Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Generation Next: Rain Water Harvesting Workshop

Generation Next: Rain Water Harvesting Workshop
Nelemangala, July 2010

Project Background
Sackhumvit Trust and Dream School Foundation (DSF) have collaborated to develop rain water harvesting (RWH) at government schools associated with DSF’s Holistic School Development Program (HSDP) . Several of these schools are situated in peri-urban locations that are burdened with an inadequate or unsustainable supply of water. More importantly, these schools have basic RWH facilities in place from the Karnataka state government’s scheme, Suvarna Jala (2007). This infrastructure, however, has deteriorated overtime due to a lack of community ownership. Examples include poor quality engineering and construction of RWH facilities, poor maintenance or theft of key structural items (i.e. piping, taps, filters, water sump, etc.), and limited awareness amongst school members about the use and maintenance of RWH . Sackhumvit Trust and DSF are interested in reviving RWH at these schools through investing in pending infrastructure requirements, and raising awareness on how to effectively utilize and maintain this resource.

Sackhumvit Trust and DSF hired HINREN Technologies Pvt. Ltd. (“HINREN”) to build RWH facilities at a higher-primary government school in Nelamangala (Nursapura Ramanagar District, Magadi Taluk, Solur Hobli). While the Higher-Primary Government School has basic RWH facilities in place from Suvarna Jala, this structure is incomplete and dysfunctional; lacking sufficient piping, a filtration system, and an adequately sealed water sump. Moreover, the school is burdened by a severe water crisis as its local borewell is completely dry, compelling staff and students to walk 10-15 minutes to collect water from the closest functioning borewell. The school is unable to provide potable water for its students, who must carry their own drinking water to school.

HINREN technologies completed construction of RWH facilities at the Higher-Primary Government School on May 25th, 2010. The construction was completed just in time for the school to harvest rain during the monsoon seasons.

RWH Workshop
Sackhumvit Trust and DSF also organized workshop on July 9th, 2010 at the Higher-Primary Government School to raise awareness amongst teachers and students about the benefits and maintenance of RWH. The workshop was conducted by Mr. Sunil from HINREN, who discussed the importance of RWH, and how to maintain the RWH facilities recently constructed at the school. He also shared interesting facts such as how many liters of rain water can be collected based on the surface area of the school’s roof. Mr. Sunil performed a drinking-water quality test, and explained how to purify harvested rainwater so that it is potable.

The workshop was well-attended with a total of five school staff and 30 students participating in the program. Teachers at the Higher-Primary Government School, who had earlier expressed that they knew very little about RWH, found the session to be informative and practical. During the workshop, Mr. Sunil worked out a schedule with students who divided various maintenance responsibilities amongst themselves, such as flushing out stagnant water in the collection pipes, and cleaning the roof once every two weeks an the water sump once every quarter. The main discussion points of the workshop are summarized in the following sections.

Benefits of RWH
RWH is the accumulation and storage of rain water. RWH can be used to provide drinking water and water for live stock, irrigation, and water to refill aquifers in a process called ground water recharging. Rain water can be collected from the roofs of houses and other types of buildings, or from water sheds (generally found in rural communities). In some cases, rain water may be the only available and economical water source for a community. Household rainfall catchment systems are simple to construct, relatively inexpensive, and are successful at most locations with average rainfall greater than 200mm/year. Roof rainwater is generally of good quality and may not require treatment before consumption, as long as the roof is regularly cleaned. However some rooftop materials may produce rainwater that is harmful to human health. Acid rain is generally not a problem for countries located in the sub-tropics, close to the equator, as the circulation of air prevents the concentration of air pollutants.

Maintenance of RWH

1. Clean the school roof thoroughly one every 15 days.

2. Clean the water tank once in 3 months, and keep the tank closed tight. The water sump should not be exposed to any sunlight or dust, and should be sealed air tight.

3. Flush the tap everyday in the morning to clear dirty and stagnant water stored in the collection pipes.

4. Change the coal in the filter once in two years, as dust particles can settle on the coal and will eventually contaminate harvested rainwater.

Calculation of Rainwater Collected from the School’s Roof

The school’s roof measure 80 square feet * 20 square feet
80*20 = 160 * 20 liters of rainwater per square foot per day of heavy rain.
= 3,200 – 10% of water waste.
= 3,200 – 320
= 2,880 liters

RWH Testing

An important aspect of RWH quality testing is to determine bacteria contamination. Bacteria can develop if water is exposed to contaminants (such as dust found in the water sump or roof), and adequate sunlight and air. For this reason, RWH sumps are often sealed to avoid light exposure and are regularly cleaned. Nonetheless, it is important to regularly test harvested rain water for the presence of bacteria, especially if RWH is being used to collect potable water. Mr. Sunil advised teachers and students to clean the school’s roof once every 15 days, and the water sump once quarter. He also encouraged them to test for the presence of bacteria in harvested rain water once every quarter while cleaning the water sump.

The H2S Strip Test is a ready-to-use, simple device that measures the presence of bacteria by detecting the presence of hydrogen sulphide (H2S), a chemical produced by bacteria during decomposition of organic material. The test involves a sterilized paper strip treated with Agar base. This compound is manufactured in a lab with some food particles and proteins, and is then stored in a sterilized glass bottle. Upon filling the glass bottle with a water sample from the water sump, store the bottle for 24-48 hours at room temperature (25-37 degrees Celsius). If bacteria are present in the water sample, they will produce H2S during their decomposition of the paper strip, which turns the water sample black in color. This means that harvested rain water is not potable and hence students and teachers should not drink this water.

Features of H2S Strip Test Kit
1. Ready-to-use: The water sample (20 ml) from the source can be directly placed into the glass bottle. The paper strip in the bottle is already coated with the Agar base, so no further preparation and sterilization of the glass bottle is required. The water sample does not need to be treated before placed into the sterilized glass bottle. The bacteria test can therefore be conducted directly at the water source (i.e. at the water sump).

2. Simplicity: The H2S strip test–kit is so simple to use that anyone can perform its water-quality test. For the reason it is most suited for rural locations where there is inadequate infrastructure and resource persons to conduct a thorough laboratory test.

3. Economical: The H2S strip test–kit is very economical, as it does not require laboratory services and the materials for the test-kit are readily available and cost-effective.

Portability: The H2S strip test–kit is made up of glass, light in weight, and easy to carry anywhere.

4. Disposable: The H2S strip test–kit can be easily disposed after use.

5. Confidence: The H2S strip test–kit’s results are reliable, meaningful and reproducible.

6. Illustrative Direction: The H2S strip test–kit includes easy-to-follow, illustrative directions on how to use the kit.

Mr. Sunil left ten sets of the H2S strip test–kits with the Higher-Primary Government School. This would enable them to regularly test the quality of harvested rainwater to determine if it is suitable for drinking purposes.

How to purify the water?
If the rain water in the H2S glass bottle turns black, the water is not fit for drinking. In such case, take an empty, clean, and transparent plastic bottle and fill it half-way with harvested rain water. Place the plastic bottle on a flat roofing steel sheet, as shown the picture. Leave the bottle under the sun for three to four hours. This will kill any bacteria that are present in the water, and the water will be ready to drink. Alternatively, harvested rainwater can be made potable by boiling the water.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Generation Next: Field Trip to the Jawaharlal Nehru Planetarium and Karnataka State Level Energy Park

Generation Next: Field Trip to the
Jawaharlal Nehru Planetarium and Karnataka State Level Energy Park
May 13, 2010

Sackhumvit Trust and Dream School Foundation (DSF) organized a one-day outing for high school students at Govt. PU College to the Jawaharlal Nehru Planetarium (JNP) and Karnataka State Level Energy Park (KSLEP) on 13th May 2010.This event was organized as part of DSF’s summer camp programme and a total of 68 students participated in the day’s activities. The objective of the field trip was for students to learn about the solar system and recent innovations and applications of renewable energy.

Jawaharlal Nehru Planetarium (JNP)
 JNP was founded by the Bangalore City Corporation in 1989. Later in 1992, the administration of the planetarium was entrusted to an autonomous body, the Bangalore Association for Science Education (BASE). BASE is devoted to the dissemination of science among the public and the student community. In addition to its famous planetarium, JNP also includes a science park and centre where visitors can explore some applications of science in a natural and playful manner. Fascinating models are on display such as models of DNA, resonant swings, whispering dishes, sun dials, kaleidoscopes, and a model of the polar satellite launching vehicle.

None of DSF’s students had been to such an interactive science park where they could develop their minds while participating in their favorite pass time—playing!! Students were refreshed and inspired by their experience at JNP, thus highlighting the endless possibilities to engage youth with science through hands-on and child-centered teaching methods.

Rain Water Harvesting (RWH)
JNP also included a demonstration of RWH, which some of DSF’s students could immediately relate to based on their prior field trip to the Karnataka State Council of Science and Technology in October 2009. Ayyanar, a 10th standard student who is particularly passionate about working with his hands to create innovative machines and models, explained how to harvest rain water in paved vs. unpaved areas as demonstrated by the RWH facilities at JNP. He even discussed the purpose of a recharging pit, where harvested rain water is stored underground to restore our ground water supply.

Solar System Show
At the planetarium, students participated in a thirty minute programme which showcased wonderful images captured by the Hubble Space Telescope from a height of about 575 kilometers above the Earth’s surface. The programme discusses some of the landmark discoveries about the universe based on observations of the space telescope. It is a fascinating tour of the cosmos, briefly halting at various galaxies such as the Milky Way Galaxy.

The programme begins with an introduction to the night sky, identifying the planets, stars and constellations. The twelve constellations in the zodiacal belt enable us to observe, study and formulate the motions of planets. Man’s understanding of the universe has undergone a sea of change since the advent of telescopes followed by space probes. The programme has liberal sprinkling of visuals as captured by these scientific instruments. The formation of solar system, including the sun, is also discussed. The programme includes many animations. Most interestingly, the programme examines our own position, the existence and significance of life on Earth, relative to the vast realm of the cosmos.
After the solar system show, the students toured an exhibition of books, science kits, models, telescopes, photos, etc., all concerning astronomy. There was a weighing scale that shows one's weight on all the planets based on their respective forces of gravity, and gives a print-out for the cost of Rs. 5/-. It goes without saying that all of our students at DSF participated in this activity with great enthusiasm!.

Karnataka State Level Energy Park (KSLEP)

It is indeed impossible to imagine our lives, planet, and universe without energy. Energy is omnipresent in various forms from anywhere to everywhere, and from anybody to everybody. It doesn’t matter how young or old we are, we all need to understand and appreciate the various forms and sources of energy that factor into our lives. KSLEP was established with exactly this objective in mind; providing information about renewable energy through various interactive exhibits. Spreading over eight acres, this is a space for Action, Interaction, Invention and Exploration that adds a refreshing dimension to the urban buzz of Bangalore city.

Students observed various models at KSLEP, but most impressive was a solar house entirely constructed from bamboo. The house had the following facilities fully powered by solar energy:

• Six 11-watt lights.
• Two high efficiency ceiling fans working for six to seven hrs/day.
• One refrigerator working for 24 hrs/day.
• One 21”colour TV operating for five to six hrs/day.
• One P4 computer, multimedia with internet facility working for six hrs/day.

In addition to the solar house, students also observed a solar swimming pool, battery and solar-powered cars, an energy generating slip and drum, a parabolic and box-type solar cooker, a wind-powered water pump, a solar-powered water heating system, and many other structures. Students also participated in various computer-based energy quizzes and games, which enabled them to review various concepts of renewable energy.


Overall, the field trip was jam packed with fun and educational activities. DSF’s students had a wonderful time exploring the realm of science through hands-on applications ranging from a tour of the solar system to learning how to manifest alternative, eco-friendly sources of energy. At the end of the day, students collected a wealth of information to share with their friends and family. It was extremely satisfying to observe their excitement and enthusiasm to participate in the day’s activities, explore new concepts, and to share their experience with others.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Generation Next: CLEAN-India Water Testing

Generation Next: CLEAN-India Water Testing
February 2010

Development Alternatives is a non-government organization that manages the Community-Led Environment Action Network, “CLEAN-India”. The objective of this campaign is to develop a cleaner environment for towns and cities starting with activism at school communities. This nation-wide programme targets environmental assessment, awareness, advocacy and action, all of which is spearheaded by school students. Starting from individuals, households to communities, villages and towns, students are encouraged to make their voices heard, anxieties understood and concerns translated into action for a cleaner environment.

One of the main activities for CLEAN-India’s environmental assessment phase is the testing of air pollution and water contamination at local schools. CLEAN-India works with students to test for air and water quality at regular intervals throughout the year to determine whether action needs to be taken to improve the school environment. The experiments are also effective at educating students about environmental issues through hands-on experience.

Sackhumvit Trust partnered with CLEAN-India in August 2009 to conduct air pollution testing with government school students associated with Dream School Foundation’s (DSF) Yeshwantpur and R.T. Nagar’s education and development centres. The sessions were well-received, as most students had never participated in a science experiment involving chemicals and lab equipment. Students were also sensitized to the sources and prevalence of air pollution in Bangalore city, and the negative health-affects that air pollution can cause.

Based on the positive student response to CLEAN-India’s air pollutionexperiments, Sackhumvit Trust organized a series of water testing workshops with Ms. Shalini from CLEAN-India in February 2010. Our objective was to educate students about the necessary parameters for safe drinking-water and the main sources for water pollution. We also wanted to encourage hands-on learning by enabling students to conduct science experiments where they apply concepts learned at school.

Student Participants
This time around, Sackhumvit Trust expanded our outreach and organized this workshop on-site at two schools in R.T. Nagar, Bangalore: R.T. Nagar Govt. P.U. College (8th-9th standards) and Almubark Primary and Girl’s English High School (6-10th standards). Sackhumvit Trust also conducted the workshops for 8th-9th standard students enrolled at DSF’s R.T. Nagar and Yeshwantpur after-school tutorial programs. 
The workshop was very popular at the local schools with an average turnout of 150 students each session! While the large audience is a strong indicator of the demand for such extra-curricular activities on-campus at low-income area schools, it would have been ideal to work with a smaller group so that the sessions could be more interactive and participatory. This was apparent at DSF’s education and development centres where the average group size was 20 students per session, thus enabling each and every student to participate in the science experiments and engage in dialogue with Ms. Shalini.

Water Testing Experiment
Jal-TARA Portable Water Testing Kits is one of CLEAN-India’s key program tools. The kit can be used to perform basic tests to ensure water portability. It is an effective tool that enables students to put into practice the theoretical aspects of chemistry that are learned in the classroom. This empowers students to learn more about the quality of the environment and use their findings to create or demand solutions. The kit can test 14 essential parameters for drinking-water and river-water quality. The tests are broadly classified as physical, chemical, and biological.

  • Physical: pH, Temperature and Turbidity.

  • Chemical: Fluoride, Chloride, Residual Chlorine, Hardness, Iron, Phosphate, Ammonia, Nitrate and Dissolved Oxygen.

  • Biological: Coliform Bacteria and Benthic Diversity.

Ms. Shalini commenced each workshop with a discussion of water bodies on Earth, the scarcity of fresh water sources, and the severe water shortages faced by communities across India. She then explored the various contaminants of water (as listed above), and the negative side-effects associated with each. Some pertinent examples include how the presence of nitrates in drinking-water (above a certain threshold) can cause “blue baby syndrome.” Similarly, fluoride can lead to the deterioration of one’s teeth and skeletal structure, and e-coli bacteria can cause acute water-borne diseases. Students also learned the implications of water hardness: that the presence of magnesium, calcium, etc., ions in water can leave deposits in water piping systems resulting in blockages and bursting.

Ms. Shalini distinguished between parameters for drinking-water and that for surface bodies of water. For example, parameters such as Dissolved Oxygen, Benthic Diversity, and Turbidity are more important when testing for the water quality of lakes and rivers than drinking-water, as these factors are critical to the survival of aquatic life.

Following the discussion, Ms. Shalini invited students to conduct a series of water tests concerning the above parameters. Water samples came from the tap and bore-wells of each school. At DSF’s Yeshwantpur and R.T. Nagar centres, students also brought water samples from their homes. Ms. Shalini covered all experiments with the exception of testing for nitrate and iron levels, which required a heating appliance that most schools and centres did not have. These tests were conducted, however, at DSF’s Yeshwantpur centre, which had a gas stove on-site and student were thrilled to execute the additional activities. The experiments were effective at re-enforcing the importance of testing water quality prior to consumption, and Ms. Shalini made sure to link each activity with points covered during her discussion.

Although not directly applicable, students also conducted the tests for surface water bodies (i.e. turbidity) using their drinking-water samples. Overall, students enjoyed conducting the experiments—especially those involving the observation of color changes and titrations (most students were not familiar with this lab procedure).

Each workshop concluded with a brief revision of what students and
learned and enjoyed the most. The Headmistresses of R.T. Nagar P.U.College and Almubark Primary and High Schools were grateful to
Ms. Shalini, and requested that she return to conduct CLEAN-India's air pollution experiment. Sackhumvit Trust would like to thank Ms. Shalini from CLEAN-India in helping us organize this event. We are also grateful to DSF for enabling us to work with students at its education and development centres, and for putting us in touch with local schools that would be interested in this activity. Sackhumvit Trust welcomes the opportunity to organize similar events for organizations and schools dedicated to educating underprivileged students. For more information, please contact us at info@sackhumvit.org.

Generation Next: Lalbagh Flower Show

Generation Next: Lalbagh Flower Show
January 24, 2010

Sackhumvit Trust recently organized a field visit to Lalbagh for Dream School Foundation’s (DSF) HeadStart students at the R.T. Nagar education and development centre. The objective of the field trip was for students to learn about the variety of flowers, trees, and agricultural produce available in Karnataka, to explore the sites of Lalbagh while learning about the history of the botanical gardens, and to partake in celebrations of India’s Republic Day (January 26th 2010).

Field Trip Details
A significant component of the field trip involved students learning about the history and landmarks of Lalbagh, which spans a total of 240 acres in southern Bangalore. The garden was commissioned in the 18th century by the prevailing ruler of Mysore, Hyder Ali, and was later completed by his son, Tipu Sultan. Hyder Ali designed the garden according to landscapes of the Mughal Gardens. Tipu Sultan further developed the garden by importing trees and plants from several countries like Persia, Afghanistan and France. Over the years, Lalbagh has acquired new features such as India's first lawn-clock, and the subcontinent's largest collection of rare plants. Today the garden has trees that are over 100 years old.

All the students were excited to attend Lalbagh’s flower show at the Glass House; a bi-annual event that celebrates India’s Independence and Republic Days. Ayyanar, a 9th standard student from a Tamil-Medium government high school at R.T. Nagar, was particularly inspired by the flower displays, as he grows flowers and designs similar arrangements as a hobby. The largest display at the flower show was a model of the Qutub Minar made of different color roses. Students were amazed that such a large structure could be made from flowers alone, and some of them even commented on how all of these flowers would eventually go to waste!

After the flower show, students explored the remaining sites at Lalbagh. They visited the HMT flower clock, which is seven meters long in diameter. The students walked around Lalbagh Lake (where they noticed various flora and fauna in the lotus pond) and the rose garden. Students also observed the 20 million year old tree fossil at Lalbagh. This was followed by a discussion of how fossils are dated by the chemical process of radioactive decay; a topic covered in the 10th standard chemistry syllabus of students. Students enjoyed visiting the famous elephant apple tree of Lalbagh, and posed for group pictures under Lalbagh’s tallest tree and famous silk cotton tree.

In the middle of the field trip, students took a break to run and play in the gardens, and take in their beautiful surroundings. Several students discussed how the trees at Lalbagh, most of which are hundreds of years old, are important historical artifacts. This was followed by an active discussion on how more than 40,000 trees will be felled in Bangalore (including trees at Lalbagh!) due to road widening schemes and the construction of the Bangalore Metro.

The field visit concluded with a visit to Kempe Gowda tower, where students viewed Bangalore’s cityscape atop a hill made from 3 billion year old Peninsular Gneissic rocks! They also visited the Lalbagh nursery where students purchased plants and vegetable seedlings to grow at home.

Overall DSF’s HeadStart students enjoyed their visit to Lalbagh, with many of them requesting to come back and visit the gardens soon. Their genuine interest in Lalbagh’s history and natural sites was inspiring, so much so that students enthusiastically purchased seedlings to create their own, yet smaller version, of the botanical gardens. Sackhumvit Trust would like to thank DSF for enabling us to work with their HeadStart students as part of our environmental education program. We are happy to share this resource with organizations and school communities dedicated to educating underprivileged youth.

ANZ Bank: Road Safety Awareness

ANZ Bank: Road Safety Awareness Workshops
January 18-21, 2010

Australia New Zealand Bank (ANZ Bank) is the largest Australian bank in Asia with over 170 years of banking experience and six million customers worldwide. ANZ Bank operates a software division in Bangalore, India, along with a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) division.

In support of the Government of India’s Road Safety campaign in January 2010, ANZ Bank’s CSR division wanted to promote road safety practices amongst local school communities in Bangalore. Mr. Ajay, an Associate Manager at ANZ Bank CSR’s division, organized five volunteers from ANZ Bank to facilitate workshops on road safety awareness at secondary high schools from 18th – 21st January 2010. With the help of Sackhumvit Trust and Dream School Foundation (DSF), ANZ Bank conducted this program at four government/government-aided schools in R.T. Nagar, Yeshwantpur, and Rajajinagar, Bangalore. The number of students and schools that participated in the workshop are detailed below:

  • Govt. Higher Primary School, Rajajinagar, Bangalore (44)
  • Bapu School, Yeshwantpur, Bangalore (53)
  • R.T. Nagar Govt. PU College, R.T. Nagar, Bangalore (65)
  • Almubark Primary Girl’s English High School, R.T. Nagar, Bangalore (73)

ANZ Bank was keen to work with high school students at government schools, as these students often walk on the streets independently, ride bicycles, rely on public transportation, and transport their younger siblings to and from school. According to the Government of India’s Road Safety campaign, over one lakh people die every year due to road traffic accidents, and road accidents are one of the leading causes of death amongst children in India.

The workshop primarily focused on interpretation of road signs and best-practices while driving and/or walking on streets. It was explained to students that while the majority of them do not drive cars, an understanding of road signs is still important for pedestrians and cyclists. Students also learned best practices for crossing the road as a pedestrian, and key hand signals while riding a bicycle.
The students participated enthusiastically during the workshops, with most of them expressing that they had learned something constructive. ANZ Bank volunteers encouraged students to share this knowledge with their peers and families, so as to increase awareness on road safety.

Due to time constraints, however, it was not feasible to incorporate a practical component to the workshop, where students could have observed road signs and safety practices on the streets surrounding their school under supervision of workshop facilitators. Such a dimension would have made the workshop more interactive and participatory.

Sackhumvit Trust is grateful for the opportunity to bring together volunteers from ANZ Bank with the various school communities associated with DSF. We hope this is the beginning of a long-term partnership that increases the cooperation of private and civil society volunteers with non-profits and government schools serving underprivileged students.