Can we start by sharing a little bit about your rainwater harvesting system and how it benefits farmers?
Water is a precious commodity, which is getting eroded by and by. The water table, today, is lowering drastically. For example, if you compare Bangalore with what it was 30 years back; the water table was at 30-35 ft has drastically lowered and even at that level you just get 1 inch of water due to:
- Urbanization and excessive use of concrete, we have water depletion
- Disorganized and extremely thrifty water usage
There is a drastic increase in the usage of water due to which most areas are becoming grey areas. There is no water in those areas and they are dependent on tractor water. Forget about agriculture, there isn’t enough water to drink as well.
If you take the agricultural field in Bangalore, it needs 1000mm of rainfall. That means in just 1 acre of land, we need 42 lakh liters of water. Hardly 10-15 percent of this water gets percolated. There are two reasons for this:
- The erratic climate change: Years ago, in our childhood, Bangalore was blessed with drizzles of rainfall from June to August. Now, we get around 15 inches of rainfall in one hour. So the water cannot percolate.
- The concrete structures in every inch of land also results in water not being able to percolate beneath the surface.
So, day by day water table is not being replenished and is being depleted. Owing to this, the cost of the borewell drilling goes very high. This is another reason why farmers suicide.
One borewell drill will cause them more Rs. 2.5-3 lakh and pumping will cost them another 3 lakh. Hence, their investment for water will come up to around 5 lakh. Even with this investment, there is no guarantee that anyone will get water. This is one of the death trap reasons for farmers.
So, our proposal is to preserve rainwater instead of being dependent on external sources. There are portions under the land which have been water drained and dried up. Those portions can now be used to refill and store water. This will enhance the ground water level. Rain water is the purest form of water so it will also increase the quality of water. When the quality of water is good, even the agricultural produce will also be good in quality. The issue is we do not consider rain as a resource and so the rain water is simply wasted. The farmers are not trained how to utilize rainwater.
There are two to three methods how to utilize rainwater:
- Utilize the old wells, get them cleaned and get rain water stored in them. This water can be diverted from these wells to the borewells.
- Convert a small portion of your land into a pond, store rainwater in there and use the water in non-rainfall periods.
These are very cost-effective methods. The money you spend on these methods can be recovered in about 2 years and then you can be stress free about your water reserve. This solution solves your water problem for the next 20-25 years.
In 1000 sq. ft of land also you can store 1 lakh liters of water manually, in Bangalore.
I wonder how these things have been overlooked for so long.
That is because for us, water comes from the tap. Who is bothered about the source of it all?
Secondly, water is considered to be the government’s problem. “Why should each of us be breaking our heads over it? I will cry and government is responsible for providing water.” That is the general attitude. There isn’t any kind of individual responsibility associated with it.
To understand the issue, one should know the source of Bangalore’s water supply. Water is being supplied from KRS. For this, 1.31 crores is spent every day for electricity alone. If we save 100 days’ rain water in Bangalore, there will be no need for us to fight Tamil Nadu over water.
Furthermore, it will prevent floods, and hence loss of property, etc. Imagine the number of streets we have in Bangalore. If each of them were facilitated to store water, we wouldn’t have any water crisis.
Today, all that water just goes waste into the lower lying areas, causes floods, resulting in damaged roads. If you, for instance, do rain water harvesting in your apartment, you will save water. This means you will save on your water bill. You will also be less demanding for water being pumped from KRS. This will ensure surplus reserve water.
This is an absolute win-win situation!
What is your background?
Traditionally, I am coffee planter from Chikmagalur. We had to depend on one bore well after another and finally we ended up with 14 borewells in a plot of 4 acres. Then we discussed this issue and I told my partner that I have heard about something called rain water harvesting, with which you can save water and recharge your borewell.
After studying about it, we put it into practice and realized water being replenished into our borewell. This got publicity by word of mouth and there were articles written about our initiative and achievement.
Farmers in distress started contacting us and we got so busy helping everyone with rainwater harvesting. That is when we decided to take this out as a project to prophesize this because by God’s grace we were blessed with the knowledge that can lead our country to survive water scarcity.
Today, we have a research station set up on 6 acres of land, wherein any student from any part of country can do research on water – save water, filter water, etc. Research can get very costly but is extremely essential.
We sponsor the research at this station. We are investing about Rs. 7 Cr for a huge lab for this purpose.
What we are trying to do is research on cost-effective filtering of sewage water, to make it purposeful for agricultural purposes.
We get a huge commodity of water through sewage which can be filtered and reused. We need to develop the technology for this. In our country where it is difficult to make two ends meet, such technology should be sought and invested in.
When I met Abdul Kalam Sir, that was what he told me. Research is an expensive affair. Out of the total research we do, only 10% will give you a successful result. We have the best children in the world but unfortunately we are poor. He said if we can lend a hand in that space it would be great. That is where I got my inspiration from.
It is true, in India we lack research and if we do that, we armed with beating anybody at anything hands down. We have very high caliber.
Now, what services can a farmer ask of your company?
We will provide farmers with the technology with which they can recharge their borewells and it will help save water in such a way that every drop of water falling on their land will be retained in their land itself for further use.
I will give them the cheapest means to create a pond for storing water and it can be reused. Another option we have is a technology by which they can recharge their borewell.
Will you help them build the pond or will you only give the guidelines?
We will help build the pond. The water gets collected in this pond. If the water overflows, it gets channelized to the borewell. Or, if the farmer already has an open well, we will clean it up for them and we will use that space for water storage. We will also advise having pits in the higher altitude of their farmland. So that when pits are recharged, the wells are recharged automatically.
We first study the topography of the land and tell them where they should have pits, how many pits they need, where they should have the ponds, how the borewells can be recharged, etc.
They will need to make these pits themselves. We charge them Rs. 8000/- for the services and the material we provide. We transfer all the knowledge they need to have like, information about when the pits have to open and when it needs to be closed, etc.
What happens is when water is flowing over your land, it carries with it the fertile soil as well. So, we ask them to create bunds to slow down the speed with which the water flows so that it is stopped on your farm itself. This way, even in heavy rainfall, water will end up percolating into your land. That way you build your water reserve and save your top soil as well.
You are so knowledgeable in this space. Did you take any kind of technical training?
I have 18 years of dedication in this space. I grasped these concepts with hands on experience.
How would you compare yourself with what the agricultural university has to offer? They also talk about rain water harvesting.
The difference is they are theoretical and I have practical knowledge. To give you an example, in Bangalore it was once said, to make pits and save water.
The authorities copied the concept, which was done in Chennai. But what they missed is Chennai’s topography and soil type doesn’t match with that of Bangalore’s – it is different. If you copy paste that, you will not see the same result because it doesn’t work that way.
To see a difference in Bangalore you should have a million open wells. That way shortage of water and flooding will be taken care of. There are different types of water – subsurface water, deep water and aqua-fed water. If you look around, every well is abandoned. You wells are one of the sources that can give you water for 8 months a year.
Is this a business for you? The Rs 8000 you charge. Is it per acre?
My business doesn’t run on farmers at all. It runs on commercial projects from corporates.
For farmers, I do it on a nominal cost basis. Farmers are in so much distress I cannot tax them with too much money. So we transfer the technology and knowledge and ask them to do the job.
For corporates we do it as a turnkey project. There we make our money. The work we do for farmers gets converted into karma and gives us profits through corporates.
So what are the resistances , if any, that you face?
The whole farmer community wants the government to pay for everything. They seldom have the open mind to just do this. This is no rocket science technology. It is very simple. I have not invented anything. I just took what was done during the Harappa civilization and improvised it to meet today’s needs – that’s all.
The reason for the research centre was to show the farmers how it works.
Have you spoken to the relevant government authorities about this?
Trust me, if I had a Rs 20 Cr project with me, they would have considered it. When I go and say I am educating farmers, the attitude is – ok do it.
Along with my team, I keep proposing that Bangalore should have a million wells. Each house should have one well, each park should have 3-4 wells. I have even suggested that any person willing to build a well be given a Rs. 60,000/- subsidy or appoint someone to execute the project. The whole water problem will be solved.
Today, if we get one rainfall and we cannot reach our destination for 5 hours due to floods and traffic. This water can be used as a resource. Instead of working on disaster management, they can work on channelization of water. We are not seeking business.
But what is the point? Nobody listens.
Is your presence in Karnataka alone, or do you have presence in other states as well?
We do business all over the country. We are exporting our technology to 21 countries across the globe.
How long have you been in the business?
We have been doing this for the last 19 years. Our company got registered in 2002 but we started in 1999.
Mr. Vijayraj Shishodya, Director
Farmland Rainwater Harvesting System
SGS Complex, K.M.Road, Chikmagalur
PIN-577101, Karnataka India
Phone: 08262-231390 Fax: 08262-231393