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

Ecological sanitation

First we visited the office of the organisation Utthan, who works with Arghyam. With people from Utthan we went to a small village (more like a hamlet) outside of Ahmedabad (about 3 hours drive). There we saw some examples of ecological sanitation facilities installed and I filmed a 30 minute conversation with the woman in the house, when Nelson Royale from Arghyam talked to her and a project officer from Utthan about their installation. Very interesting and insightful.

Filed under: Arghyam, Development aid, India, WASH technology, Water and gender

A community meeting in Gafh

A community meeting in the village of Gafh, 1.5 hours drive south from Ahmedabad, Gujerat, India.

We went with Arghyam and the local organisation Utthan, which is implementing drinking water, sanitation and hygiene projects in this part of Gujerat. We went to attend a meeting with about 20 or so village community members. These villagers are responsible for 2-3 villages each in the effort of improving hygiene in their villages.

The have been encouraging all households to install leach pits to take care of all household waste water (washing, dishwashing etc.) instead of letting it run out on the street. This was achieved in the end by essentially threatening to cut off water supply to households which didn’t comply with the new rules. So far the effort seem to have been a real success and everybody is really liking streets which are not like public sewers.

Filed under: Arghyam, Development aid, India, Social and economic policy, WASH technology, Water management

Urine as a resource, not waste

S. Vishwanath explains the function of a urine separating toilet to students from Iowa State University

Today we went to the Agricultural University of Bangaluru, where we were shown field experiments with human and cow urine as a replacement for commercial fertiliser. The university project is the first of its kind in India, at a higher education facility, and the country’s first two PhD students showed us their work. In short the result is that human urine is better fertiliser than commercial fertiliser and cow urine is nearly as good. The test crops produced yields which were within 5-10% of each other, but the human urine fertilised crops flowered up to 10 days earlier, with a product which was as good or better than the crops which they used commercial fertiliser on. The main benefit is that the urine is free and you also remove the urine as a waste as part of the process.

(Picture and a video to follow.)

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

Encounter with a salesman

A clip with S.Vishwanath and his encounter with water filter sales people. Deepak Menon, who together with Vijay Krishna, is interviewing him, can’t stop laughing. Humour is good

Every week when I have been in Bengaluru I have had the pleasure to meet S.Vishwanath, who works as an adviser to Arghyam. Vishwanath is one of the best educators I have ever encountered. He has made a very popular YouTube channel about Water and Sanitation, where his videos have been viewed more than a quarter of a million times.

Filed under: Arghyam, India, WASH technology

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