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Old methods to usher in a new dawn

FARM POND

Too many people, too few resources. Too many of us, not enough food, water and the basic necessities of life. Every day, a new species is dying out, a forest is being razed to the ground, a river is being polluted, just so us humans can march on.

For some reason, humans seem to want to wage a war against Nature and bend it into submission, instead of living along with it, like the rest of the animal and plant kingdom does. But where has that got us today? With rapidly dwindling resources and a worsening world. Up the creek with no paddle – that’s a colourful way of saying we are in such a pathetic situation with no solution in sight. Or, is there?

Many enterprising folk are coming up with creative ways to use sustainable, reusable and Earth-friendly ways to combat out space, energy and water shortage. The rest of us must take their examples if we are to move forward without killing the world.

Farm ponds as a long term solution

The devastating effects of the drought is still being felt across the country. Instead of wringing their hands and waiting for someone to drop in with a solution, a bunch of farmers decided to be proactive. The district of Dewas, in Madhya Pradesh, decided not to just bet on the erratic monsoon but hedge it by coming up with alternate, long term solutions. And, for the past decade, they have been successful!

It was in 2006, the then District Collector Umakant Umrao along with agriculture department officials and those from NGOs working in the sector convinced almost 40 big land holding farmers to dig a farm pond. Reason: in case of a remote possibility of failure, these farmers should be able to withstand loss of crop for that piece of land turned into pond.

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Dewas has black cotton soil which runs up to 10 feet deep; followed by a 15-20 feet layer of yellow soil (pili ghumat in Hindi) and then sandy loam. This allows almost nil percolation of water, best to harvest and retain rain water. The very first year, farmers witnessed how from single rain fed crop, they could go in for second, winter crop using the water that was harvested in these ponds. Soon, more and more farmers were inspired to replicate success of farm ponds as witnessed by large land holding farmers.

Farm ponds are not a new-fangled concept. They are a traditional and ubiquitous feature in every village since time immemorial. But the advent of deep bore wells have put paid to this vital water feature and changed it for the worse.

As more and more farmers across the country are finding out, farm ponds can save the Indian farmer. Just like the farmers of Dewas, these Karnataka farmers from Dharwad too have found that embracing our age old practices is definitely the way forward.

Farmers in around 20 villages have constructed about 800 ponds, which provide them an ability to store water during an occasional rain, and use the same to feed water to crops during the dry spells. And the success is contagious. Seeing their neighbours thrive, more farmers are going for farm ponds and it is becoming a movement of sorts at the grassroots. They have also started cultivating water-intensive but more profitable commercial crops like papaya, beyond the traditional cotton, onion, jower, etc.

As these farmers clearly demonstrate, success is contagious. All it needs for a method to become widespread is for it to be visibly successful in one place, in a sustainable fashion. We need to remember our collective farming knowledge and spread it. This includes age-old, tried and tested methods like crop rotation, use of farm bunds, as well as planting crops based on factors other than market diktats.

With a large population and an economy that relies heavily on the agriculture industry, we’d be foolish to not take care of it with greater diligence and attention!

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Smart Plans for Clean Water

Smart Plans for Clean Water

The government made an announcement last week, listing the 20 smart cities that are going to be built as a part of the PM’s vision for the country and Chennai, the capital of the southern state of Tamil Nadu, made the list. Along with Coimbatore, these two cities will get Rs 500 crores each from the Centre for their upgrade from regular cities to smart ones.

So, what is on the agenda?

Water. Yes, this life-giving liquid ranks among the top priorities of this smart-city-in-waiting. Safer water, cleaner ways of getting it and making it all more sustainable is where the city wants to go next. The first initiative that has been announced is that of a desalination plant to be built in T.Nagar, to take care of that prime area’s water needs.

Right now, T.Nagar’s homes and businesses get their water from the plans in Nemmeli and Minjur. With the installation of the Rs 173 crore desalination plant in and for T.Nagar, a great deal of pressure would be let off the two plants, freeing them to provide water to other, needy areas. By introducing smart meters, a tight reign can be kept on the water usage and eliminate needless wastage.

As per the govt’s announcement, this is the pilot project and upon its success, the model will be replicated throughout the state. Here’s hoping it is!

Other projects that will be highlighted include rain-water harvesting and flooding measures as well as completion of the laying of storm water drains in all parts of the city.

In both Chennai and Coimbatore, the other smart city designate, water, sanitation and waste management, with sustainability as the key ingredient, are the prime areas of focus.

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After Swacch Bharat, it is now time for Tandarust Bharat. Say hello to Jaldaan. Say what?

Jaldaan is a new initiative launched by the government to encourage the citizens to donate water to those in need. Literally, daan = donation, jal = water. According to the small print, each person taking the pledge must donate 5 litres of water to someone that has no access to clean drinking water. To make this more attractive to the denizens, there’s Madhuri Dixit, exhorting the masses to join in and donate water, just like her.

You know, in case altruism isn’t enough reason for you to start doing something nice.

 

 

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2015: The Year in Posts

venaqua

Our VenAqua blog is a fledgling. It came into existence just a few months back, out of a need to tell and share water stories, about conservation, sustainability and so on as it was related to our product, the VenAqua water meter. Our product is there to help you show you how much water you consume and thereby, help you save it.

And so, it made sense to talk about water. Quite a bit. Let’s see what all we spoke about this year, shall we?

The first ever post written on the blog is about saving Perumbakkam Lake in Chennai. This was a crowd-funding event and apart from contributing to the cause ourselves, we highlighted it and hoped it brought in new donors. “By tapping into the generosity of the people, both local and elsewhere, EFI aims to save the Perumbakkam Lakeand is looking to raise Rs. 5,00,000 for it. Let us all dig deep and contribute to this vital clean-up operation. Let us welcome back the lost birds and other fauna before they are lost to us forever.”

Another first, a curated post, was published on occasion of Earth Day. We shared some vital facts on this day, especially those that had an impact on the state of the world’s water and the state of conservation. I hope by the next Earth Day, we can see some positive change in the world around us, at least a few steps forward in the right direction.

Summertime stories for most of us that grew up in the erstwhile Madras is full of water – the utter lack of it, the fight to get more of it. Maybe we stood in a queue to get some, or had some hairy story wherein we nicked a few precious cans from a nearby stash! What’s your water story?

Summer also brought with it this delightful story of a bunch of children doing their bit to alleviate the thirst of the passers by, by setting up a free juice stall in their neighbourhood. As their squeaky voices rang out “juice! juice!”, none that walked past left without a big smile – and a cup of cold drink! And a reminder not to chuck the empty cup on the streets!

Environmental causes were one of the biggest topics for us, obviously. We asked if our thoughtless actions towards our planet has cost us too much, or do we have time yet. A drive around the neighbourhood with its towering cranes brought it home to us how much water would be needed to quench the thirst of these new families but where was the water?

One of India’s favourite festivals, Ganesh Chathurthi, or ‘Ganpati‘, rolled around, showing us exactly what our love for pomp and splendour was doing to our waters, our oceans, and the other lives that call it home. I wonder if the good Lord himself, a lover of simplicity, is happy at the amount of wastage and kill that is being carried out in his name?

Mars was in the news a lot this year. The Indians managed to launch the “Mangalyaan”, the Mars Orbiter Mission, for a fraction of the cost of all the other space launches. Then of course came the movie, The Martian and the news that water was found on the Red Planet – many moons ago. And then turned out Pluto might have the life giving stuff too! If we exhaust the earth’s supplies, maybe that’s where we should get our next lot of water tankers filled!

We threw a lot of facts at you: of water and wastage and then, later, about El Nino. The latter proved positively prophetic as Chennai almost drowned soon after the publication of that article, after a month and a bit of unprecedented rains, while other parts of the country suffered due to a decided lack of water.

One of the last posts of the year was also the most difficult one to write, as it was about the Chennai floods. The non-stop rains were just one of the reasons for the near calamity that followed. We listed a few reasons for this, what we consider might be the major contributors to the floods. Did you agree?

2016 is going to be an awesome beginning for all of us. We plan to delve deeper into sustainability, talk to some people doing interesting things in the field and learn more each day. Do stick around and bring your friends too!

We wish you a very happy new year 2016! Do let us know what content you would like to see in the new year.

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2015: A Look Back At Water Conservation

waterstories

Another year draws to a close. A year that began full of promise, as it does every year. A year that has brought a series of highs and lows. If water and the lack of it were the talking points in the beginning of the year, too much water and the resultant flooding in Chennai, while droughts ravaged Uttarakhand is how we are closing down this year. As if we needed more proof that water is the central need of every life!

Here’s a list of just some of the interesting articles published this year on water conservation. Here’s looking forward to a better and more sustainable year in 2016!

  • Leave it to the Americans to never give up, instead to hit winners even when the odds are so heavily stacked against! While everyone is talking about the drought in California, how it is just getting worse, the natives are just getting stuck in, setting records for water conservation! “The water board has assigned each community a mandatory conservation target between 4 and 36 percent, depending on how much water residents used last summer, that will be tracked between June and February. Cities that don’t meet these targets face fines or state-imposed restrictions on water use.”
  • About time too! Considering the majority of the state is a desert, you would think the government of Rajasthan would think long and hard about establishing a robust water conservation programme, but hey, better late than never, right? “”Taking the Maharashtra experience as the backgrounder, the state government has prepared a preliminary report on the guidelines to be adopted for execution of the plan,” Panchayat Raj and Rural Development Minister Surendra Kumar Goyal said while addressing a workshop in Jaipur.”
  • I first saw this at a Facebook-friend’s urban garden – when she had gone on holiday for a week, she ensured her beloved plants didn’t lack water by setting up a basic drip irrigation system. And here is ‘wick irrigation‘, a marvellous way to make a little bit of water go a long way. “‘Wick Irrigation’ (termed Thiri Nana in Malayalam) reduces the water consumption for agriculture to a great extent. It is specifically designed for terrace cultivation, of mostly vegetables, in grow bags.”
  • One of the most astounding news stories in this genre from earlier this year was the “Global Water Walk for Peace” held by Rajendra Singh, a.k.a “Waterman of India”, in order to raise the awareness of of the need for conservation of water. “The march, a part of the ongoing CMS Vatavaran Film Festival began in the morning from the Rajiv Chowk Metro Station culminating at the NDMC Convention centre, where the festival is being held.”
  • Even as Tamil Nadu was in the midst of the wettest November since records began,  a pilot project for conserving groundwater was being rolled out in the two districts in Karaikal. Upon the successful completion of the pilot, the project will be extended into the “problem areas of nearby Puducherry”. “Mr. Subburaj said that as of now, there was not serious exploitation of groundwater in Karaikal.
    However, there was a strong case for setting up rainwater harvest structures in all the 6,000-odd domestic and commercial complex in the district for long-term benefit on the lines of the Tamil Nadu.”
  • Saving energy saves water  “The United Nations forecasts that 1.8 billion people will live in regions of “absolute water scarcity” by 2025. In India water access is expected to worsen as the overall population is expected to increase to 1.6 billion by 2050…. According to current estimates amongst the regions which are most vulnerable to water scarcity in the next 20 years, India comes number second after Middle East followed by Mexico and the American Southwest.”
  • After the huge floods that nearly decimated villages in interior Tamil Nadu while many in the North were in desperate need of water, experts in the field got together at Manipal University to talk about conservation. “K. Narayana Shenoy, an expert in water issues and conservation of the water, warned that unless the country and the people adopt water conservation methods and take up the recharge of the groundwater levels seriously, the future would be bleak with an acute shortage of drinking water.”
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Of Rationing And Other Tales

ration

I was driving past a busy road in R.A.Puram two days earlier, at the unearthly hour of 4.30 AM. My way forward wasn’t blocked by just the usual number of street dogs, hell bent on playing chase with my car’s right front wheel. 55% of the street was taken over by the motorcycles parked willy-nilly; 30% was this long queue of pots.

And women. The women of the neighbourhood had sacrificed precious sleep and were standing outside, balancing empty pots and waiting for the water gods to bless them. Or, for the water tanker to arrive and dispense with their daily ration, if you want to be particular.

Just think about that for a second. 4.30 AM!

Recently, the government declared that 800,000 cans of water will be provided to the people of Chennai at a highly reduced rate. A bubble top can with a capacity of 20 litres varies in costs depending upon the brand – A Bisleri or a Kinley can costs premium, while the locally made ones are around Rs 30 cheaper. The cheapest can costs Rs 30. So, the government’s plan to sell 20L cans at the very nominal rate of Rs 7 – 10 per can will definitely be welcomed by the people, especially those poor woman lining the streets in pre-dawn hours.

Whilst availability of water is great news, what about our consumption? Water is used in enormous quantities in various industries and unless a solution can be found for reducing water usage, we will never be able to bridge availability of water and our desperate needs. This is why, this news item is one worth sitting up straight for:  ‘Common treatment plant for silk, cotton units will save groundwater’ . According to the news reports, “The proposed integrated silk park in Kancheepuram is expected to protect groundwater in and around the temple town from being polluted with effluents.” Typically, the park is still far from being a reality but the very fact that our powers that be are coming up with suggestions to salvage the groundwater situation instead of letting it all go to ruin and then wring hands helplessly, is a commendable development.

One hopes the other industries follow suit and think actively of saving the finite water sources from destruction.

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Water, water everywhere, but…

Water. We sure do take it for granted, don’t we? Look around you. Chances are you’d find someone wasting this most precious thing somewhere in your vicinity. Maybe it is the Metro water tanker that is sloshing its contents all over itself and around it. Maybe it is the leaky tap at the corner of your garden. Or the neighbour’s overhead tank that is imitating a mini waterfall because they forgot to turn their motor off.

We know it is vital. We know it is finite. What else do we know about it? How long is it going to be there for us to dip into? When is it going to run out? What in the name of all that is holy will we do when it does run out?

Water and its usage

First off, let’s take an in-depth look at water and its domestic uses. Talk about an eye-opener! Next time junior keeps the tap on whilst brushing his teeth, be sure to show him this link!

The situation – dire. 

No need to sugar coat this, the prognosis appears quite grim. World over, the groundwater resources are depleting fast but nowhere is the situation as bad as it is in India. Studies conducted by the University of California at Irvine, say that “… the Indus Basin aquifer of India and Pakistan, which is a source of fresh water for millions of people, is the second-most overstressed with no natural replenishment to offset usage”. That’s us, folks. Taking a lot but not putting much back in.

Water woes a’plenty

Lakes frothing up, taller than buildings. Farmers killing themselves because of water scarcity – no water, no crops. Huge swathes of the city closed off because there’s a lack of water. Water logging. Our mismanagement of water has resulted in a number of issues, each one more dire than the other. In Tamil, there’s a proverb: “the water has risen over our heads; what does it matter if it is a little or a lot?” Well, it does because, our woes right now may be plenty but things can become worse. And we do not want that!

What’s the worst that could happen?

Riots. Famine. War. Widespread disease. Death.

Pretty much the end of the world type situation. 20 years back, the then Vice President of World Bank Ismail Serageldin said, “the wars of the next century will be fought over water.” I should imagine that we are closer to the edge now, two decades on, than we were in 1995, when Mr Serageldin uttered those words.

So what is to be done? There’s only so much and we are going through them like there’s no tomorrow.

Alternative

A few years back, Singapore set up a water recycling plant – not just any water, mind you, but its sewage. That very same black and putrid smelling water we vault over chasms to avoid getting on our shoes! But with the help of the latest in technology, the country managed to clean it up and make it safe enough for human consumption. Inspired! So what has that got to do with us, you ask? Well, did you catch the Delhi CM sipping delicately from a glass of water, recently? Guess where he got that from? If you can get over your initial “ICK!” factor, I think you’ll agree that this is an amazing solution. We generate enough and more wasted water – imagine if we can clean the hell out of that!

So, what do you think? What ideas do you follow to save water in your area?

 

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Happy Earth Day!

Did you know that April 22 is Earth Day? One day, out of the 365, dedicated to the planet we call home. Now that doesn’t seem like much, does it?

What does Earth Day mean, anyway and what are we celebrating? Traditionally, Earth Day is the day when year after year, more and more urgent calls for environmental changes are made and grim pictures of our future, with ever-dwindling supplies of natural resources, displayed, in an effort to jolt us into action.

Save Water! 

At VenAqua, we are all about conserving water, one of our most precious resources and this article on the USA Today, tells us how to save water by minimising domestic wastage and being a bit more aware of our consumption. Summer’s upon us and it is even more imperative that we not be cavalier about our usage.

Share The Earth! 

The Earth and all its resources belong to all of us that have made this planet home, not just us humans. Unfortunately, this is a fact we seem to forget and it is the animals and plants and the greater environment that pay the price of our capriciousness. Sundarbans, the largest mangrove forest in the world spread over 10,000 sq kilometres, a Biosphere Reserve and a World Heritage Site, is now the scene of “unprecedented disaster”, thanks to the vast oil spill that happened when a vessel carrying furnace oil to a thermal power plant met with an accident, dumping its cargo into the heart of Sundarbans. The impact of this act will become more and more evident in the years to come, experts say. Our rough ride just got a great deal rougher!

The 2 degree difference

2 degree Celcius. That’s the distance between us and disaster. Between life as we know it and Lord knows what awaits us. If, thanks to our continuous mayhem, the temperature of the Earth goes up by 2 degrees Celcius, warming it up to unchartered territory, well, things will get a lot livelier than anticipated. Increasing water levels, horrific droughts, widespread deaths.

Utter chaos.

Makes you sit up and take note of all the “Climate Change” podcasts, doesn’t it?

This Earth Day, let us be better informed of the havoc we have wreaked on Planet Earth and start making changes, one at a time, before the sands run out. Let’s start small – is our neighbourhood doing all it can to save the planet? Get together and get started on the biggest resuscitation effort of your life.

It ain’t over yet but the time to act is now!