Oct 30, 2011

Last blog entry

Incredible, I am already one week back in Germany, Saken is back in Washington and Lisa is still travelling in India.

With end of October our IBM volunteering for Siruthuli ended. We hope that some of our ideas will help Siruthuli to tackle the water hyacinth and the sewage water. We definitely had a good experience and learned a lot, not only about water hyacinth but also about India, India culture and daily life. Definitely, a lot of good memories to keep!!

Before we took off we made some final pictures:

Siruthuli Staff and the IBM CSC Siruthuli team (Lisa, Cordula and Saken)

IBM Corporate Service Corps (CSC) India 12 team and Déjà -Vu hotel staff

Oct 21, 2011

Talked to school kids

During our stay we always wanted to visit a school. On our last day we had the opportunity to talk to 50 school kids. We reported about our field trips around Valankulam and what pollution source discovered. We motivated them to join world clean up day and to help to clean up the solid waste around Valankulam tank. First they were shy but then we got some really tricky questions: what Software IBM builds, what they could do for the slums, if osmosis technology can be used for treating sewayge water.

Was really fun and another good insight in India daily life.

Oct 20, 2011

Final presentation

For our final presentation, Siruthuli were spreading the news and invited their trustees, APEXmembers and volunteers. When we started our presentation there were about 25 people in the audience. When the light was switched on at the end there were about 40 people.

We talked about the as is situation which we discovered during our field trips.

We needed to disillusion a bit since there is no one time solution for the water hyacinth. The only option left is to combine different control strategies and to adjust them to the local situation and facilities in Coimbatore.

One hour before our final presentation we met Prof Dr. Kalyanasundaram, from the Institute for Entomology, Tamil Nadu Agriculture, Coimbatore. And to our surprise his institute has the skills and facilities to rear the critical amount of weevils needed for biological control of water hyacinth. What a good news and even for a reasonable price.

We recommended not to do anything about the water hyacinth at Valakulam tank for now. With the current volume of daily sewage inlet the growth rate of water hyacinth is too excessive and the harvesting effort would be a waste of money and real a Sisyphus operation. Actually at the moment water hyacinths have a positive effect on the water quality of Valankulam tank since the plant has the ability to treat sewage water.

We recommended starting water hyacinth control at a medium or low invested tank, to prevent the tank to become as bad as Valankulam and to test the new control strategy. We recommended a combination of biological and manual control were we also highlighted options to make harvesting smarter and less cost intensive. As usage option we recommended to make briquettes out of the water hyacinth. These can be used by dwellers for cooking and replace the firewood. Getting firewood gets more and more hard the faster the city grows.

In parallel a thorough water analysis needs to be carried out. Only on basis of water analysis results a sound decision can be made how the sewage water of Valankulam should be treated. For this experts and funds will be needed. We recommended Siruthuli to build knowledge partnerships and to start applying for funds. We did an in depth research of possible partners and were already able to establish first contacts. Now unfortunately our time is over. It is time for us to say good bye and start packing. We hope that Siruthuli will be successful, so that we can come back soon and take a swim in Valankulam tank.

From the office back to the hotel

Drivers in India always blow their horn. That is the soundscape of India. It is their way to communicate, to inform each other: “I am driving behind you I will passing you now, keep the line, don’t shift to the right or left”

To our very surprise there is one situation where nobody blows the horn: Driving against traffic.

We couldn’t believe what was going on when we drove the first time back from the office to our hotel. Driving from the office lane we got onto the main road in the wrong direction. After a while we got prepared but every time it was a surprise again. Driving against traffic is just a common practice here to take a shortcut. It seems to bother nobody in India just us foreigners.

Oct 18, 2011

Honor to talk Prof. Dr. Kalam

All three of us were really impressed how Siruthuli celebrated the 80th birthday of Dr Kalam.

The program was a good combination of celebrating and making environmental statements.

The Ex-president of India, Dr. Abdul Kalam, was welcomed by dancing girls and guided to a spot where he planted the 80.000th tree in Coimbatore area. Simultaneously to his cut with the spate further 80 trees were planted, - the foundation of the Dr. Kalam forest as stated on the plaque which were uncovered. Unbelievable between interviews with journalists, talks to school kids and green guardians we had the honour to talk to him.

He was seated on a swing a symbol for happiness in India. During gift giving a famous singer presented a song specially composed for him accompanied by traditional dances.

At the end Dr. Abdul Kalam made a very encouraging speech to all the school children reminding them about their responsibility for a better life and better environment for them and their community, for India and the world.

During the birthday lunch the three of us got surrounded by a class of school boys, which became so exited, and made us feel like movie stars. Everybody wanted a picture with us. We gave autographs and signed invitation letters, school books and in case of paper shortage real hands.

Oct 14, 2011

Becoming real Indian

Tomorrow Sirtuthuli has the honour to celebrate the 80th birthday of Dr. Abdul Kalam, the former president of India. The celebration will take place at the country side at Nandangarai Check Dam, which Siruthuli restored 2008. 3000 school kids and around 1000 invited guests are expected. During the celebration Dr. will plant the 80.000 tree for Coimbatore area. According to Siruthuli slogan “Clean Kovai Green Kovai” the dress code is of course green.

The TV and the News will be there. Lisa and I

went to the tailor to get dressed up for such an honourable event. What you think? We are really looking Indian now!

Oct 13, 2011

Sewage treatment - Harvesting

Unfortunately there is no option to get rid of water hyacinth, the only option left is to control their growth: The cleaner the water the more the growth of water hyacinths slows down. So it would be a big achievement if no sewage water gets into the tank.

Currently the government of Coimbatore is running a project to convert the open drainage system into underground systems and to direct them to the new sewage treatment plant. The announced target date is March 2012.

However Siruthuli and the 25 NGOs are having doubts if the target date will be achieved or even worse that the project will never be completed due to corruption. Their idea is to build a decentralized sewage treatment plant which collects and treats the sewage streams floating into Valankulam tank. The following steps are needed:

  • Detailed water analysis needs to be carried out over time
  • Based on the water analysis results a suitable treatment technology needs to be selected
  • A proposal with cost calculation needs to be handed in to the government
  • Grants and sponsors need to be identified
  • A company who builds the plant needs to be selected
  • The maintenance of the treatment plant needs to be established
  • Siruthuli and the other 25 NGOs are at the beginning of this process.

However the water hyacinth problem exists NOW. Actions are needed NOW so that the situation is not getting.

The only option remaining at the moment is: Harvesting. Harvesting of water hyacinth is time consuming and cost intensive.


What needs to be done:

  1. Thick mats need to be separated into pieces
  2. Mat pieces needs to dragged or pushed close to the banks
  3. Water hyacinth need to be pulled out of water either manually or with help of a machine
  4. Water hyacinth need to be removed from the banks to avoid new spread.

Typical harvesting and transportation problems:

Hyacinth tends to float away, when manually harvested from banks. Due to their high percentage of water (95%) they are heavy to lift and are of high volume.

Problem through sewage contamination: due the high sewage water concentration in Valankulam tank the water is dangerous to health. Physical contact with the water needs to be avoided

Any idea, any creative thinking?