Sunday, 8 June 2014

High Court of Karnataka - Judiciously harvesting rainwater from its roof

The legacy from British raj and the local knowledge - Tantalising tunnels, scintillating stories

An idea is born

In 2000, I was working as Program Manager – Karnataka for the Indo-Norwegian Environment Program (INEP). The councilor of Norway had suggested that I replicate the ‘Sourabha’ (First ecofriendly home of Bangalore) model of sustainable living, especially the rainwater harvesting technology that I had used in my house, in public buildings in the City of Bangalore. I hoped to get an entire locality – Vidyaranyapura – with four layouts, to harvest rainwater and make the entire community independent of City water supply. But I was told that public grant cannot be channeled into individual houses. I was directed to implement my proposal in public places or Government Housing Quarters. I chose 10 landmark buildings and 2 exhibition plots for the project. And of the 10 landmark buildings, the two that gave me sleepless nights but immense satisfaction were the Vidhana Soudha and the High Court. Here’s why.

The Cubbon Park Site of the High Court`s rainwater harvesting project

Every drop counts

The High Court building in Bangalore was built by the British years and years ago. None of the PWD engineers I spoke to seemed to know where the rainwater pipes were. In desperation, I scrambled on the rooftop, poured water on the roof and raced down to follow its trail! And, in the process, I discovered many startling facts:
a) All the rainwater pipes in the High Court building are hidden in pillars which are inside thick walls.
b) There is a tunnel in the High Court basement which exits towards the eastern side of the Court building inside Cubbon Park.
c) This basement tunnel connects to an underground stone masonry tunnel, which exits at the Lotus Pond inside Cubbon Park.

There is a ruling that no construction activity can take place inside Cubbon Park. I had to seek special permission and ensure that the flora and the fauna were undisturbed. No blasting activity or the environmentalists would have had me! My challenge, therefore, was to intercept rainwater inside the tunnel at 15 ft below from ground level, design filtration systems for it and store it – 15 ft below the ground level as I could not mess around with the heritage building. And we – my team and I – achieved the impossible. We began work in 2003 and by the end of 2005, we had the RWH system in place.


The Karnataka High Court building in Bangalore


The Cubbon Park Site of the High Court`s rainwater harvesting project


Rainwater Harvesting process in High Court of Karnataka



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