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| Last Updated:17/02/2014

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Water and the art of communication

The Hindu, 16 February, 2014


We need to know about our lakes in a much better and detailed manner, says S. Vishwanath



The lake is beautiful and full of fishes. A Pelican swims about gobbling its food merrily , tossing one fish into its pouch at a time. As you walk you observe many beautiful birds in the water. Fishermen are up and about in their round boats called coracles. As you walk the long walk you observe water flowing in briskly to a patch of green wetland. What appears to be a sewage treatment plant is whining away merrily, tossing foam into the air. The air is serene and peaceful and a gorgeous scenery unfolds itself.

As you look around you do not know where you are. You do not know the name of the lake, you do not know the names of the many beautiful birds, the boats that the fishermen use, the fish that are being harvested, the treatment plant that hums; you do not know anything about any of them at all.

The art of signage and communication is a lost science in India. Except for a desultory board here or there in rusted condition we do not care or seek to explain what we do. In this particular lake close to Rs. 500 million of public money has been spent with not a single signboard explaining anything to the common man.


Aajwanthi Baradwaj, a student of design studying at Helsinki, Finland, has come out with a beautiful package doing just that, explaining our lakes.


For her first trial, she has picked Jakkur Lake in the north of the city. A beautiful poster map explains the trail one can walk around the lake.


Around various points are highlights that one can pause and take a deeper look at.


Here is the docking point from where the fishermen set out every day. The boat they use is called a coracle.


They hunt and harvest 100 kg of fish daily, sometimes 200 kg. As you walk further you can stop at a gorgeous 100-year-old well. Notice the architecture of the well, it is special without a gram of cement or lime being used.


The well yields 100,000 litres of water daily and returns back to the level it started off with daily, thanks to the lake being full.


An audio cast on your smart phone helps you navigate your way around the lake. Click on a button there and the audio explains the functioning of the waste-water treatment plant. 10 million litres per day of sewage is picked up and treated to such a nice quality that it can be led in to the wetland portion of the lake.


As you stop and listen a clear explanation comes about what a wetland is and the various birds that can be spotted there.


As you peer around it becomes clear that the purple moorhen is up and about in the morning. All other birds and plants start having a name and you are a little bit proud of yourself.


The smart phone-based tour and a map is ready for download at and will hopefully be the first in a series that will explain all our lakes and water systems in Bangalore.


As the brilliant scientist Jane Goodall said “Only if we understand, can we care. Only if we care, we will help. Only if we help, we shall be saved.”