Poomaale received a whopping 186 inches of rainfall this monsoon. Coupled with the 13 inches of rain received in March, we are mostly landing in the excess rainfall zone (~200 inches of rain with a month of monsoon to go). The good news is that despite all this rain, the Kembuva Poley runs crystal clear and even more exciting things are shaping up here.
To begin with, the veggie beds now have beans, bottle gourd, radish, coriander, red amaranthus, tomato, ridge gourd and sweet corn among the species that are at the germination stage. Despite the heavy monsoons and the presence of wildlife, we have successfully created a nursery which hosts a multitude of plants from arabica coffee to silk cotton and from papaya to avocado. We can’t wait for October when we start planting these little guys to create a forest friendly estate where coffee is just one of the layers.
With the Blyton Bungalow finally completed, our hospitality team is working diligently towards creating a warm and memorable experience for guests. The team has picked up the ropes really well with Ravi anna (our chef) now making vegan meals on request.
Everyone in my daughter’s class has been falling prey to flu. Cold, cough, runny noses run amok despite every precaution. On such occasions, we whip up a flavourful rasam that could warm the soul any day. The best part, is that the ingredients are very simple and you will almost always have them handy
If you do manage to source such produce, here’s a recipe that will do it complete justice. A finger – licking – good pickle recipe that comes straight from a grand old lady of our family, lovingly curated by my Mother.
Ingredients for tempering (tadka)
Ingredients for rasam
This superbly simple rasam can turn your day around with a burst of flavour any day, but even more so on a cloudy gloomy day you are down and out. We have enjoyed this delicacy / home remedy during many flu seasons along with hot rice and some ghee. It’s light on the stomach and wonderful to the throat.
The Bhopal seed community draws to a close and we had a kick off meet on the 4th of September where the founders addressed the newly created community and thanked them for their show of faith. We are a 20+ member strong community now.
We will now move towards finalising the options for the land from among a shortlist of three places, all of which are within 1 hour of Bhopal Airport and are extremely scenic. The choice would now depend on an extensive due diligence exercise.
With a variety of different vegetables, our very first Bewild Veggie Box is ready and fully subscribed! Harvested in the morning and delivered before the sun sets to your doorstep, this is just the beginning to going beyond organic. We hope that this box not only provides families with vegetables to cook, but along with it an integrated community sharing their recipes and experiences with every changing season and its raw foods palette.
The water harvesting is working beautifully at the Hyderabad Collective with the swales and check dams harvesting water and giving rise to amazing micro climates in the rocky landscape. It is always amazing to see our imagination turn to reality and planting water is easily one of the most gratifying experiences of the collective process.
The land acquisition for patching up the 67 acres acquired into a single contiguous unit is being hampered continuously by heavy monsoon in the area. While that continues, as we had mentioned in the quarterly meet, we are also lining up some other options.
All of our options are beautiful landscapes that transform through the season. We are evaluating two landscapes that are roughly 100 acres and will be aiming to close these options by the end of September.
82% of Oman is desert and only 1.5% of the total land is under agriculture. It’s truly remarkable that a country which receives an average of only 100mm rain per year, still manages to have 5% of its population eking out a living through agriculture.
When it rains in Oman, people consider it as a lucky day. They thank god for this gift of nature, so many of us have taken for granted. Since, for the Omanis, water is akin to liquid gold, very innovative methods have been used for centuries to trap this water.
One of the most important ones is Falaj, which is a channel that is dug in the earth, through which water runs. Mountain water is collected and flows through the Falaj forming an oasis at the bottom. There is no machinery used and is entirely done with the help of gravity. It is an ancient irrigation system that originated in Oman from 500 AD. Aflaj is the plural of falaj, and is an Arabic word that means “split into parts”.
The falaj irrigation system has long supported a 3-tiered crop approach (i.e., three crops raised at different heights).
Tier-1 (on top) : Dates ; Tier-2 (middle) : Lime, bananas; Tier-3 (lower level) : Alfalfa & vegetables.
Shafts are built at 20-metre distances along the tunnel. They also have a ring of burnt clay that removes debris and helps in ventilation. The ring protects the channel from destruction in case the tunnel collapses and also prevents the falaj from flooding.
There are more than 11,000 alfaj in Oman and some of these are listed under the World Heritage sites.
Interestingly, most villages have a designated person who acts as the ‘Water Monitor’. It’s his job to get into the canal, (which is only as broad as a man’s shoulder & a metre in height) and to see that there are no blockages and that the canal is kept clean.
In the 8 years that I spent in Oman, I travelled the length and breadth of it many times. It’s around 1,100km in length with only the northern & southern tips inhabited. The remaining parts are desert. It is in these portions that you will find the maze of Aflaj. They never cease to astound you. My name for these magical creations is : “The giver of life”.
After the hottest summer in 108 years, we witnessed the wettest monsoon in a decade. Irony or Climate Change? In coming times our resilience is going to be tested. We operate across a wide spectrum of landscapes. In August, our Hyderabad collective received 7 inches of rain and Poomaale 178. While Bhopal and Bangalore were brought to a grinding halt, Poomaale operated smoothly despite 4 times the rain. So why was that?
Plains are very different from hills. In the hills, water gushes down faster into gorges and takes on depth rather than breadth. Secondly, water moves out, potentially eroding topsoil, causing landslides. In the plains, we witness floods and as streams ramble on towards their next stop; it becomes important to capture water.
Apart from a few pockets like Manali, Shimla, Madikeri etc, hill landscapes haven’t altered much from their original form. However, in the plains, especially cities, have witnessed significant changes. Traditionally, old maps and revenue records acknowledged rivers breaking their banks or lakes filling to the brim with terms like Full Tank Level, or Flood Prone Width. With real estate speculation and greed mounting, it became easy to overlook these by redefining nomenclature and justifying their blocking and closure. Thus ignoring that once in a decade rainfall, where the lake doesn’t just depend on inflows from an upstream lake, but the water falling in its own catchment.
This is not some doomsday scenario but a design that is unravelling at an alarming rate. Sensible planning, factoring in aberrations in climate is possible and in most cases, does not mean a trade-off. You can read about how we approached the landscape for housing clusters through this lens at our Poomaale Estate in Coorg here.
Since 1973, over 2003 hectares covered by lakes and nullahs in Bangalore, including Domlur and Koramangla lakes have been covered and reduced to around 917 hectares by 2007 and even further today.
The above image illustrates the dwindling of lakes over time.
On a day with 5” of rainfall, these 1000 hectares alone transforms to 1.3B litres of water with no place to stand. This number grows exponentially when you consider the catchment areas. But nature does not recognise the rules of man. It will find a place which could be the parking lots and drawing rooms of our neighbourhoods.
We are often asked why it take 4 years to build a collective and if it can be done in 2? We could, but do we want to approach landscapes without understanding how they behave and adapt to changing conditions? Do we want to identify homes solely based on the best view (often the excuse for lake view homes and river view chalets)? And most importantly, do we want to give up our resilience for instant gratification? We have answered these for ourselves and are crystal clear on the path we take and we hope to have inspired folks to put on their thinking hats and introspect.
The economic budget and pricing of goods depends on the cost of energy. With cheap energy being produced by fossil fuels, larger cities have come up which sustain on resources being shipped to city dwellers.
Our food and water sources are no different. Till a few years back, while our food came from outside the city, the government was able to provide water from nearby rivers or lakes. But, as the population density has been growing and water levels fluctuating in water bodies because of global warming, the water supplies to our housing societies have become erratic.
To overcome this shortage, societies have restored to bringing water tankers to fulfil their needs. The result is that our key resource for life, food and water comes to us in a truck, far away from source of origin. Coupled with increasing energy costs, we can see water costs jumping by more than 400% in many places. Currently, we can pay and buy water, but going forward the commodity resource grab will only intensify.
Beforest as a farming lifestyle company has laid a strong stress on water management from the very beginning. As a policy, we do not like to burden the land with high member density per acreage. We back that by creating lakes and natural water bodies to store water for our member needs. We also create water structures which help in increasing the ground water table. Finally, our green cover reduces the loss of water to erosions and evaporation. With this multi-pronged approach our attempt is to make our collective water abundant and tackle the ever growing scarcity of water.
I had seen about 10 Mumbai monsoons before literally running away and relocated to Bangalore. A couple of days ago, a dear friend who had also moved from Mumbai called me asking if it was safe to send her kids to school. I said, “of course, Bangalore doesn’t reel under pressure during monsoons like Mumbai. It is safe”
Shortly after that, started the stream of videos and pictures from across Bangalore, covered in muddy waters, people even rowing boats to save their few belongings. This monsoon has been a rude shock to my pride towards Namme Bengaluru.
The irony is that Bangalore is headed towards water shortage by 2030 on one hand and on the other, we seem to have no idea how to manage the surplus we seem to have received! So theoretically, a few years down the line, we may still be flooded, but have no water to drink!
Some light reading brings forward the fact that a lot of illegal construction, corrupt approvals and ever increasing demand for urban development are factors that have led to complete breakdown of our water management system. On the face of it, the Government is insisting on every building having a robust water harvesting system, but at the same time, approving construction where NGT has clearly raised flags.
Now, the shock aside, it is easy to complain. But the fact is, Bangalore is not the only city headed this way. We may complain, but we are all part of the problem. Why not try and be part of the solution?
What can we do?
Most importantly – big or small – make a start. Let’s vow not to step into another monsoon feeling helpless