Michael Baptist- Rain water harvesting innovator par execellence

By BD Narayankar

Chikkamagaluru, March 31 (UNI) The situation in Chikkamagluru, regarding severe droughts impacting areca nut, coffee, and spice plantations is indeed alarming. Insufficient rainfall has been a significant factor exacerbating this crisis, leading to a heavy reliance on water tankers and groundwater sources by residents and farmers.

Over-extraction of groundwater aggravates the situation, as it depletes this vital resource, making the region more susceptible to prolonged droughts and water scarcity issues.

Michael Sadanand Baptist, an engineering diploma graduate, faced a situation similar to many others on his ancestral agricultural land. With a sizable 6-acre plot near the city, his family relied heavily on their coffee plantations for their livelihood.

The severe drought in 2001 threatened their crops and financial stability. In such dire circumstances, drilling bore wells seemed like the only viable option to ensure water supply for irrigation.

“Bore wells can provide immediate relief by tapping into groundwater reserves, allowing farmers to continue farming during dry spells. However, over time, excessive groundwater extraction can lead to depletion of aquifers, exacerbating water scarcity issues in the region. This can have long-term consequences not only for my family but also for the community and the environment. Can you believe it? I made the mistake of digging 28 bore wells in my farmland,” he said.

Despite facing repeated setbacks with borewell drilling, his father John V Baptist’s wisdom and foresight led him to explore alternative solutions like rainwater harvesting.

By embracing rainwater harvesting, Michael not only shifted away from unsustainable groundwater extraction practices but also took proactive steps toward replenishing the local aquifers. His innovative approach to rainwater harvesting, including the development of a self-cleaning, dual-intensity water filter and V-wire injection technology, showcases his commitment to finding sustainable solutions to water scarcity challenges.

“These innovations have the potential to significantly enhance the efficiency of rainwater harvesting and groundwater recharge, thereby contributing to long-term water security for the community and beyond,” he said.

Recognizing the limitations of conventional filtration systems, Michael embarked on a collaborative effort with his friends Vijayraj Sisodaya and Sunil Gilbert to develop more efficient rainwater harvesting techniques under the banner of Farmland Rainwater Harvesting Systems (FLRWHS).

Their innovative approach resulted in the creation of two devices: the Rainy filter for domestic use and the V-Wire recharging system for agricultural purposes. These devices are designed to address the shortcomings of traditional filtration systems by leveraging principles of cohesion and centrifugal force to effectively filter rainwater and facilitate groundwater recharge.

“By prioritizing indigenous technology and sustainable practices, we have not only overcome the challenges we faced but also contributed to the development of more efficient and cost-effective rainwater harvesting solutions for both domestic and agricultural applications,” he said.

The Rainy filter is designed to effectively separate dirt and debris from rainwater collected from rooftops. The system utilizes angular motion along the periphery of the upper part, which helps in the segregation process, Michael explained.

The cohesive force created by water movement aids in separating dirt from clean water, while the centrifugal force generated during high-intensity rainfall flushes out silt and debris through an outlet drain, ensuring that only clean water is directed into storage tanks or recharge pits, he said.

“This innovative design allows for efficient filtration of rainwater with minimal maintenance requirements,” he said.

On the other hand, the V-wire injection technology is specifically tailored for agricultural use. It consists of a silt trap unit, a recharge pit filled with various filtration materials, and a recharging borewell that penetrates deep into the ground.

Rainwater directed through the silt trap allows sediment to settle before passing through multi-layered filtration media. The filtered water then accumulates in a storage well, creating a water column, Michael said.

The V-wire injection filter unit, placed deep underground, facilitates the percolation of clean water into aquifers and groundwater reserves, ensuring efficient recharge of underground water sources, he said.

Both technologies boast indigenous designs and are capable of operating under various rainfall conditions with minimal maintenance requirements. Michael emphasizes that the systems can function effectively for at least 20 years post-installation, highlighting their long-term sustainability and reliability.

“The impact of these innovations is substantial, with 10,000 Rainy filters percolating approximately 10 million liters of water and 15,000 wells equipped with V-wire injection technology recharging 35 million cubic meters of water,” he said.

The implementation of rainwater harvesting systems at the Infosys campus in Chennai has demonstrated significant success in addressing water scarcity challenges and improving groundwater levels, Michael said.

“By installing 165 injection wells and rooftop rainwater harvesting systems, the campus has effectively augmented its water resources and reduced its dependency on external freshwater sources,” he said.

The positive outcomes of these initiatives are evident, with the two natural ponds on the campus experiencing reduced dry periods and the overall water requirement decreasing by 50 percent, he said.

“This reduction in freshwater demand is primarily attributed to the utilization of recharged rainwater for various campus needs,” Michael added.

Furthermore, the impact extends beyond the campus, as residents in the surrounding areas have reported a significant decrease in their water tanker requirements by up to 70 percent due to the implementation of rainwater harvesting systems, Michael said.

Michael emphasised the importance of replenishing groundwater sources, particularly in the face of rapid depletion rates. He also highlighted the potential of rainwater harvesting as a viable solution for conserving and utilizing precious water resources effectively.

With a considerable portion of surface water currently being wasted due to inadequate capture and management, Michael urged more residents and farmers to adopt rainwater harvesting techniques to harness this valuable resource.

By raising awareness and encouraging widespread adoption of rainwater harvesting practices, communities can make significant strides towards enhancing water security and resilience in the face of climate variability and increasing water stress, he said.

“The success story of the Infosys campus serves as a compelling example of the positive impact of such initiatives and underscores the importance of collective action in addressing water scarcity challenges,” he said.

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