What’s the most effective way to teach people the value of water and other scarce resources in a world where they are becoming more and more precious? The solution: start young – or at least that’s what progressive, ecologically-minded institutions such as the Vagdevi Vilas at Munne Kolalu, near Bangalore, India, are trying to do. Other institutions such as the Barefoot College in Tilonia, Rajasthan, are also aiming to show the way toward a revolution in the way ecology and sustainability issues are addressed in education and local communities.
Begun three years ago, the school now has 2,300 students on an eight-acre property that performs as a laboratory for putting the school’s ecological education into action. To begin with, the importance of water literacy and management is highlighted in many aspects of school life: the school prospectus contains a message about rainwater harvesting, quizzes and public speaking contests on ecological issues are organized. A rain storage tank was installed last year on the roof and fliers distributed to students’ homes, as the students took to the streets in a public rally for rainwater harvesting.
But that’s not all. The school not only instructs on ecological prudence, it practices what it preaches. The school is not only self-sufficient in terms of it own water needs, but is also striving to do its small part in recharging the local water table levels through its own bore wells and rain pits, originating with the guiding principle of "zero run-off": their five percolation /recharge wells are located strategically so that all run-off is returned back to the earth. Hundreds of trees are planted each year and labelled with their biological names. The students are involved with work in the cattle sheds, vegetable kitchen garden and the school's very own Butterfly Park.
Though there are thousands of active open wells in the city, the trend of digging new open wells had tapered off, but thanks to efforts like those of Harish’s school and Bangalore’s Rainwater Club, interest in rainwater harvesting has grown in recent years. Now, many institutions and corporations are choosing to build open recharge wells that are meant only for putting rainwater in.
S. Vishwanath of the Rainwater Club pointed out that there are advantages of building in water conservation measures into any design. "Recharge wells might be included as part of the new construction design itself. Depending on the diameter and depth, digging a new well costs anywhere from Rs.8000 to 12,000 (US $200-300). The capacity of a recharge well of one metre diameter and six metres depth is about 5,000 litres (1,320 gallons). In a year, anywhere between one lakh and 10 lakh litres (one lakh = 100,000) can be recharged by a single well."
Vishwanath hopes that someday water tables will be sufficiently high for recharge wells to begin giving back water, even if only for a few months out of the year. "If more and more people make their premises zero run off and the water table is consciously brought up by communities, who knows, why can't a recharge well start acting as a service well too?"
See also ::India's PM: No Subsidies, More Local Water Conservation Strategies, ::India's Barefoot College Revolution: Hands-On, Bottom-Up & Community-Driven, ::Lessons In Sustainable Hydrology From An Old Indian Empire, ::Indian Government May Have Grossly Overestimated Water Supply
Image: India Together