Bjelkeman's travel notes

Travels with the cloud in my pocket.

VJNNS gravity fed water system at Narsipatnam

Where the women collect water before they get a VJNNS gravity fed water system.

Today we went to see three villages in the hills close to Narsipatnam together with the Argyham partner VJNNS. The purpose was to see villages which have the gravity fed water systems which the engineers at VJNNS have perfected, and also see the difference between villages which have had the systems installed for a number of years and those that have not.

The visit was incredibly inspiring and nearly overwhelming in the warmth of the reception. I will be posting some videos of this later and more photographs.


Filed under: Arghyam, Development aid, Hydrology, India, WASH technology

Watershed as the foundation to stand on

Abhijeet Kavthekar from WOTR is explaining about the Darewadi watershed project.

Today we visited a small watershed management area, Darewadi, which has been implemented by WOTR and the inhabitants of the villagers in the watershed. The project was implemented between 1996 and 2001.

The improvement of the ecosystem is visible to the naked eye and the groundwater level has risen from 6 meters depth to 3 meters. Villagers have managed to go from one crop per year to two or three crops. There is no need to bring in tankers for drinking water, there is less distress migration, the ecosystem is healthier, children spend more time in school, there is much better collaboration in the village, there is less soil erosion, over one hundred thousand trees and plants have been planted which soak up carbon dioxide (more than 95% of the trees survive today). The list just goes on and on.

The villagers have gone from selling 2 million Rs worth of agricultural products per year to nearly 12 million Rs. The total budget for the watershed work was 9 million Rs. In other words, after the work has been done, you earn back the investment every year. With a return like that you should be able to make a business case for this, rather than hunting hard to find grants.

Filed under: Development aid, Hydrology, India, Water management

Watershed Organisation Trust (WOTR)

Today we travelled to Pune, in the state of Maharashtra. Pune is about three hours drive from Mumbai. In Pune we are visiting the Watershed Organisation Trust. We first met the executive director, Dr Marcella D’Souza, and the co-founder of the trust, Crispino Lobo, at the World Water Forum conference in Istanbul last year. We got an overview of WOTR’s work and then travelled to their Darewadi Training Centre and also visited an ongoing watershed project with a tribal population in the nearby hills.

Filed under: Development aid, Hydrology, India, Water management

Stormwater management

Today and tomorrow I will be going with a university course from the University of Iowa, who are visiting a number of Arghyam’s partner organisations.

Today we went to Rainbow Drive Layout in Bengaluru where we learned about how rain water harvesting can help a community who has borewells which are running dry. Also good rainwater harvesting and ground water recharge wells can be superb infrastructure to have when the monsoon is causing flooding in the neighbourhood. Managing communities of this type (Rainbow Drive is an affluent community) can be a real challenge and the gentleman who was managing the residence association showed a superb skill and parted with some very interesting advice on this subject.

Filed under: Arghyam, Hydrology, Water management

Integrated Urban Water Management

Today I attended a status meeting of the Integrated Urban Water Management (IUWM) programme which Arghyam are participating in for the town of Mulbagal in Kolar District of Karnataka. The programme has many participants, from the street level, where community participants are involved, to regional and state level. The programme has been running for about 20 months and it is considered a research and development project by Arghyam. According to Sunita Nadhamuni, the CEO of Arghyam, IUWM is practised in many towns in Europe, but most of the planning and implementation procedures are in-appropriate for Indian conditions, for many different reasons.

The most interesting thing I think the team and I learned today was the the hardest area for the programme to make good progress in was in communications. Communications between team and the community, between the team and the politicians and also, to some degree, within the team itself. We know how to measure water quality, we know how to build appropriate systems to solve problems, but to get buy-in from everyone who has a stake and agree on how things should be paid for etc. to ensure that a long term, sustainable solution is conceived is the major challenge. What one has learned from earlier efforts is that with communities where education levels are low, democratic participation and oversight weak and community engagement problematic, you easily end up with a solution which easily falls apart. Few pay services fees, nobody maintains wells, pipes or other technical systems, nobody cares about broken sewer pipes and soon you are back where you started.

In the end it is all about people and making people talk to each other. An interesting day.

Filed under: Arghyam, Hydrology, India, WASH technology, Water management

Large scale ecosystem restoration

My friend, John D. Liu, presenter in an incredibly impressive TV documentary from BBC World.

Degrading ecosystems is something which does not inspire hope. Lands nearly like moon landscapes, with nothing growing on them. They give you that feeling of despair, deep in the pit of your stomach. Until now.

For the last 15 years, my friend John Liu has been following the development on the Chinese loess plateau, where massive scale ecosystem restoration projects have been set in motion, to fantastic effect.

In this documentary John takes us to China, Ethiopia and to Rwanda, showing how degraded ecosystems are not a lost cause, but something we can actually fix. You must watch this video. Do it.

Filed under: Hydrology, India