From the skies to schools

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BIOME Bangalore Rainwater harvestingin schools

rainwater storage tank:At the Government Urdu School, Vijayapura.Photo: Biome
rainwater storage tank:At the Government Urdu School, Vijayapura.Photo: Biome

Avinash Krishnamurthy, executive director of Biome Environmental, a Bangalore-based NGO, is a former techie now into rainwater harvesting (RWH). Over the past year, Biome has installed, and in some cases revived (existing), RWH systems in eight government schools around Bangalore. Located in water-stressed regions, these schools depend on panchayat water. Supply is either erratic or non-existent. There is no safe water for cooking (the mid-day meal), washing vessels or even for use in the toilets.

From 2005, the Government of Karnataka has spent over Rs.77 crore on a Suvarna Jala scheme to install rooftop RWH systems in more than 23,000 schools in the state. Krishnamurthy says the scheme is not working. “In some cases, the schools don’t even need RWH systems,” he says.

So far, Biome has spent Rs 7 lakh on the project. Local support and knowledge is crucial to their success. Ramakrishnappa from Kuruburakunte near Devanahalli helps the NGO identify schools with the worst water shortage.

Given that there is also increasing contamination to contend with, Biome wants to provide testing kits so students can test for fluorides and nitrates in the water.

“The children can then monitor water quality in their villages,” adds Krishnamurthy. For instance, at the Government Urdu School in Vijayapura, some 40 km from Bangalore, Biome spent Rs 11,000 to revive the school’s defunct RWH system. The NGO also showed teachers and the school’s 60-odd students how to maintain the RWH system.

Things are already changing. In August, there were good rains. Nageena, a class seven student, is happy. “We can use the toilets now,” she laughs.

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