birds, the slopes had wetland species of grasses growing. The gradual slopes promote more biodiversity to thrive as compared to steep slopes.

BioBlitz is an interesting exercise to tune one’s eyes to observe the biodiversity around us. The activity encourages experts and novices to engage with nature and share knowledge. It is a great way for people of all ages to engage in citizen science projects. Puttenahalli lake is a great example to highlight the amount of life a lake supports or has the potential to support. You can find a list of flora and fauna found at Puttenahalli lake here.

Sneham Pandey

Monday, 15 August 2022

"Power of Youth engagement"; Swissnex student Delegation


We can no longer let the people in power decide what is politically possible. We can no longer let the people in power decide what hope is. Hope is not passive. Hope is not blah, blah, blah. Hope is telling the truth. Hope is taking action. And hope always comes from the people.” – Greta Thunberg

This is what Eleonora and her group, hailing from Lausanne university, who came to Bangalore to explore water and waste management related projects found attractive in the city: Hope always comes from the people and it’s truly visible here”. They appreciated the active engagement of the community and how the work is being done at the ground level. The engagement of youth in climate dialogue and the urge to take immediate actions is reflected in activism and commitment. Breaking the physical barriers of boundaries to collaborate and engage in understanding the issue of the water crisis in Bangalore, the Lausanne student delegation through the exchange program took this as an opportunity to explore varied dimensions of SDG 06 i.e water and sanitation. When asked by the host; why did you choose India  and not any other country for your project? Eleonora responds because India as a developing country has a lot of issues that need consideration and  water-scarcity is one of them. As I write this blog on the country's 76th Independence day, eleonara’s statement exemplifies that the first step that comes towards making a progressive state is the acceptance of the problems that exists because with acceptance comes humility and the resolve to solve it. This can prompt us to engage, collaborate and coordinate and find solutions and ways to make our city water-efficient. 

Swissnex, a global network connecting Switzerland and the world in education, research and innovation received a batch of interns from Lousanne university who were interested in exploring water related projects in the city. Since Biome has been deeply involved in this domain, the organization volunteered to organize some field visits including Cubbon Park Trail. This walk provided the opportunity for Intern-to-intern interaction as Biome has already been running a program for interns hailing from different states and institutions of the country. Interns at Biome hosted the walk for swissnex student delegation.

              Standing behind the Sir Edward statue inside the Cubbon Park

Intern-to-intern interaction at Cubbon Park Trail

we started our tour at 10:00 am. The plan was to show the Swiss batch the murals depicting water stories of the city and then head towards Cubbon park to see the wells and ponds. We were joined by Elenora, Jennifer, Roxana and their professor Francesco Panese . As the saying goes things don’t always  go as planned but it’s when you make a plan out of the unplanned and make the best out of it. It started raining and we couldn’t do our Cubbon park walk. But as we were waiting for the rain to stop we got a chance for more meaningful interactions that went beyond water and included topics like gender equality, domestic violence and others. 

Professor Francesco expresses that Switzerland has its own problems. “We might see it as a developed country and standing here we may make comparisons and think that it’s a perfect country but it’s not. We have a lot to work upon when it comes to transition towards sustainable lifestyles and issues like domestic violence and gender equality". Waiting for the rain to stop with our umbrellas, the Swiss batch offered us to come with them for lunch at the swissnex office and then we can come back to visit the park. It took a little while to reach our destination since we couldn't find a taxi due to traffic. Then we decided to walk  but struggling to find the location we finally met Mr. Anthony, the driver, arranged for a swissnex student delegation who dropped us at the office. Squeezing into one car, adjusting and laughing made me feel how even first time interactions can become meaningful and joyful when we come together to express shared concerns and objectives. 

Cubbon park Metro Station

The batch of interns was fascinated by the project undertaken at the Cubbon park metro station (Namma Ooru Namma Neeru); a collaboration among different entities namely Biome, Art in transit and Srishti school of design. Farha, an intern at biome while navigating them through the interpretation of murals , starts off by giving the context of water-crisis in Bangalore. When told that these murals are made of the mud derived from the wells dug by the well diggers they were mesmerised as they tried to feel it by touching the surface of the walls.

       Observing and interpreting the murals at the Cubbon Park Metro station.               

   Jennifer, elenora, roxana and the professor Francesco at the back capturing the moment. 

                    Girls enjoying refreshing coconut water while it was raining

Invited for a small screening of the experiences of the swiss batch at swissnex office on friday i.e 12th august which were to be followed by a dinner, coincidentally marked the day of International youth day. It’s fascinating to reflect on the potential in the power of youth engagement and activism in solving some of the biggest issues of the 21st century. Reflecting on our interactions while on the way I felt empowered to see how people from different countries, states, educational backgrounds, contexts are tied together with common threads of commitment, compassion and willingness to do something meaningful. This commitment is reflected in Biome’s approach towards empowering well diggers communities and the trust in the city's potential in managing its groundwater resources in a better way. Through our Million Wells campaign we are telling stories of the well diggers communities and connecting people from all walks of life through engagements, workshops, poster design competitions and others so that each and every individual feels a sense of responsibility and commitment in the judicious use of common resources. 

  “Journey to Bangalore- Lausanne student delegation”

Jacobo starting off the presentation!

                                             Jacobo introducing the team  

               Day 1: Visiting the majestic Jakkur lake: 

Roxana sharing the experiences and learnings

     Day 2: walking along the welldiggers’ story through art

Jennifer sharing the experiences and learnings

            Professor Francesco emphasising on the need of social innovation

 The professor explained how he and other faculty were planning to organize a project that includes field visits. This time they wanted to do things differently. He believes that experiential knowledge is essential in preparing students to work at the ground level. It facilitates in examining their emotions and by engaging students in hands-on experiences and reflections they are better able to connect with the ground realities. Amalgamating academics with experiential knowledge will assist in designing tools and ways that bring in transformational change. Fortunately enough I realized what the Professor had expressed after completing my internship with Biome which made me realize that reality is very different to what we study in our classrooms. Professor also mentioned that talking about climate change and these issues sitting in our chairs in AC rooms is very easy. We have to come out of our comfort zones and expand our horizons to integrate different points of views. Being aware of the repercussions of our modern lifestyle and its negative impacts he consciously says: Switzerland might become the next Bangalore that might face similar water related problems if we do not act immediately. We can learn from cities like Bangalore that are reviving traditional methods of  wells and see its potential in replicating in different areas keeping in mind the local context.

                         The inquiry approach: explained by the Professor Francesco 

 ‘ Social innovation is the key and answer to many of the problems that we are facing today”. He ended his presentation by thanking all the attendees and entities involved including swissnex and Biome to let them experience the incredible India. He ends his talk by expressing his love for the country and its people who are very friendly.  He says: Indeed India is truly incredible. After the presentation we headed for dinner at a Vietnamese restaurant in Indiranagar. People from other organizations also accompanied us including Ishita, a representative of SELCO, Divya, representative of Jhatkaa, campaigning organization and others who have been working diligently towards one of the SDG’s in the city. These interactions and engagements were a learning for us as well as it allowed networking and alternate ways of working towards sustainable lifestyles.

Capturing their key statements:


Jennifer: It’s really good to see all these organization and people we have come across are “Driven by passion and not profit”

Jacobo: “I was very impressed by this lady (Mariyam) who has been working to recycle waste…”

Roxana: We learned a lot from these visits. These visits allowed to take hold of the ground realities 

Clement: I am a person whom you will mostly find in libraries reading books. This was a completely different experience for me. I enjoyed it…

Professor: “We as citizens have to come out of the slumber and become active agents in switzerland. Community engagement and active participation will solve our many problems…”

                        Farewell dinner with the Lausanne student delegation

Organizations like Swissnex are the facilitators and intermediary in successful implementation of projects that assist in knowledge sharing and exchange of ideas. It helps in connecting like minded entities, promoting research, supporting young enthusiasts to experience alternative ways of learning, preparing them for bigger roles in the job market and the economy. We need to support young minds and their innovative ideas to create a culture of free enterprise. 

Collaboration is the KEY (Knowledge, exchange of ideas and youth engagement)

Looking forward to more engagements. Biome’s doors are always open for everyone who keeps an intention and interest in learning about and improving the water problems and other relevant issues in the city. 

Saturday, 13 August 2022

WACH (Water, Art, Culture and History): A Cubbon Park Walk

 To be able to walk in the shadow tree canopy, right in the heart of the city is truly a blessing considering all the urbanization that has taken place, all the tall buildings that we see, and the sound of buses and cars honking, especially in a big metropolitan city like Bangalore, also known as the silicon valley of India.

As part of our internship with Biome, we interns got to organize a small walk to Cubbon Park on 11 August 2022. Although it was a weekday, we were quite excited that 8 people could join us for the walk. We had already prepared brochures and sent an e-invite. To be honest, it was a first-of-its-kind experience for us interns to organize something like this and so all of us were excited but also nervous. Few of us were busy with brochure design, and some of us were preparing what exactly we were going to say, how we will carry out the whole walk. 

This is how our brochure finally came out:

The aim that we had in our minds was that instead of just focussing on the water crisis and what is being done to address that problem, we decided that we wanted to bring in the social, art and cultural dimensions to this walk because when common people get to know all the struggles that went in addressing the water crisis, the hard work that was put in, understanding the water challenge can become more meaningful because then the personal connection can be established. 

We decided to start our walk from the Cubbon park metro station, by introducing people to the murals which are part of the Art in Transit project. People were really thrilled when they got to know that the murals were painted from the mud which was recovered from the wells dug in the park itself. 

Many of the participants got curious and went ahead to touch the murals to soak in all the emotions and messages that the murals were trying to convey. It was quite interesting to see people trying to come up with their own interpretations of the mural. The participants were quite thrilled to know how different stakeholders like the Srishti School of Art, Biome and the traditional well-digging community were involved in such a huge project.

After spending about 40-45 minutes in the metro station, we then proceeded toward the park.  Although many people had come to Cubbon park earlier, this time it was different in the sense that we were trying to come up with a meaningful conversation. We started by talking a bit about the history of the park. The cool atmosphere and chirping sound of the birds immediately caught our attention as we entered the park. 

As we proceeded with our walk, we started to engage more and more with the people. Some of them were already aware of the ongoing water issues in the city; some had already attended some water workshops and some were already familiar with the concept of recharge pits and open wells. We also talked a lot about the biodiversity aspect and tried connecting it with the water crisis and with the bigger crisis of climate change.

Answering a key question about the watering needs of the plants in the park, we informed the participants about the presence of an STP plant in the park which was used for meeting the gardening needs of the park. During our visit, we also passed by the library present inside the park. 

Towards, the end of our walk, we decided to bring in the cultural aspect of the walk by showing them Karagade Kunte - a well present inside the park, which has cultural significance attached to the famous Karaga festival of Bangalore. 

The walk was an enriching experience for all of us as we got to know a lot during the whole process; right from planning the walk to researching all that we could about the park, till the end when we got an opportunity to interact with the people.

“Will to Meaning”: living experience at Navadarshanam; an eco-spiritual settlement!


Amidst the hustle-bustle of the city we are heading towards a place which is 31 years old, a settlement of a community built on the principles of “Reciprocity” or giving back to nature. Though we might never be able to return the favors endowed by nature but in whatever little capacity we can gradually develop ecological conscience and sustain ourselves by making our lives simpler, more meaningful and enriching. On the way as we pick up colleagues, some making their first interactions, we share snacks with each other; baked matthis (guilt-free), Danish buns and cookies exuding bonhomie.

On a Sunday morning at 7:30 as we drove past the city our route was seamless as we didn’t encounter any traffic. Coming closer to our destination I saw houses painted in different shades of neon green, yellow, pink and red outshining amidst the greenery and muddy way. Seeing Senna spectabilis; an invasive species, one of the mentors expresses her concern about how this invasive plant is posing threat to wildlife and indigenous plants. Little intermittent silences allowed us to gaze at the trees, observe the transition from the urban to the rural, and reflect. 

As we reach our destination we see other cars are squeezed into a pleasant shady square. We get out of the car and start walking towards the place where all the arrangements were made. Entering the paved surface by taking off our footwear the floor felt very cold.  We were warmly welcomed with the hot ragi drink suffused with the flavor of raw ragi. This healthy, delicious, nourishing traditional beverage prepared us to explore the wilderness of the adjoined sanctuary. 

The community at Navadarshanam have put into practice various ideas of using appropriate technology, permaculture principles and traditional knowledge systems to live sustainably on the land. Navadarshanam is an eco-spiritual settlement. The place runs on solar power, harvests rainwater, and the buildings have been constructed using mud bricks (CSEBs). They grow their food and also run a self help-group of local villagers to supply chemical-free groceries and vegetables to subscribers in Bangalore. The community kitchen is satvik and vegan. 

By integrating sustainable models they showcase the potential of sustainable lifestyle in transition towards well being not only of humans but of the entire ecosystem. They conduct regular programs and retreats. Some of these programs are Silent Retreat, Song of Mystics, Sustainable farming- Permaculture, workshops on sustainable farming and others.

Continuing our exploration we went out to discover the wilderness of the forest. As we wade through the muddy area I had to take off my slippers to manage to walk and maintain balance which made me feel like an adventurous traveler. We came across wells of different depths with variations in their water level. Hand pumps were installed to fetch water, reminiscent of the time I last visited the village in the northern region of the country. Seeing the banana plantation, Lady fingers crops, chia seed and other crops it was fascinating how this settlement has built its resilience by becoming self-sustainable.

                    The shade is surrounded with greenery

           “ In the middle of the wilderness of the forest”: reflecting and admiring

Places like Navadarshanam embodies scale and mystery: the thin line between destruction, the power to take life or to transform it. A self-contained,  homogenous, uncompromisable and irreducible. When we have become accustomed to fast-paced lifestyles, lost in the quagmire of urbanized cities it could be challenging for some to absorb the silence, stillness and serenity of nature. While making our way through forest Mr. Gopi tells us about human-animal conflict as we see at various spots the elephant footprints which enter the fields and destroy the crops. 

                        “Wonders that mother nature create at her own will”

  Banana Skipper; Erionota thrax

The caterpillar feeds and molts within the rolled leaf.


  Mr Gopi, our host sharing about the rain water Harvesting system installed in the home

Experiencing the joy of eating locally grown organic food. 

As we returned from our walk in the forest food was being prepared in the kitchen. Conscientious women were preparing food sourced from their own farms (community land). We were served ragi balls, red rice, daal, sambhar and pickles. The meal was wholesome and nutritious. “I usually overeat when I come here- one of the mentors says excitedly”, I can relate to it since the food was so delicious and nutritious that you are bound to have a second round of the meal. As we were having our meals the sharp clarity of the light was softened by the heavy rainfall. The sound of voices and conversations was subdued as the rain patters on the ground.

                           “Eating silently and mindfully”; Leela with her novel 

                        “Eating silently and mindfully”; Leela with her novel 

                                           “ Guftagu: گفتگو”

                                       “ Guftagu: گفتگو”

                                “ Reflections, knowledge sharing and  exchange of ideas” 

                      “ Reflections, knowledge sharing and  exchange of ideas” 

Gist of our discussion

As we enter this aesthetically pleasing hall all of us sat to listen to Mr. Gopi who shares about the principles and objectives of Navadarshanam. Mr. Gopi used to work in the USA and left his job 13 years ago to become one of the core members of the Navadarshanam community. 

“Life in the USA was going well but I think I was longing for a more meaningful and purposeful life closer to nature and my own self”. Dr. Victor Frankl, the holocaust surviving pshcysitarist coined the term phrase ‘Will to Meaning” which defines that having a coherent purpose in life is essential to psychological well being. In the age of social media and fast-paced lives, spending hours in front of our laptops and systems, we are at risk of losing touch with nature and its impacts are reflected in the rising cases of mental health issues and anxiety problems. Mr. Gopi expresses that life here is not easy but it’s meaningful. As Frankl remarks, “If a person has found the meaning sought for, he is prepared to suffer, to offer sacrifices, even, if need be, to give his life for the sake of it. Contrariwise, if there is no meaning he is inclined to take his life, and he is prepared to do so even if all his needs, to all appearances, have been satisfied.

He tells how the younger generation in the rural area (Navadarshanam) is lured to city life while losing touch with the nature .“If Navadarshanam was Mr. Gopi’s fantasy, the city is theirs (rural people). Perhaps they will learn from their journey as Mr Gopi learnt from his that fantasy and experience never quite match up” 

Navadarshanam launched the Community support Initiative (CSA) in 2016. It’s a new offering under the SHG banner with the intent to facilitate a closer and direct partnership between the rural producers and urban consumers of food. This initiative facilitated market access to rural producers of organic and nutritious food. CSA is functioning efficiently by making the community self-sustainable by providing farmers with good income opportunities. Through initiates like CSA and others the administrators/mentors have been successful in building clusters and networks that ensures the smooth supply chain. 

              “Our discussions and questions came to an end with a beautiful song sung by Ms. Shubha after which we enjoyed light hearted and luscious organic tea. Tea is central to us. It offers welcome, gives comfort, stimulates conversation and provides a focus for social intercourse. …..and here our tour ends but the urge to reconnect with the nature and our own selves continued....

           Pietra Dura? Intricately floral pattern on the upper side of the door

                                                  “Silent Retreat”

                                            Going back in time? 

                             “Aesthetically pleasing architectural design”

                                                                             Smiling faces; Content and Happy! 

Smiling faces; Content and Happy! 

               4 munchkins also accompanied us which made our tour more exciting!

This picture was taken after we filled our bags with the local products including sambar powder and chikki which was absolutely amazing!

"Man did not weave the web of life, he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself"

Till our next visit goodbye! If you have visited Navadarshanam or any similar places do share your experience in the comment section.