Lake Conservation and Regional Water Security

The hottest year in recorded history has just passed, and we face record levels of water scarcity—across the country, and in Karnataka in particular. This is alarming, if for the reason that This calls for introspection about what could have been done differently, and what can be done now.

Dr. T.V. Ramachandra is an expert in the field of water conservation, and a frequent public commentator on our ongoing water-scarcity related problems. He will talk to us on Thursday the 27th of April, at 5pm, at Kanada Auditorium, JNCASR, about the enormous challenge facing us and how we can overcome it. An abstract from the speaker follows.

Water is one of the fundamental elements of the universe from which early life originated millions of years ago on earth. Every life on the earth is primarily dependent on water which hosts innumerable aquatic species from single cell creatures to gigantic blue whales. As the evolution of human took place, civilized human settled down on the fertile river banks. In other words, river banks are the motherhood for civilized human and most of the civilization around the world. These river or lake banks gave water for drinking and also for cropping along with mineral rich soil. Civilized men knew the importance of water and respected these water bodies. However, deterioration of traditional water harvesting practices in most parts of burgeoning Bangalore has resulted in the inequity in water distribution and growing water scarcity, which has escalated water conflicts during the 20th century. Irresponsible management of natural resources is evident from (i) sustained inflow of untreated sewage and industrial effluents; (ii) dumping of solid waste (with 70% being organic); (iii) transport of untreated wastewater in storm water drains (water drains are essentially arteries of a landscape carrying water), etc.

Unplanned rapid urbanisation during late nineties, witnessed large-scale unrealistic, uncontrolled developmental activities in the neighborhood of wetlands. Land use analysis in Bangalore City shows 1005% increase in urban (built-up) area between 1973 and 2016 (i.e., from 8.0% (in 1973) to 77% (in 2016)) with a decline of 88% tree cover and 79% water bodies. Land use prediction using Agent Based Model showed that built up area would increase to 93.3% by 2020, and the landscape is almost at the verge of saturation.
Average annual rainfall in Bangalore is 787 mm with 75% dependability and return period of 5 years. Catchment wise water yield analysis indicates the total water available is about 14.80 TMC. Domestic demand of water (at 150 lpcd) is 20.05 TMC per year (1573 MLD). This means about 73% of Bangalore’s water demand can be met by efficient harvesting of rain water. Quantification of sewage generated shows that about 16.04 TMC (1258 MLD) of sewage is generated in the city. Sewage treatment with complete removal of nutrients and chemical contaminants is achievable by adopting decentralized treatment plants similar to the success model (secondary treatment plant integrated with constructed wetlands and algae pond) at Jakkur lake. In addition to this, water available with efficient rainwater harvesting is about 14.8 TMC. This means that total of 30.85 TMC of water is available annually to cater the demand of 20.05 TMC, provided the city administration opts for decentralized optimal water management through (i) rainwater harvesting by rejuvenating lakes. The best option to harvest rain water is through interconnected lake systems, (ii) treatment of sewage generated in households in each locality (opting the model at Jakkur lake – STP (Sewage Treatment Plant) integrated with constructed wetlands and algal pond; (iii) conservation of water by plugging the pilferages (due to faulty distribution system); (iv) ensuring water supply 24×7 and (v) ensuring all sections of the society get equal quantity and quality of water. Rejuvenating lakes in the region helps in retaining the rain water. Treating sewage and options to recycle and reuse would minimize the demand for water from outside the region. The analysis illustrates that the city has at least 30 TMC (Bangalore city) of water, which is higher than the existing demand (20.08 TMC, at 150 lpcd and 2016 population), if the city adopts 5R’s (Retain, Rejuvenate, Recycle, Reuse, Retain and Responsible citizens). In order to enhance the water retaining capability in the catchment, it is essential to harvest rain water and undertake large scale watershed programme (soil and water conservation). Lakes are the optimal means of rainwater harvesting at community level.

Reference:  Bangalore’s Reality: towards unlivable status with unplanned urban trajectory, Guest editorial, Current Science (June 2016).

About the Speaker:

Dr. T.V. Ramachandra, FIE, FIEE (UK) obtained Ph.D. in Ecology and Energy from Indian Institute of Science. At present, Coordinator of Energy and Wetlands Research Group (EWRG), Convener of Environmental Information System (ENVIS) at Centre for Ecological Sciences (CES). During the past twenty years he has established an active school of research in the area of energy and environment ( He is a member of Karnataka State Audit Advisory Committee (2014-16). He was a Member of Karnataka State level Environment Expert Appraisal Committee (2007-2010), appointed by the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India and a member of Western Ghats task force appointed by the Government of Karnataka. He is a recipient of Johny Biosphere Award for Ecology and Environment (2004), Satish Dhawan Young Scientist Award, 2007 of Karnataka State Government and Best ENVIS award (thrice – 2015, 2014, 2004), the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change, Government of India, and recently Our Bangalorean, 2016 award (Namma Bengaluru Foundation).

He is an Elected Fellow of the National Institute of Ecology (2011), Indian Association of Hydrologists (India; 2006), Institution of Electrical Engineers (IEE, UK; 2005), Institution of Engineers (IE, India; 2003), and a Senior Member, IEEE (USA; 2000) and Association of Energy Engineers (USA; 2000).

TVR’s research interests are in the area of energy systems, renewable energy, energy conservation, energy planning, aquatic ecosystems, biodiversity, ecological modelling, geo-informatics, environmental engineering education research and curriculum development at the tertiary level. He has published over 264 research papers in the reputed peer reviewed international and national journals, 52 book chapters, 302 papers in the international and national symposiums as well as 17 books. In addition, he has delivered a number of plenary lectures at national and international conferences. Publication “Milking diatoms for energy” is seminal work in biofuel research evident from reports in Scientific American, BBC, national dailies, etc.

He has guided 110 students for Master’s dissertation and nine students for Doctoral degrees. TVR has travelled widely across the country for field research and also for delivering lectures at Schools and Colleges. He has taken initiatives through biannual symposium (popular as Lake series), training programmes and workshops for capacity building at various levels. Details of the Lake Symposium are available at


Crucible Steel from India: A Major Metallurgical Accomplishment of Antiquity

Dhwani presents a talk and demonstration by Prof. S. Ranganathan, IISc,  at 5pm on Thursday, 13th April at Kanada Auditorium, on wootz steel , a high-carbon steel alloy that was developed in (South) India several centuries before the common era. In these times when misinformed claims about the scientific and technological achievements in ancient India abound, it is essential that we know about the actual achievements of our past.

Prof. Ranganathan is a renowned expert in the field of metallurgy, and has (literally) written the book on wootz steel. He is eminently suited to enlighten us about this technological achievement from the subcontinent. Prof. Ranganathan has promised to bring sample specimens, including knives and swords, for us to see. An abstract from him follows.

India is celebrated for many metallurgical accomplishments in antiquity. These include lost wax casting of bronzes in Harappa, the extraction of zinc, the rustless iron pillar and the wootz steel. Among them the most spectacular achievement is the legendary wootz steel which was used to fashion the Damascus blades. This advanced material of the ancient world had a historical dominance for over two millennia and a geographic sway over three continents. The development of the materials paradigm arose from a quest to understand its superior properties by Western scientists. Modern materials owe a lot to this insight.

The talk will emphasise the development of the crucible method for making molten steel and the processing of the brittle ultra high carbon steels into ductile materials. As part of our research the celebrated Konasamudram in Telangana will be presented. Merchants from Persia travelled to buy wootz. Our current research is aimed at experimental reproduction of wootz steel and its characterization using modern techniques such as EBSD and high resolution microscopy.

About the speaker:

Srinivasa Ranganathan is NASI Platinum Jubilee Fellow, Homi Bhabha Visiting Professor at the National Institute of Advanced Studies. His interests cover physical metallurgy, history of science and materials heritage. He has coauthored a much acclaimed book on India’s Legendary Wootz Steel: An advanced material of the ancient world. The DST Programme on Indian Digital Heritage – Hampi benefitted from his guidance. He taught the inaugural  course on Science and Civilization in India to IISc Undergraduates in August 2011 and a course on Materials Heritage and Conservation at the Tokyo University of the Arts, Japan in 2012. His current research interests are High Entropy Alloys. The first journal publication on Alloyed Pleasures- Multimetallic Cocktails by him was published in Current Science in 2003 and led to the first book in 2014 on High Entropy Alloys coauthored by him He is a Fellow of four Indian Academies of Science and Engineering and the World Academy of Sciences (TWAS). The Indian Institute of Metals, the Electron Microscope Society of India and the Indian National Academy of Engineering have conferred on him Lifetime Achievement Awards in 2012, 2013 and 2014 respectively.

A Brief Look at Happiness Across Non-Western Cultures

Dhwani presents a special talk by Helaine Selin, formerly of Hampshire College, Massachusetts, USA, on Saturday the 25th of March, at 5:00 pm, at AMRL Conference Hall.

From Ms. Selin’s Wikipedia page:

Helaine Selin is well known for being the editor of Encyclopaedia of the History of Science, Technology, and Medicine in Non-Western Cultures (1997) which is one of the first books which allows readers to “compare a variety of traditional systems of mathematics and cosmologies.” Mathematics Across Cultures: The History of Non-Western Mathematics (2000), is considered by Mathematical Intelligencer as a companion to the Encyclopaedia of the History of Science, Technology, and Medicine in Non-Western Cultures. The journal, Mathematics and Computer Education, wrote that Mathematics Across Cultures filled a gap in the history of mathematics and was “an exciting collection of papers on ethnomathematics.” Selin’s editorial work, Nature Across Cultures: Views of Nature and the Environment in Non-Western Cultures (2003), was considered by Polylog to be a “valuable source for intercultural philosophers.” Selin edited the Encyclopaedia of Classical Indian Sciences (2007), which she said she worked on for six years.

The Encyclopaedia of Classical Indian Sciences was co-edited by Ms. Selin and JNC’s own Prof. Roddam Narasimha. An abstract from the speaker follows.

The talk is mainly taken from a book I edited called Happiness Across Cultures.
It concerns (1) the relation of happiness to culture; (2) whether there is a
difference between happiness, contentment, quality of life, well-being, etc.; (3)
the connection between equality and happiness; (4) what the role of comparison
is; (5) if there is a connection between gender and happiness; and (6)
adaptation: how does people’s ability to adapt help them be happy? I shall focus
a bit on India, but as India is so different from the rest of the world, it shall only
be a bit. The talk is not meant to be a guide to being happy, but an academic
discussion of how the people in the non-Western world view happiness.

Micro-Management of Waste at JNCASR

JNCASR decided, a couple of years ago, to implement a waste segregation and recycling system with the help of an organisation called ProWaste. Dhwani played a part in this. Dhwani will host Ms. Nupur Tandon, the founder of ProWaste, and Ms. Jahnavi Sharma, as they discuss the progress made at JNCASR.

Venue: Kanada Auditorium
Time: 5:30 pm, Thursday, 29th September, 2016

An abstract from the speakers follows.

The talk aims to address the issue of waste and its micro-management: what is
micro-management of waste and how does it help reduce pressure on landfills?
With a brief introduction of waste in Indian context, and the changed perception
towards it, we will discuss the case study of JNCASR. We will discuss the
association of Pro Waste with JNCASR, and offer a reflective outlook on the
journey till now. We will talk about the quantum of waste diverted from
landfills, the recyclables generated, and the money earned for an emergency
fund for the housekeeping staff. Generic guidelines for waste handling shall be
provided. Also, importantly, we will discuss what further needs to be done for
effective waste management at the campus. To make the talk success it is
important for it to be interactive in nature as we welcome suggestions and
pointers to make the waste management program a sustained success.

National Education Policy

Dhwani is pleased to host a talk and discussion on the Draft National Education Policy 2016, by Professor Amman Madan of Azim Premji University, Bangalore, on Thursday the 15th of September 2016, at 5pm at Kanada Auditorium.

Prof. Madan’s study and research focus on the sociology of merit, and education and social stratification. He worked at JNU, Homi Bhabha Centre for Science Education, IIT Kanpur and Tata Institute of Social Sciences before joining APU. He is also associated with several NGOs and is part of the editorial collective of the Contemporary Education Dialogue.

An abstract from the speaker follows.

The current government in the Centre has been moving towards a revised National Education Policy. Such policies are important public statements of the priorities of a state and, while never being implemented fully to the letter anywhere, do have a considerable impact on subsequent developments in their field. They should therefore be subject to widespread debate and discussion by experts – education researchers, policy analysts – and by different stakeholders including academics, non-academic staff, school teachers, students and members of the general public.

This talk will engage with the latest MHRD document in the public domain which describes proposals for the New Education Policy, “Some inputs for draft National Education Policy 2016”. It will try to highlight some shifts and continuities with the previous National Education Policy 1986, as revised in 1992. There are many aspects which deserve discussion, but my talk will restrict itself to three: (a) the question of saffronization and whether this has been promoted in the MHRD’s document; (b) social inequality and how the present proposals have tried to deal with it and (c) privatization of education and how the inputs document looks at it.

“Some inputs for draft National Education Policy 2016” is available from the MHRD’s website:

The National Policy on Education 1986/92 and 1968 are available from the NCERT website:

GM Crops: Ban or Boon? A talk by G. Padmanaban

Norman Borlaug, the architect of the Green Revolution, won the Nobel peace prize in 1970 for creating a new strain of wheat which grew with shorter stalks and would therefore not topple over. This advancement is estimated to have saved a billion lives by making the planet food-secure. Borlaug did his work the old-fashioned way–by grafting and selection. The next generation of life-saving advancements in agriculture may well be made in the laboratory.

The use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in agriculture is a hotly debated issue between regulatory agencies, scientists, and environmental activist organisations like Greenpeace. The broad scientific consensus on the safety of GM food has failed to change the minds of anti-GMO activists. Anti-GMO activists point to other issues:  Should multinational corporations control the means of production of food in our country? Do farmers have a right to be able to plant the seeds they harvest?

Dhwani is pleased to host a talk by Prof. G. Padmanaban, Emeritus Professor of Biochemistry and former Director of IISc, on Wednesday the 17th of August 2016, at 5:30pm at Kanada auditorium. Padmanaban is perhaps most famous for work showing that curcumin, a chemical found in turmeric, has anti-malarial properties. He is also well known for his ability to communicate science, and for being a trenchant critic of pseudoscience, and is ideally suited to talk about this subject. A note from the speaker follows.

GM Crops: Ban or Boon?

G. Padmanaban, Dept. of Biochemistry, IISc

Growth in agriculture in India is not keeping pace with population growth. India has to address the issues of food and nutrition security. Although India ranks high in terms of production of cereals, pulses, oil seeds and horticultural crops due to use of large amount of land, it has low ranking in terms of productivity. Therefore, technology is needed to improve productivity, which would include soil and water management. It is equally important to look at technologies governing the plant genetics in terms of productivity. Plant breeding technologies have been used over the ages to improve crop yields. The advent of genome-based technologies have revolutionalised plant breeding. Marker-Assisted-Breeding (MAB/non-GM) uses appropriate DNA markers to breed specific plant characteristics and to accelerate the whole process and transgenics (Genetically Modified or GM) involve the introduction of newer genes into the plant by gene-cloning methods to obtain desired characteristics. The former involves transfer of large chunks of DNA between compatible parents, while the latter can be done with just one or a few genes without any species/sex barrier. MAB requires appropriate mapping populations to start with, since it involves crossing between two contrasting parents. Drought-resistant maize has been generated using MAB technology. Successful examples of GM technology are in terms of pest resistance and selective elimination of weeds. The major crops globally commercialized are GM Corn, Soybean and Cotton. GM rice is a tantalizing possibility on the horizon.

Research and smaller applications are available with a large number of crops. Plants resistant to biotic and abiotic stresses as well as with improved nutritive quality have been generated. India has benefited substantially with the introduction of Bt Cotton, which contains a gene(s) from Bacillus thuringensis to protect against Boll worm infection. There is an embargo on the commericialization of Bt Brinjal developed in India. 29 countries have been growing GM crops. The technology is also under going changes rapidly with the introduction of specific gene modification strategies without involving trangenes. In India we still do not have a regulatory frame work to handle such technologies, although whole sale gene modifications using gamma-radiation have been in use as a standard practice!

There are also concerns with the introduction of GM crops in terms of health safety, biodiversity and resistance development by the pest. There is a strong scientific base to address all these concerns. However, there is a divided opinion among the public on the introduction of GM crops. This speaker believes that more often public are misled by wrong and misinterpreted data and GM technology has tremendous scope to contribute to food and nutrition security in the Developing countries. At the same time, it is not a magic bullet to solve all problems facing Indian agriculture. For example, we do not have an appropriate monitoring/counseling extension service to help the farmer in the use of GM crops for cultivation and this has already resulted in a trend for resistance development in Bt cotton. An appropriate combination of MAB, GM and crop rotation technologies with regulatory approvals on a case to case basis would help Indian agriculture substantially.

(Un)Sustainable Food Consumption Dynamics in South/Southeast Asia: Changing patterns, practices and policies among “new consumers” in India and the Philippines

The decades after the market liberalisation of the 1990s have seen a significant change in India’s middle class, especially in our cities. Younger people than ever before are now richer earlier in life than ever before. With higher incomes and changing demographics, patterns of food consumption and waste have also changed in urban India. How do these changes affect people’s lives? What kind of environmental impact do they have?
Megha Shenoy, an adjunct fellow at the Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE), works on answering these questions. She is currently working on a project in collaboration with Sichuan University, China, to examine changes in policies and practice related to waste management in Bangalore – specifically focussing on residential bulk generators. She was part of a team that studied food consumption patterns in Bangalore and Metro Manila for a research project titled ‘(Un) Sustainable Food Consumption Dynamics in South/Southeast Asia: Changing patterns, practices and policies among “new consumers” in India and the Philippines’. On Thursday, 21st July 2016, at 5:30 pm at Kanada Auditorium, Dr. Shenoy will screen six short films based on findings from the research project, followed by a discussion. A short abstract from the speaker follows.

A series of six short films based on findings from the research project ‘(Un) Sustainable Food Consumption Dynamics in South/Southeast Asia: Changing patterns, practices and policies among “new consumers” in India and the Philippines’.

These films highlight findings from surveys on middle-class populations in Bangalore and Metro Manila. From Bangalore the three short films show – (i) how food stock is managed at home, (ii) the growing trend of eating out, and (iii) food waste management efforts in the city. In Metro Manila they highlight (i) growth of organic food consumption, (ii) defining Filipino cuisine and (iii) the growing trend in eating out.

These films made by Helena Ziherl and Reto Steffen from the Swiss Network for International Studies (SNIS) are available on Research on which these films are based on, was coordinated by Suren Erkman (Coordinator), Marlyne Sahakian (Co-coordinator) and Shalini Randeria (Co-coordinator). This project was conducted by a large team (arranged alphabetically based on first names): Abby Favis, Christine Camata, Christine Lutringer, Czarina Saloma, Gopal Karanth, Laura Burger Chakraborty, Loïc Leray, Lorraine Mangaser, Malavika Belavangala, Megha Shenoy, Sunayana Ganguly, Tiphaine Leuzinger, Uma Rani.