Biome Trust has won the People’s Choice Award under the water category for the 'Million Wells’ campaign, the results of which were announced at an international online event on 9 December 2022. Up to 16000 people from across the globe voted online to determine the winners out of 12 international projects.
Thanks to support from Rainmatter, Biome was able to create communication content, including an article published in Citizen Matters, and reach out to many people across our social media channels. Biome has received 1500 Euros as prize money, and has decided to share this money equally with the two other finalists from Cameroon and Mexico in the water category, in solidarity for the work done.
Having won the award will provide us with both local and international acknowledgment and access to other people working towards water conservation in their own cities and countries. The prize money will also help us create communication material and spread the word about the importance of shallow aquifers/groundwater management at the micro levels.
The Million Wells for Bengaluru campaign has been noticed by policymakers. As part of AMRUT 2.0, a pilot project is planned for 10 cities on shallow aquifer management, initiated by the Union Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs. The project has identified recharge wells as key to improving groundwater availability. It covers Chennai, Dhanbad, Gwalior, Hyderabad, Jaipur, Kolkata, Rajkot, Thane, Pune, and Bengaluru.
The project is led by the National Institute of Urban Affairs, a national think-tank on urban planning and development. Biome Environmental Trust and Advanced Centre for Water Resources Development and Management (ACWADAM) are the technical experts.
For Bengaluru, Biome is the local partner, working with BBMP’s Storm Water Drains and Lakes department to identify and implement the project. The detailed project report (DPR) for the same has been shared with NIUA. Implementation will begin in January 2023.
Andrew Millison, a permaculture expert from the Pacific Northwest, will be visiting Bengaluru to document the efforts of the Million Wells campaign and create video documentation of the work done over the last decade, for his popular YouTube channel.
Integration of the shallow aquifer with the municipal water supply & engagement with peri-urban towns
Biome is working with ITC in Yelahanka and Devnahalli taluks with multiple stakeholders for sustainable urban water management on the theme of ‘Water for All and Water for Tomorrow.’ We are developing a water security plan for two watersheds comprising 34 panchayats.
Biome has conducted various sessions on sustainable water management training for the panchayat members and grassroots-level workers under the Jal Jeevan Mission programs. We have also implemented rainwater harvesting in government schools and trained the students and teachers to use water quality testing kits.
During the above engagements, we discovered dilapidated open wells in Hunasamaranahalli TMC, Yelhanka taluk, which could be revived and integrated into the water supply system. With the help of Puravankara, under their CSR, we have revived six open wells. Approximately 300 KLD of water is pumped from three open wells, which is being metered. In the case of three other open wells, water is being drawn manually and used by a few households to prevent over-extraction and wastage.
On December 21, 2022, a stakeholder meeting was conducted for Yelahanka taluk, by ITC, Biome, and Myrada in collaboration with Bengaluru Urban Zilla Panchayat, Rural Drinking Water and Sanitation Department (RDWSD), and Jal Jeevan Mission wherein we presented the water security plan and about the importance of shallow aquifers and their potential contributions to achieving water security through the case study of open well revivals in Hunasamaranahalli TMC.
Biome has been continuing to work with Arohana Grameenabhiruddi Samsthe - a women-headed NGO, based out of Kolar - for writing proposals for funding, connecting them with potential partners/funders such as Saytrees, Rotary, etc. Many activities have been initiated in the past year, which include mapping 22 lakes in the O Mittur Panchayat, setting up rainwater harvesting systems in three schools, tree plantation drives and documentation of the rejuvenation work done earlier.
At present, Shudhakunte Lake’s posha kaluves (feeder channels) have been taken up for cleaning by Arohana. SayTrees is funding the project. Further, Biome and Arohana will be taking forward rejuvenation activities of open wells in Chitheri and Pichaguntlahalli villages, fruit tree planting in about 150 home gardens, and a survey of the local anganwadis and schools to see the areas of improvement needed.
Rotary is planning to rejuvenate the Kalkunte Lake near Chikka Tirupathi. Biome planned a visit to O Mittur for the people involved in the Kalkunte Lake rejuvenation to understand the work done by Arohana. Asha has been invited to share her experience rejuvenating the kaluves at O Mittur with the Kalkunte Panchayat members, watermen, and the residents of Kalkunte.
In partnership with Credit Access India Foundation, Biome has implemented rainwater harvesting in three schools - Avani GHPS, Angondahalli GHS, and Alangur GHPS - in Mulabagal Taluk, Kolar. An open well has been rejuvenated near Angondahalli school. A water literacy session was conducted in Angondahalli school for the students and teachers covering various aspects of the WASH interventions in the school.
Biome Trust has participated in various events over the past year. Many of these events pushed us to develop new content and posters helpful for knowledge dissemination.
As part of the ‘Global Climate Change Week’, on October 17th and 18th, 2022 four collaborative workshops/events were conducted at the Azim Premji University. This workshop was conducted jointly by Hasiru Dala, Bangalore Sustainability Forum and Citizen Matters. Biome participated in the panel of the first workshop conducted on Oct 17th. The topic of this panel discussion was ‘Building Climate Leaders in Informal Settlements’.
2. ### Biome Trust at Bangalore Design Week
The Bangalore Design Week Conference was held from the 8th to the 10th of December 2022. Various sessions were conducted as part of this conference at Chitrakala Parishat and Hotel Lalit Ashok. The working session acted as a forum to bring together subject matter experts and aspiring students who are keen to make a positive difference to the city of Bangalore.
Biome participated in two working sessions on rainwater harvesting and wastewater management.
The sessions were interactive and included a Q&A segment. The design students raised some interesting questions for discussion:
- Can the aquifer get contaminated/polluted due to recharge?
- What methods can be used to capture rainwater that runs off from the surface of asphalted roads? Are there available designs to make roads/pavements porous and permeable to water?
- How to influence and make a difference in city-wide projects, which typically involve multiple stakeholders each having their own agendas and priorities?
Biome, along with Art in Transit, also conducted a walk around Cubbon Park titled ‘WACH’ (Water, Art, Culture & History), which brought the story of Bengaluru’s water, through history and modern lives, which is otherwise hidden in plain sight.
Biome is part of the City Resource Forum (CRF), Bengaluru, conceived as part of the Fair Urban Transitions program, set up by the Gujarat Mahila Housing Sewa Trust (MHT) and Integrated Design (INDÉ). Biome Trust will be part of the steering committee to engage with on-ground work on water and livelihood-related goals.
In the second meeting, the ward planning framework was discussed in detail, and ideas of citizen-led, inclusive planning that captures the nuances/dynamics on the ground beyond land-use categories, and mechanisms to integrate ward plans with city-level planning tools were brainstormed.
Biome Trust has collaborated with an external social media agency ‘Razial Communications’ to manage all our social media accounts (Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn). We have been sharing content across various themes and engaging with the audiences on all these platforms. Since May, Biome Trust has seen our Instagram reach going from 0 between Jan to April to 2000+ between May to Dec.
Posting about our work on social media has not only helped bring focus to our work on the outside but also helped create strong documentation of our work that becomes a stamp of credibility for our work.
Biome has started a quarterly newsletter, ‘Jala Vaani’. The second edition was released in the first week of November and contained a series of articles on the success stories around groundwater recharge and the Million Wells campaign, asking people to vote for the initiative, for the TNI award. The newsletter was sent to more than 2000 contacts and has seen a click-to-open rate of 22.12%.
Biome Trust works with a unique decentralized structure, wherein on-field teams work with autonomy, but with limited interaction with the larger team. Hence, there was a need to create a forum for periodic team interactions to keep everyone informed and up-to-date about the various ongoing projects. This also helps enable feedback and innovation and synthesizes experiences to create new knowledge for the team. Keeping this in mind, we have started a bi-monthly forum for scheduling internal team discussions and inviting various vendors/experts to share their projects with us - topics such as understanding the shallow aquifer; a presentation by Nalini Shekar of Hasirudala on working with low-income communities; a presentation by Prof Kaustubh Rau of Azim Premji University on the Anekal lake ecosystem - these exchanges with outside organizations have helped collaborative efforts emerge internally, bringing everybody on to the same page about the idea threads.
We have continued these sessions, and also started organizing twice-weekly ‘Morning Huddle’ sessions, where team members have the space to ask questions/clarify doubts about various challenges they face while working on their individual projects, but also for the whole team to understand the work being done overall. As a team, many ideas are being discussed, which help the team be on the lookout for new opportunities onfield for implementing effective water management.
We organized a team lunch at Go Native restaurant and a walk and brainstorming session at Cubbon Park on 20th October, wherein members of the team shared their ideas and hopes for the upcoming year. We also spent some time going around Cubbon Park, discovering the water heritage of the city.
Biome has been able to set up structures and systems for both internal and external knowledge management and now has a dedicated team working towards it every day. The flexibility given by Rainmatter Foundation’s support has allowed us to pivot varied connections and start collaborations with other organizations, which hadn’t been possible earlier within the space of specific project-focused funding.
Through RM’s support, our team has been able to focus on the MW campaign, and that has gained us traction in many ways, with many more showing an interest in reviving open wells and digging new recharge wells, for better water management. We have had funders showing interest in projects on groundwater management, which we see as an outcome of the MW campaign. From a point of having to go around seeking funds, we have donors now coming to us, and now we maintain a rolling list of projects that can be taken up as and when funders approach us.
We have been able to standardize and create a process of monthly forum for discussions and brainstorming. The new processes of internal knowledge sharing introduced have helped the larger team keep a lookout for new project areas and collaborations.
We also had another offline meeting to probe into the organization’s values and have each member understand Biome’s voice in these recent events so that each of our projects can have a bigger impact.
We have officially been able to engage with Arohana to work on rural water management and, on the other hand, collaborate with ACWADAM, NIUA, and other organizations to work on shallow aquifers at the national level. Furthermore, engaging with other partners will also help collectively strengthen the projects we work on. We are in the process of collaborating with Bangalore University and others to write a technical paper, wherein we will work to understand the shallow aquifer better.
Well-diggers are digging wells faster than we are able to document these stories. We need to be on our toes, on the ground, documenting these success stories.
As an organization, we are also looking at what it is that we can do better and thinking about what would be meaningful to do.