Student Mini Grants for Rural Development: Youth making it count

With the coming of rapid urbanization, most native practices that can keep the villages healthy and running are lost to time. Moreover, rural areas often are not given enough attention with regard to basic amenities and infrastructure. The new age technology and infrastructure are not low-cost and therefore the rural areas are subjected to sloppily-created amenities or none at all.

What does this tell us?

It is time that we went back to our indigenous ways of conserving natural resources and group the villagers themselves into a force that can help themselves and stand on their own feet.

United Way Bengaluru’s student mini grants helps people do exactly that. These UWBe funded project grants are student-driven in nature where a student leads a group that also consists of the panchayat development officer, a representative from the gram panchayat members (president/ vice-president/ members), a school teacher, elders, youth, women.

These mini-grant projects will focus on areas such as restoration of mini-water bodies such as Kalyani, open well or smaller lakes, revival of a mini-forest areas such as Gundu Topu with plantations, protection of heritage trees or already established commons such as Gomala (social forests). They can set up common nutrition garden that benefits the community or work towards conserving any endangered species of plants or crop species. They can also focus on repairing of the basic infrastructure that benefits the larger community like a community hall or just about any other innovative ideas that can help solve the day-to-day problems of the rural population.

Wells to be recharged

A Kalyani being restored

Bamboo and Jackfruit plantation taking place

Recently, one such student mini grant was used to restore native water conservation systems like a mini Kalyani and three open wells. It was also used to desilt an inlet drainage to improve inflow of water to the local lake and finally the plantation of Bamboo and Jackfruit saplings for elephants which is still in progress.



360 Degree Intervention at Nandi Grama

Why Nandi?

One of the last vestiges of our precious Heritage, Nandi boasts of a rich History, ecology, bio-diversity and water bodies, which is currently fast disappearing.  If we wish to save this legacy of Bengaluru, the time to intervene is now.

In such a situation, we need a 360-degree intervention into the village development. United Way of Bengaluru is facilitating this very same process in terms of its own three main projects – Wake the Lake, Integrated Rural Development and Born Learning.

Currently, we have carried out lake rejuvenation, Kalyani restoration, Gunduthopu, roof top rainwater harvesting units, government school refurbishment, organic farming (farm pond), Gokatte creation, plantation, solid waste management and dustbins.

Revived Nandi lake

Some of these are native concepts. Kalyani is a traditional rainwater harvesting structure. Gunduthopus are woodlots that nothing but green spaces capable of small-scale production of forest products including wood fuel and serve as points for bird watching. These used to be integral to rural landscapes in the past and nowadays are found less in numbers.

Kalyani Revival at Nandi Grama

Gundu Thoppu

Meanwhile, the new set of interventions are additional to the earlier list which include pottery house refurbishment, student scholarships for the kids of the village, women livelihood support, sanitation, Anganwadi refurbishment and open well rejuvenation.

Apart from the Nandi village, we had covered one more region from the Chikkaballapur district – Sulthanpet. At the Sulthanpet tank, we carried out levelling of the lake bed, cleaning of the feeder canals, building of the lake bund embankment, plantation of saplings across the lake premise etc.

The lake clean up included freeing the lake from toxic non bio-degradable dump, providing the required civil amenities along with continuous maintenance, building of children’s play area, gazebo, toilets, STP and a walk path creation around the lake. The plantation near the lake was also to increase the bio diversity and making of thematic Gardens, butterfly gardens and moolikavana (planting in the shape of human bodies), etc.

We also took part in forming and strengthening the lake welfare associations. Awareness was given to the villagers on lake conservation & water literacy. We had also conducted certain community festivals related to the natural water bodies in the villages such as Kere Deepotsava, Kere Habba and Kere Sankranti. These were done so that the villagers can be intertwined with the welfare of Nature through celebration and happiness.

All these activities were carried out by corporate volunteers from Wells Fargo, UBL, community members who were facilitated by United Way of Bengaluru.



Bangalore University Sets an Example with a Comprehensive Rainwater Harvesting System

Cribbing about the water crisis is not going to get us anywhere. The rapidly decreasing availability of drinking water demands better management of water by us citizens.

Water is most precious and a limited commodity, with only 2.5% of the total amount on Earth being Fresh Water and at the same time lesser that 1% of the same portable water recharges the underground aquifer, which are depleting by the day due to over exploitation, by mankind.

United Way Bengaluru, a non-governmental organization, took a conscious decision to address this concern in a big way by proposing the “Construction of Proposed Rainwater Harvesting Structures” at Bangalore University, under the Corporate Social Responsibility Banner. They had initiated it a year earlier. UTC Aerospace System sponsored the construction of proposed rainwater harvesting structures such as Boulder Checks, Recharge pits, Water Pool, Check Dam in the bio-park of Jnana Bharati Campus.

The bio-park in itself was constructed as part of this project and in the process, the students have acquired experience in land management for social forestry. Additionally, they also decided to fund the repair work of existing rain water harvesting structures across the natural nala (sewer drain) in the year 2017-2018.

The comprehensive rainwater harvesting system was conceived in a holistic manner to not only save millions of gallons of water each year but also touch upon allied areas of concern such as reduction of soil erosion and extending the green cover.

The above image shows the construction of the water pool which will serve as an excellent rain water container

Nevertheless, the project is broken into certain chief touch points such as using rain water harvesting systems to reduce the use of potable water for non-potable-water needs, increasing availability of naturally pure/soft water (No dissolved harmful metals/chemicals), reducing the runoff to maintain flood control, reducing the frequent drainage congestion and improving the quality of ground water through dilution and making it mineral inclusive.

This image shows the repair work of existing check dam embankment

All these lead to increase in soil moisture content during non-monsoon season also which will be helpful for trees growth, thriving of Flora & Fauna, higher migration rate of birds and better populations of insect species. It would then create a sanctum sanctorum for biodiversity to thrive.

“The integrated watershed at Bangalore University was guided by Dr Yellappa Reddy who is also instrumental in setting up the Bio-Park.  The project was funded by Collins Aerospace Systems who believed in making the Bangalore University campus more bio-diverse. We are excited to see the increase in the green cover that is now a natural habitat for peacocks, butterflies, birds and several other wildlife” says David Kumar, Project Head, Rural Development and Lakes.

It may also be noted that the encouragement and engagement of the University Staff and students, lead to Positive Environmental Performance and further paved way for increased voluntary work to reduce the stress on our dependence on our ecosystem.





Save Nandi Hills – love for the hills!

Save Nandi Hills – love for the hills!

The iconic Nandi Valley, about 60 Km from Bengaluru and 10 km from Chickballapura town is rich in biodiversity and heritage structures. It includes various hills from the Chikkaballapura range, including Nandi, Bramhagiri, Channagiril, Skandagiri and Avulabetta Hills.  There are several inlets and streams that feed into the ponds and kalyani on the top of the hill.

The Nandi Hill range is also the origin for Arkavati, Palaar, Chittavati, Dakshina Pinakini and Uttara Pinakini rivers, and for the water with medicinal properties that flows through them. Deforestation combined with sand and quarry mining and reduced rainfall has altered the picturesque Nandi Hills and threatens to change its landscape forever.

Save Nandi Hills Campaign

Recognizing the urgent need to protect the heritage, biodiversity and natural resources of Nandi Hills, United Way Bengaluru initiated a holistic Save Nandi Campaign. This campaign, initiated in 2016 is being implemented as a partnership between the Govt. of Karnataka, District Administration of Chikkaballapur, the Forest, Tourism and Horticulture Departments, and Nandi Panchayat.

The Save Nandi Hills Campaign has built awareness on conservation of ecology and heritage through public events such as Nandi Hillathon and Nandi Habba. The events were organised with the aim of inspiring the people of Bengaluru to participate and create a sustainable, zero-carbon footprint platform for tourism. Athletes from across the world and locally, attended the events.

The campaign, which is ongoing, will enable the following as a long-term commitment towards conserving Nandi Hills:

  • Enhance bio-diversity through volunteerism for tree plantation drives and seed ball throwing initiatives: The seeds were native and forest-based and suited for planting on Nandi Hills. Fertile red soil, manure, cow dung was used to make the seed balls engaging volunteers from various companies. 2000 saplings of native fruit and flower bearing species have been planted since the campaign began. This has also discouraged the proliferation of Eucalyptus, which is known to be harmful to soil and water. General public was also invited for the events.
  • Gundutopu and kalyani restoration: Sultanpet village which was once a battlefield is in the valley. It holds a unique social forest with tall and old trees and the space served for the community to gather. It is now in bad shape and dumped with garbage and overgrown with weeds. Work is one to revive it. There is also an ancient kalyani in the area which is being revived.
  • Restore water bodies in and Nandi Hills through low-cost, traditional methods: Nandi Hills has unique water body systems in the form of kalyanis. Being the origin for five rivers, there are nine kalyanis that support these. One such kalyani is named Paataala Ganga which receives the rain water and filters the same underground through a sand bed and feeds the next kalyani downstream named Amrut Sarovara. This was obstructed with silt and choking Paataala Ganga. The feeder canals have been cleaned and water is now flowing into the Paataala Ganga, which is now bringing the water level up in the Amrut Sarovara.
  • Restoration of Nandi LakeNandi Lake, which is in the valley of the chain of Nandi Hills, was in a decrepit shape. Uncontrolled removal of soil and dumping of waste and debris had destroyed the lake. UWBe, with the approval and endorsement of the District Administration and Zilla Panchayat took up a scientific study of the lake and devised a contour map and the lake is now getting new shape. The feeder canals blocked for several years are now cleared and will allow rainwater to flow into the lake.
  • Improve community education, health and livelihood for local communities: In order to help local communities gain health, education and livelihood and to help them to avoid migrating, UWBe has initiated several initiatives. Rooftop rainwater harvesting is probably the most important. With the objective to collect rain water for drinking and household purposes, UWBe has supported 350 families with rooftop rainwater harvesting structures. Each unit has the capacity to collect 4000 litres of water which in a given rain year will collect about 12000 ltrs. The families are now water secure. They were otherwise struggling to fetch water from common sources which were getting depleted.

In the future:

  • Watershed for farmlands: Under this project 150 farmers will be supported for farm bunding, bund plantation and organic farming.
  • Waste management: This is aimed to keeping the hill clean and tide by collecting, segregating and recycling the waste
  • Restoration of armory: There is a armoury on the hill top will is being surveyed for renovation to keep it as a heritage spot.
  • Construction of public toilet at Nandi Village: To ensure public health and hygiene, we will be constructing toilets at Nandi Village.

In partnership with: