Tuesday 20 February 2024

Meeting the Biome Team & Visiting Mr. Vishwanath’s Home!

Group photo of the interns with Mr.Vishwanath

This past Thursday the Biome team of interns visited the lovely home of Mr.Vishwanath, the founder of Biome who has since partially retired after spending 50 years working with water for the government and then Biome. He welcomed us into his home and invited us to sit on his couch where we discussed various topics over a cup of tea. Initially we discussed simple topics like where we are staying, our thoughts on India so far and why we were interested in being here. Eventually we worked our way towards discussions about Biome and the theory behind why and how Mr.Vishwanath ended up founding Biome. He declared that it was just a happy accident after growing tired of government work. We sipped glasses of water that came directly from the Bay of Bengal or more accurately rainfall from the collection system above the house. We talked about the work Biome is currently doing to rejuvenate lakes in the area and the various successes and challenges that come with developing a new process like this. Primarily we discussed how this system uses treated wastewater to refill these lakes and the difficulties with monitoring these processes.

Mrs.Vishwanath’s collection of frog figurines


After more discussion Mr.Vishwanath offered to give us a tour of his lovely home. We were staggered by the beautiful architecture and natural light that hit the corners of every room. This was in addition to the red brick infrastructure that came directly from the dirt and clay that once filled the ground where the cellar now resided. We traveled to the roof and saw the garden along with the most beautiful composting toilet we had ever seen. Then Mr.Vishwanath excused himself to go talk on national TV and we continued to admire the house, the book lined walls, and all the potted plants. 

Picture of the kitchen

Subsequent to talking with a national audience, Mr.Vishwanath sat with us again and we discussed our goals specific to our program with the University of Washington. We have been working on a solution that we believe will help aid in the water crisis in Bengaluru and we pitched this idea to Mr.Vishwanath. He gave us a lot of valuable feedback about challenging ourselves and developing a solution that pushes the boundaries even if we “fail spectacularly”. We are currently working on developing this solution and hope to spend our final three weeks here working hard on making a difference. 

Biome Lunch

Last Friday (16/02/2024), Biome had an organization lunch at The Green Path Organic Restaurant. There, we got to put faces to the names from our organization’s team chat. Other members of Biome also got to meet each other for the first time! 

We started the event off in a conference room, where we all introduced ourselves and talked about our studies and time so far in Bengaluru. The Biome members introduced themselves to us, telling us more about their background and how long they’ve been with Biome! They had a very informative discussion about the current water situations happening across India. Unfortunately, us interns were not able to contribute much as we do not have much experience and information on the topic, but it was nice to hear more about what’s happening around us. 

After the initial discussion, we all headed to a delicious, organic buffet filled with fresh fruits, dal, and millet dishes! These have become a part of our daily meal routine during our time in India, but the food at this restaurant was spectacular. We have already discussed going back with the rest of our class! 

Before we had to leave, we introduced our idea for a social venture. Our team is looking into making a rainwater harvesting web tool and creating a more accessible connection between potential customers and Biome. We received helpful feedback on the idea and hope to hear more about where we can take this! 

Overall, we had a very fun and productive first meeting with Biome. Every member was exciting to talk to, and we learned a lot from the group in a short period of time. We hope to see them all again before our time in India is up! 

Elena, Ridgely, Quinn & Kiara

Interns at Biome Environmental Trust

Winter 2024

Wednesday 24 January 2024

Interns’ First Site Visits!

        Yesterday (23/01/2024), the new Biome interns got to go on some site visits! For those who don’t know us interns, we are four students from the University of Washington in the United States who are here in Bangalore as part of the Grand Challenges Impact Lab program. We have enjoyed being in the city so far and are looking forward to working with Biome.

Hunasamaranahalli Well

Pictured left to right: Kiara, Ridgely, Quinn, Elena

Our site visits yesterday included government higher primary schools and open wells. We got to see rainwater harvesting systems in three different stages at three different schools. At Channahalli GHPS, the rainwater system has already been constructed, and we were able to see what the system looks like after completion. This helped us connect a lot of the dots on how this infrastructure actually works. At Kuduregere GHPS, the rainwater harvesting system is still being constructed. The students in this school are actually helping with the completion of this project. It was fun to see students learning about hydrating concrete while it is curing and other construction techniques. Finally, we went to Chikkajala GHPS, where Biome is in the process of designing a rainwater system. This school presents a number of challenges because it includes a recently developed building with a small roof, and an old building that will be taken down and rebuilt. From these three schools, we got to not only meet some very fun school children, but we also got a much better understanding of how Biome and its projects work.

Interns and Staff at Channahalli GHPS

Interns and students at Kuduregere GHPS

Student helping hydrate concrete at Kuduregere GHPS

After visiting the schools, we went to a number of open wells. The first was a street that had two open wells on it. Here, we discussed the prospects of calculating the capacities of these wells if rainwater harvesting was developed on the roofs of all of the street’s structures. This amount could then be compared to the water demand from the inhabitants of that street to determine how effective the use of these wells can be. Visiting a private well, we learned about the intricacies between open well ownership and possible partnerships with the panchayat. In a nearby cemetery site, we discussed the three bore wells that are there and the possibility of replacing their use with some shallow wells instead. 

Private Well

Seeing the shallow wells and how they can be used was very interesting and useful to us as interns. In one of the wells, we could actually see ground water pouring into the well at a deep point - very exciting! When we start working on projects involving these areas, we will be able to go back to collect data and assess anything else we need for work.

Overall, it was  a very educational day with our guides Bhavani and Shivananda! We had a lot of fun exploring all of the different projects, interacting with students, and sharing a delicious lunch. We gained insight on the community we will be working with over the next few months and even got to practice our water drawing skills from an open well. We hope to keep the blog updated with our progress and future visits!

Kiara pulling up water from an open well

Elena, Ridgely, Quinn & Kiara

Interns at Biome Environmental Trust

Winter 2024

Tuesday 25 July 2023

Visit to Tamarind Valley Collective


A Day Visit to Tamarind Valley Collective

8th July 2023, Saturday

The day started at 6am. A team of 20 people from Biome embarked on their journey to Thaggatti R.F., Tamil Nadu for a day visit to the Tamarind Valley Collective. The place was 2.5hrs away from the main city of Bangalore, situated in the green hills of Tamil Nadu.

We reached the TVC at exactly 9:30AM. After a small walk through the greens (guided by our four legged friend Coco) we finally arrived at the New Lunch Hut. Here we were greeted by our host Madhav who graciously welcomed us with fresh lemon juice and a delicious breakfast of Idli and Sambhar. While having breakfast, he introduced us to Tamarind Valley Collective where we had an interactive discussion of what it is and how it functions.

The TVC Lunch Hut

TVC is a community of individuals who share a common vision of embracing a sustainable way of life. Their main objective is to develop and refine a concept of sustainable living. Within this collective, they actively engage in practices that promote sustainability, particularly in the realm of agriculture. They grow crops and cultivate them using methods that prioritize ecological balance and minimal environmental impact. At present, the initiative boasts a membership of 52 families, all of whom are dedicated to this cause. Recognizing the alarming degradation of our planet's natural resources, the TVC community strives to combat this issue by experimenting with a lifestyle that emphasizes reduced consumption and the integration of naturally supported cyclical systems.

TVC's journey towards sustainability takes place on a 100-acre farm, which is collectively owned by the participating families. However, upon their initial acquisition, the farmland was severely degraded due to exploitative farming practices. Undeterred by this setback, the community rallied together and decided to employ permaculture principles as their guiding philosophy. Over the course of the past three years, they have diligently implemented these principles to regenerate the farm's fertility in a natural and sustainable manner. By nurturing the land and working in harmony with nature's cycles, the TVC community is steadily transforming the once depleted farmland into a thriving and resilient ecosystem. TVC only owns one cow and a calf to help them in plowing and other farming activities but is still debating whether to use cattle for farming as maintenance is an issue as of now.

After the discussion, the tour of the farm started. We started off with looking at multiple farming practices followed to grow pulses, paddy, tamarind, banana, papaya, ragi, etc. TVC looks after such crops only for the initial few months and lets it grow organically for the rest of the months. TVC only owns one cow and a calf to help them in plowing and other farming activities but is still debating whether to use cattle for farming as maintenance is an issue as of now.

Paddy Farm

Other than such pulses, TVC has also started apiculture. Currently there are 3 such bee hives to observe the bees and see if this venture has a potential to be beneficial for the crops at TVC.

The Three Bee Hives (Bee Boxes)

We viewed the premises of the collective, which is where the living fence now stood. Earlier there was a bamboo fence there, which was weaker and would not last long due to termite infestation. Their shift to a living fence was necessary due to the constant threat of wild animals e.g. elephants, monkeys, boars, etc. grazing and destroying their harvest. During the farm tour itself, we were informed that monkeys had come onto the farm, and they burst firecrackers to scare them away. 

The Three Tiered Living Fence

This fence consisted of 3 layers of different types of plants, with the innermost layer being made of sitaphal and jamun plants. 

The collective also planned on diverting the nearby stream on the property to stimulate natural irrigation. 

Site Where The Water Will Be Diverted

Another interesting fact that we learned was how minimum was the waste production. The green waste like dried leaves etc are used to replenish the nutrients back into the soil. TVC tries to use minimum plastic as well. They have to use some for their nursery but they try to reuse it as much as possible. The nursery hosts plants that will be planted on fertile grounds in the TVC area and will be left to grow on their own after the initial two summers. 

The Nursery

On our way back from the tour, some of us climbed a tree house that is used to keep an eye out for wild animals entering the farmland. Soon after that it started raining, so we started walking back to the Lunch hut where we drank tamarind juice which was followed by a spread of local food. We had tamarind curry, ragi mudde, etc.

View From The Treehouse

This was followed by a refreshing hike from where we could see the whole area of Tamarind valley Collective in all its glory. We stayed at the top for some time, took some beautiful pictures and finally headed back home after thanking our generous hosts.

A Happy Ending :)

As of now, the permaculture agriculture method is not financially profitable for the collective, which is why they also host a number of workshops along with stays in their bamboo tents. The farm hosts hikes for their visitors as well. 

TVC is planning to expand its residential space by allocating 8 acres for the development of a village. Here all the 52 families can stay together and take care of the land easily. Biome will be assisting TVC in this project to help them plan the village.  

Akshita Garg and Mrinal
Interns 2023
Biome Environmental Trust

Monday 10 July 2023

A Visit to Faecal Sludge Treatment Plant in Devanahalli

Information Board at FSTP, Devanalli

On 30th June, some of us interns had the opportunity to have a look at the faecal sludge treatment plant in the Devanahalli TMC. It was quite interesting to know and understand the mechanism behind how human waste is recycled and thereby used as manure.

As we reached the plant, one of the workers introduced us to the basic functioning of the plant. He patiently explained all the details to us and answered our questions as well. It was an engaging conversation with him. Firstly, he began by showing us the main component, the Feeding Tank. This tank receives the load which is collected by a tanker. The feeding tank receives around three to four loads every day. The tank comprises two sub-tanks or chambers having a capacity of 3500 litres and 3000 litres each. Once the first sub-tank is loaded, the sludge is then fed into the next one.

The sludge is then allowed to settle for a minimum of 2 hours where the solid and liquid components separate. Once this occurs, the liquid is extracted from the sludge and sent to the biogas chamber. In this chamber, the liquid gives rise to biogas as a byproduct. Biogas produced in this plant is used by the workers for cooking. The solid remnants from the sludge then go to the stabilisation tanks where anaerobic reactions take place. There are two stabilisation tanks present in the plant. One of them is movable and is present underground. Apart from this, there were other parts of the plant such as planted gravel filters and an anaerobic baffle reactor. Lastly, the after going through all these processes, the sludge is sent to the drying bed. It is allowed to dry for 10-15 days after which is collected. The dried sludge is then mixed with household wet waste. It is mixed in batches and allowed to decompose for about 45 days. Lastly, it is sieved and the final product is sold as manure or compost.

 Diagram of the Treatment System

Our visit to the FSTP was much needed considering our exposure to Sanitation Safety Planning. This set the context for us to understand this concept better. It was quite surprising to see no foul odour in any of the chambers. There was no chance of humans coming into contact with the faecal sludge. The ambience of the place was calm and peaceful. A lot of trees and plants were present. The manure produced by the plant is also used to grow these trees. There were jamun, pomelo, and roses among others. Birds were chirping even at that hour. A birdhouse was also present in the plant. It was made out of recycled wood. The entire plant was an eco-friendly, low-waste, energy-conserving system. It was great to see this place maintained so well.

View of FSTP

View of FSTP Site

- Srija J & Arunraj,
  Interns at Biome Environmental Trust (Summer 2023)

Monday 26 June 2023

Visit to Cubbon Park

 Visit to Cubbon Park 

19-05-2023, Friday

Our day started at around 8.30 AM at Gate 1 of Cubbon Park (also known as Sri Chamarajendra Udyanavana). Neelima and Ayushi were the guides for the day. Ayushi explained to us the geology of Bengaluru in general, the bed topology of the city, the river systems and the lakes in and around Bengaluru. We were surprised to know that Bengaluru hosted more than 1,000 lakes(man-made) in earlier days and now the number has been reduced to 100 to 150.

Geology of Bengaluru:

From the discussion and satellite images shown to us, we learnt basic geology of Bengaluru which can be summarized as follows:

  • Bengaluru is surrounded by 5 valleys viz., HN valley, KC valley, Suvarnamukhi, Arkavati, and Vrushabhavathi. (BUDA Area = 1248 sq km)
  • The highest point of the city is Doddabettahalli which lies on the central ridge.
  • There are gentle slopes and valleys on either side of the ridge and the low lying area is marked by a series of water tanks. 
  • We learnt that these tanks are cascading lakes(inter-connected) which eventually join either river Arkavati(a tributary of Cauvery) on the west or river Dakshina Pinakini on the east.
  • The city has, mostly Red Loamy clay soil and Laterite soil with granite - gneisses rock bed (Combination of Igneous and Metamorphic rocks)

We also learnt about Weathering processes and how they affect the life cycle of a rock.The theory part helped us understand the physical features with more clarity.

About Cubbon Park :

    `Cubbon Park is a historic park located in the heart of Bangalore, the capital city Karnataka, India. It is one of the most iconic and cherished green spaces in the city, serving as a vital lung space amidst the bustling urban landscape.  It is situated in the central administrative area of Bangalore. Cubbon Park spans over 300 acres (121 hectares) and is bordered by important landmarks such as Vidhana Soudha (the state legislative building), High Court of Karnataka, and the Government Museum.
We explored various sections of the park and following were our observations:


        Cubbon park has approximately  7 to 8 wells which are used for watering the trees alternatively. We measured the depth of the water and it was around 2.5m. The Water level was reduced (when compared to the previous data) due to summer.
It is noted that Open wells are easy to recharge and are a sustainable source of water (require low energy compared to bore wells). We also learnt that open wells help in flood mitigation.
Cubbon Park had several wells that served as a source of water for irrigation purposes. These wells were manually dug and provided local water supply for the park's plants and greenery. The water from the wells was likely drawn using hand pumps or other manual methods.

2. Kalyani:   

        We saw a Kalyani (also known as Step well) in the park. The Purpose of the Kalyani is to store the water and recharge the shallow aquifers around it. There was a recharge well at the center of the Kalyani as a source of water in the times of drought. Also, there were four canals directed out of the kalyani as water diverting mechanism in case of flood. So, it served the dual purpose of mitigating both drought and flood problems at the same place.

3. Depicting Social Life on Wells:                                                                                                         

            We observed one of the wells had a painting depicting a scene from the folk festival of Karnataka - Bengaluru  Karaga which is celebrated in the month of  March and April. In the scene, the priest at the center, an embodiment of Draupadi (strong ideal womanhood) carries a Karaga pot (floral jasmine pyramid) and people around him pray and dance for the well being of the community. 
            It was nice to see how  culture and nature go hand in hand and people include wells as a part of their ritualistic celebrations. The water level at this well was approximately 4m.

4. Rock Mound:

        We then arrived at the Rock mound at the park which is almost 4 billion years old. This rock was granite - gneiss that forms the basement of the entire city of Bengaluru. We could see fissures and weathering signs on it and over the time it has lost a lot of its layers terming the process as Onion Peeling, due to the action of temperature, pressure and other weathering activities. We also had a brief discussion about city planning based on the geology of a place. 

6.Ponds and Recharge wells:

Cubbon Park also had ponds or small water bodies within its premises. These ponds played a crucial role in water conservation and acted as reservoirs for storing rainwater. They helped in maintaining the groundwater level in the park and provided a habitat for aquatic plants and animals.
There was also a rejuvenation project to save water at Cubbon park called the Cubbon park rejuvenation programme (CPR). As part of the programme, 6 wells were repaired and 73 recharge pits were built. The Horticulture Department carried out the initiative in collaboration with groups including Friends of Lakes, Biome Environmental Solutions, and India Cares Foundation.

6.Irrigation : 

        We observed the following methods of irrigation and water management systems being used in the park.
  • For irrigation purposes, Sprinklers are commonly used to distribute water evenly over the park. Sprinklers are often connected to a network of underground pipes and controlled by a central irrigation controller.
  • Another technique is drip irrigation  that involves delivering water directly to the base of plants through a network of tubes with emitters. This system is more water-efficient than sprinklers and is used to irrigate  flower beds, shrubs, and individual trees.
  • Rainwater harvesting is also practiced to collect and store runoff water.These systems collect rainwater from roofs, roads, and other surfaces and store it in ponds or underground tanks.

Visit to Cubbon Park Metro Station:

    We then went to Cubbon Park metro Station that has a large mural art at the entrance of the station. The mural illustrates Bengaluru's water history, including the tale of the well diggers. It was done using mud from 65 recharge wells dug in Cubbon Park.
        It was completed under  the direction of Srishti School of Art and Design, in partnership with Biome Environmental Trust. The Bangalore Sustainability Forum donated funds for this initiative.
        The core of the artwork is Water. The artwork narrates Bengaluru's connections to open wells and the strain urbanization has put on water sources. 
It tells about the story of six rivers originating from Nandi village , how well diggers used the techniques to estimate the levels of oxygen in the depth, how wells were dug, how they are being commercialized and its impact on the society.

        It also talks about how people of  different sections in the society have unequal access to water especially in urban areas.The paintings gave us thoughtful insights on the current water problems of urban belts. That ended our half day tour to the Cubbon Park - famously known as the Lungs of Bengaluru city. 

Important Links:

  1. Geology of Bengaluru

  2. Cubbon park

  3. Recharge wells at Cubbon Park

  4. Cubbon park Metro station art 

Report prepared by,

Apeksha Deshpande and Machur Kasomwoshi  

Interns at Biome Environmental Trust

Trip to Sonnapanahalli & Devanahalli

Thursday, 18th May 2023. It was our fourth day with Biome Environmental Trust and we were to visit a government school at Sonnappanahalli. The school is around 23 kilometers from the center of the city, towards the north. The school has a capacity of 350 students and has a water demand of 5000 liters per day. A rainwater harvesting setup had been executed at this school under the sponsorship of ITC Limited as part of their CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) initiative. It was an attempt to create a sustainable model of water conservation for the surrounding community to get inspired from.

Government School, Sonnapanahalli

Rainwater from the rooftop run-off runs through a series of 4” diameter pipelines and the initial run-off is let down directly into the ground. A manual valve is used for this purpose. There is a Y-joint that prevents water with roof debris from entering into the filter and is in turn deviated into a reject pipe. Once the terrace is cleared off with the initial run-off water, the rest of the rainwater is collected in a harvesting pit with layered aggregates through the other arm of the Y-joint. The filter is of 3 layers - larger stones, charcoal and smaller aggregates.

The underground sump of this setup has a capacity of 12,000 liters and the recharge well close to the Anganwadi building was 20’ deep and 4’ in diameter. The capacity of the underground sump is calculated and designed keeping in mind the average rainfall the region receives.

The school also has a well at its backyard which supplies 50,000 liters per day after its rejuvenation. However, contaminants from the soak pits of the surrounding neighborhood pollute the well.

Valve that lets initial run-off to the ground, Sonnapanahalli


Recharge well

The Anganwadi buildings were later modified to have a slight slope in the terraces and a small parapet wall was built to prevent rainwater from flowing across the external walls of the building. This measure protects the structure from prolonged exposure to water and also helps in collecting the rainwater. As a measure to regulate usage of this conserved water, taps in the school were also fitted with aerators.

          Rainwater harvesting pit filter           Aerators fitted to taps

Our next stop was at a lake in Devanahalli, further north of Bengaluru at a distance of 15 kms from Sonnapanahalli. The lake was locally known as Sihineeru Kere, which literally translates to ‘sweetwater lake’. The lake is adjacent to the Devanahalli Fort. The revival of the lake is part of the Hebbal-Nagawara Valley project. The lake is 10 ft to 15 ft deep and is solely meant for the recharge of groundwater and is not directly used for agricultural purposes since it is secondary treated water. Public activity is also restricted in the case of this lake and hence no fishing or grass cutting takes place here unlike the Kaikondrahalli Lake within the city of Bengaluru.

A well and a filter borewell next to the lake are recharged with the water from the lake. The well is 60 ft deep and was earlier dry and had weeds growing in it including a tree. The Town Municipal Corporation (TMC) was about to close down the well. With the efforts of Biome Environmental Trust, this was prevented and the well was revived. The filter borewell is 85 ft deep and taps into the shallow aquifer, which is replenished by the lakewater. During the visit, another filter borewell was being built next to the same lake, which was 100 ft deep. The lakewater if fetched directly is not usable but this changes as it passes through the soil, and gets filtered naturally. Hence, the water that fills up the well and borewell can be used for daily use (except for drinking). Water from this filter borewell then moves to a sump of 50,000 liter capacity. Water from the sump is pumped to a community overhead tank (OHT). The OHT has a capacity of 1 lakh gallons which is roughly 3,78,500 liters and supplies water to all the homes in the nearby village. These homes now receive water 24x7.

We also learnt how a filter borewell is built. On average, it takes 6 days to build one. It takes 2-3 days to drill and another 2-3 days to suck out murky water using an air compressor. The machinery used to drill a filter borewell can only drill to a depth of 200 ft unlike those used to drill a regular borewell which allows drilling till even 1800 ft - 2000 ft. While digging a filter borewell, the drilling is done until they hit stones. 

Devanahalli Lake

We met with a father-son duo, C Sendraiyappa and S Saravana Kumar, whose expertise was at installing filter borewells. They were originally from Tamil Nadu and have now been involved in this for the past 22 years drilling borewells in and around Bengaluru.

A filter borewell

After taking a stroll across the banks of the lake, we headed towards three other wells around Sonnapanahalli.

The first two wells we visited were 80 ft and 74 ft deep, there was vegetation growing in them earlier. Biome initiated the cleaning of the well and removal of silt. Potassium permanganate (KMnO4), lime, and alum were added to clean and purify the well. These two wells get water from Hunasamaranahalli Lake, via underground recharge.

The third well we visited was located in a residential layout. Similar to other wells, this one was also dry and had vegetation growing before it was rejuvenated. The area around the well was used for agriculture before the residential plots were developed. 1.5 lakh liters of water is pumped out of the well everyday, out of which the TMC takes 1 lakh liters. The rest of the 50,000 liters is consumed by the residents in the neighborhood. In total, the well’s water is pumped to two apartments, a college, and a hotel via OHTs.

The fourth and fifth wells we visited did not have a pump and water had to be fetched manually. One of these wells with a manual pulley system was considered sacred by the community. The first shower of a newborn baby in the neighborhood had to happen with the water from this well. It was strictly not allowed for anyone to stand or walk around the walls of the well as it was used for drinking and cooking purposes.

The Sacred Well

- Bhavana Gudnavar & Shree Nidhi G
Interns, Biome Environmental Trust (Summer 2023)