What’s unique about the initiative?

Bengaluru City meets a large part of its water needs from deep groundwater. As Bengaluru gets paved over, recharge from rainfall reduces, and the city floods. If the residents and institutions of the city dig a million wells, it would not only help send rainwater to replenish the water table and mitigate flooding but also help revive the livelihoods of the Mannu Vaddars, a traditional but marginalized well-digging community.

Most outstanding results

Bengaluru sits on the rocky Deccan Plateau. Without a river or a coastline nearby, the city initially relied on water from its wells and tanks (man-made lakes), many of which are centuries old. As the city grew, water was piped from the River Kaveri, 100 km away. However, the city’s water utility has not been able to keep up with Bengaluru’s rapid growth, and deep groundwater from borewells has been widely used to make up for the shortfall. As the extraction of groundwater has been largely unregulated, it has led to Bengaluru’s deep aquifer levels dropping to alarming levels.

The Million Wells campaign by Biome Environmental Trust is an ecological literacy campaign that encourages citizens to take responsibility for collectively managing and conserving groundwater. It aims to inculcate a sustainable water culture – one where the citizens become stewards of their shared natural resources and where water becomes visible again. This connection has been lost after the advent of borewells, because the link between the source and the resource is hidden from the eye.

Over the past seven years, the communication campaign to build awareness, educate and help citizens change their behaviours around water usage has helped build a sense of collective ownership over the shallow aquifer, and many communities have set their own targets for digging wells. In addition, by focusing on the livelihoods of the marginalised community of well-diggers, the campaign has integrated their traditional knowledge and skills into the process of open well revival, which has restored and improved their livelihoods and self-worth.

The Million Wells campaign in Bengaluru responds rather innovatively to the urgency of India’s water and sanitation crisis with the revival of the shallow aquifer and its focus on traditional knowledge and marginalised communities in urban environments. The central government has taken notice of it, and plans to roll it out in 500 towns and cities across India.

Quote from the evaluation committee

“Inspirational initiative aiming at resolving the global challenge of access to drinkable water in areas suffering extreme levels of urbanisation, that offers a multilayered approach including trainings and activities aimed at enhancing the well forgotten knowledge of sustaining wells. The model also includes work on different levels securing water, and ensuring that sanitation and sewage systems solutions are accessible for the poorest in society. The initiative is clearly a powerful example of cross sectoral collaboration, participation and hands on training, empowering the disadvantaged to use the natural resources available to them.”

– Yanina Jason


To know more, read this in-depth article. Also, you can scroll down to download the application form filled by this initiative to take part in the Transformative Cities award.