Conservation begins at home
In a city where water problems have been making headlines, there’s one man who has developed a supply system which sounds too good to be true. Dr A R Shivakumar’s home is designed to tap rain water and as a result, he hasn’t paid even a single water bill since moving into the house in 1995.
Shivakumar relies on as many as four water tanks of different capacities to store water through rainwater harvesting (RWH).
In addition, excess water is recharged as it goes into a pit, and effectively no water is lost. Used water from the washing machine is reused for toilet flushes, while that from the kitchen is used to water the plants and trees. “Bengaluru gets the highest rainfall within a 150 km radius around it, so clearly that’s not a problem. Our family needs about 1.5 lakh litres per year, and by RWH alone, we can tap 2 lakh litres,” he said.
Self-reliance for water is just one of the many eco-friendly features of Shivakumar’s home, Sourabha, named thus due to his own extensive work with solar energy.
He says, “The organic waste is decomposed by earthworms. There’s white paint on the roof and hollowed walls that help keep the house cool and multiple small water bodies which humidify the air. A green curtain of plants and trees purifies the air and helps in cooling.”
Speaking about what led to the self-sustaining marvel, Shivakumar says that the basic idea was simple — to build an eco-friendly home which could cater to their needs. For this, he carried out extensive studies and adopted a few traditional methods. He was also involved in forming the policy for making RWH compulsory in the city, and terms it “quite a struggle.” He admits that it takes a bit of work to maintain everything, but says people can easily adopt his practices to a lesser extent and make a difference.
Zenrainman gives old wells new life
He is among the earliest online campaigners for water conservation, was involved in making rainwater harvesting compulsory and is an ardent campaigner for wells — a traditional source of water. But the most striking thing about him is the name of hisonline avatar — zenrainman!
Vishwanath S first began efforts to conserve water during the early 1990s by founding the website www.rainwaterclub.org. The website provides information on water conservation methods and has instructions regarding the installation of rainwater harvesting systems. In addition, he began uploading videos on the same subject on YouTube. Vishwanath was clearly internet-savvy, as at the time only a few people had access to the internet. His channel called zenrainman, which is what he calls himself online, has over 490 videos and 2,800 subscribers.
Speaking about the source of his immense knowledge, Vishwanath says, “I’m a civil engineer by profession, so that’s where I get the basic knowledge from. And I also took an interest in water conservation.” He worked as an engineer with the Housing and Urban Development, part of the Central Government, for over 14 years until 2000. Post his retirement, he has been involved in various conservation-based activities, such as design and development of a wetland system for Jakkur lake, and forming the policy for making rainwater harvesting compulsory in the city.
With so much presence on social media, how can the zenrainman be away from Facebook? He has started a page called ‘The Open Wells of India and the World’.
The page’s members endeavour to locate wells that existed before but aren’t being used now, map them, and check if there’s a possibility of reviving them. Members collaborate with people of a certain community, called ‘bhovis’ or ‘vaddars,’ who were traditionally well-diggers. Until now, over 4,000 wells have been mapped.
Vishwanath himself is a strong advocate of using wells, and has overseen the development of an app. He says, “The idea of developing the app is to let people know that using an open well is a better option and that there are people who can do it for you. People have forgotten our traditional ways to obtain water.”