Come December, people in Bengaluru will see beautiful murals on the walls in Cubbon Park Metro Station. These murals painted by the students from Srishti Institute of Art, Design and Technology will showcase the ancient and the current water practices of people living in Bengaluru plus ways to stop the groundwater level from going dry. This project called Art in Transit is conceptualised by the college students and supported by Biome Environmental Trust and Bengaluru Sustainability Forum.
Shuba Ramachandran, who works as a water team lead with Biome Environmental Trust tells us some reasons behind choosing to paint the water practices of Bengaluru. "We have been working for several years to promote rainwater harvesting and other sustainable water management practices in the city. As a part of our work, we started a campaign called the Million Wells campaign. More than 50 per cent of the Bengaluru's water requirement is met by the groundwater and not from river Cauvery. Currently, we are not recharging groundwater at the rate we are extracting. It is estimated that we are recharging only three to four per cent of the total rainfall endowment. If you have to increase the recharge of groundwater, it is estimated that we must dig a million wells to put water into the ground. But we have only one lakh water wells across Bengaluru city and we need nine lakhs more to achieve a particular target of groundwater recharge."
The students actually used mud to paint the murals on walls
Shuba and her team wanted to create awareness on this water crisis which has already hit the city. Fortunately, there was a call from the Bengaluru Sustainability Forum for any organisation to submit their ideas on water conservation project. Since Biome was already working on these lines, Shubha decided to submit the project details that they had come up with. "We have already revived seven open water wells in the Cubbon park and got permission to dig 65 recharge wells. At the same time, students from Srishti Institute of Art, Design and Technology were working on a art project called Art in Transit at the Cubbon Park metro station. We thought that the artwork can be used to create awareness about digging the recharge wells and the depletion of groundwater. With this, we got funds from BSF to take this project forward. "Not just painting the murals on walls, but they had to think about the message that they wanted to convey to people. Hence, we came up with the idea to paint pictures of the well digging community called Mannu Vaddars community," she explained
Yash Bhandari who is part of this project and works with the students explains, "The artwork in Cubbon Park metro station is a form of visual storytelling. It is divided into two parts. While the first part of the mural art is mythology and culture, the second part is the current water practices in Bengaluru city. Here, the mythology part includes the Karaga festival that happens every year, Maramma, Gangamma festivals celebrated specially by the well diggers (Mannu Vaddars) community. During a conversation and a workshop that we did with the well diggers at the Bhovi Palya, we learnt about their culture and the different places they had dug wells. And how Earth and mud are an inseparable part of their lives. Another interesting fact that we learned was even women were part of the well-digging project taken up in the city. But they slowly stopped going to places due to various reasons. Hence Art in Transit which is a public art and pedagogic initiative operates within the metro spaces of the city and hopes to leverage this public platform to connect people to place and engage with place-based inquiries."
Members of Manu Vaddars community busy painting on the cardboards (Pic: Yash Bhandari)
"In the second part, we have drawn the murals of the current practise of borewell digging to let common people like us learn about where we get our water from. In this part, we also show them how Bengaluru's groundwater level is getting depleted. As a solution, we suggest that the people in the city take up digging recharge wells and rainwater harvesting. One should go back to the well diggers practice where one only needed only 3x3 sq ft area to dig a recharge well. We have presented the optimistic and direct change that citizens can adopt," he adds.
Apart from this, the students plan to present a database of well diggers in the form of QR code in the metro station. If people would want to dig a recharge well then they can scan this QR code which will take them to the contacts list. They can invite these people to dig recharge wells in their homes. "Through these paintings, we are trying to tell people to be a part of the solution and not a problem. This work is likely to be complete by December. We are using the different varieties of mud which we collected when the recharge wells were dug in Cubbon Park. It is a symbol of respect for this community and to show the world that they live among us. This project is likely to continue in the Chickpete metro station where we are planning to paint kalyanis which were found in temples. In a way, the water in kalyanis was considered to be pure and a way to recharge ground water. Now, we don't find many," concludes Yash.