Bengaluru: Students of the Inventure Academy have scaled up their intervention to address the problems dogging Bengalureans on the water front, by setting out understand the quality of water they consume.
Among the earliest to zero in on the root cause of the deterioration of Varthur Lake, the second biggest waterbody of Bengaluru, two years ago during random checks of samples from 10 waterbodies of the city, the 14-member team of Class 11 and 12 students will soon begin testing samples from water consumed in households across the city.
Bengalureans can send their water samples to the school through its students and school buses and get the test findings.
"Students have gathered comprehensive data on lakes by checking samples on their own and discussing it with prominent scientists. Now, to make people aware of the need to save lakes, it's important to make them realize the quality of water they use," said Meenakshi, a teacher spearheading the Our Lakes Our Voice project.
Students are busy giving final touches to their upgraded lab under the project that is part of Inventure Changemaker Programme started in 2015. "We have covered Bellandur, Varthur, Saul Kere, Madiwala, Agara and Devarabisanahalli lakes, among others. Samples have been tested through an app Satkaro, designed by our team mate Sahiti Pingali. Wherever she goes, she tests samples from waterbodies and we compile it here," said Ekta Bhavanasi, a team member.
With Satkaro, students have not only compared lakes in Bengaluru, but also those in Canada and other countries. "As Sahithi travels for this project across the world, she checks the water through the app. We have data about lakes from Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, and a few countries," added Ekta.
The app has identified phosphate as the biggest threat to the city's lakes and its input into the lake has to be reduced drastically. The app has also categorized Bellandur, Devarabisanahalli , Iblur, Madiwala and Varthur among to E class waterbodies, whose water is not fit for drinking, even after it's treated in accordance with state pollution control board standards. "Water beyond B class category needs to be treated," said the students.
Students are also conducting bimonthly testing of water samples from the 10 lakes, and have gathered data for five months. The app allows anyone to adopt a lake near them and easily monitor it.
"As older persons, we have seen the lakes of Bengaluru changing from pure waterbodies to stagnant and frothing ones. The idea of engaging students with lakes is to help them know about waterbodies, their impact on people and how it can be improved," Nooraine Fazal, managing trustee and co-founder, Inventure Academy, said.
Genesis of Our Lakes Our Voice
In 2015, Inventure Academy held a two-day conference for students to gain awareness about lake issues. It was in collaboration with the American India Foundation Youth Ambassador Program, KK English School, Meghshala, Namma Bengaluru Foundation, Srishti School of Art, Technology and Design and Whitefield Rising. Students first went on a trip to Varthur Lake and interacted with people living, earning and farming in its vicinity. Students continued to engage with the lake and crowdsourced information from people under the Our Lakes Our Voice project.
How Sahithi's app works
The app works with electronic sensors and chemical test strips to let the user collect several physical and chemical parameters of a water sample. The sensors sync with the app by Bluetooth.
The chemical test strips work with an automatic phone camera-based colour recognition and mapping software built by Sahithi Pingali. After taking the water sample from a lake onto a strip, the strip is put in a dark box. Once the camera is aimed at it, the app maps the contaminant and gives concentration value and shows the quality of the water.
The Lincoln Laboratory of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which has the right to name minor planets, decided to name a planet after Sahithi for this work.