A Beautiful Encounter

Reading about phenomena often proves to be something fundamentally different than actually seeing something with your own eyes. Therefore, we decided that it was time for some field trips to experience how the new infrastructure provided by this new waste disposal law works in reality. We started at a place where garbage is generated: Madivala Market. Madivala is a traditional market where mostly fruit and vegetables are sold. Garbage is collected by two different trucks; one truck for wet waste, which is transported to the Karnataka Composting Development Corporation(or KCDC) and one for dry waste, which is suppose to be transported to Dry Waste Collection Centers (or DWCCs). We visited both the KCDC and a DWCC and made a short video about our field research, which can be found below.

Waste Wanderers from Fields of View on Vimeo.

The garbage generated in Madivala Market led us to some amazing people. One of the people we met in the DWCC in the Jayanagar Division, was John. John has been dealing with garbage his whole life. John’s father was a informal waste picker and worked for very low wages by doing heavy work in unhealthy environments.  John was most likely to end up working under the same bare circumstances as his dad. However, since the implementation of the new law in 2012, John was able to join a NGO which helps informal workers to formalize. Here, John was educated in recycling techniques as well as in management skills. At the end of the training, he received a certificate and identity card that establishes him as a formal scrap dealer. John now runs a DWCC in the Jayanagar Division in Bangalore, receiving between 400 to 500 kg of garbage a day. John weighs the garbage that comes in, documents it, pays the waste pickers and truck drivers, oversees the segregation of waste and sells the segregated waste to either wholesalers or recycling industries.

John manager of the DWCC in the jayanagar Division

John – manager DWCC Jayanagar Division

Even though John is very happy about his newly gained status and his now healthy working environment, he also pointed out a few problem concerning these DWWCs. First of all, he explained that Bangalore consists of 198 wards and ideally, there should be one DWCC for every ward. Although the BBMP has 204 DWCCs planned, only 147 are constructed and only 70 of these are functional. As a result, John’s DWCC has to cater to 3 wards instead of the proposed one. Although we speak about quantitative numbers here, we should note that these are highly estimated numbers, as there is a big lack of data about DWCCs in Bangalore. For instance, it is very difficult to find out their locations, the number of people working there, the amount of waste that it can process, the price offeredfor waste, where segregated waste is being sold to, etc.

 

A second problem John pointed out to us is the fact that the garbage that comes in to the DWCCs is often not segregated. Although the law now clearly states that every garbage generator has to segregate at source, for some reason this is still not happening. As they receive large quantities of waste, it is difficult for the workers at the DWCC to segregate it themselves. Although there are laws to penalize these bulk waste generators, BBMP doesn’t enforce them as the infrastructure for disposal is not yet in place. So although our initial research showed us that the legal framework for waste disposal is now in place, the reality of the situation is the fact that these laws are not yet fully enforced in society.

 

After meeting John we realized that these DWCCs have the potential to create more formalized informal workers, and thus, more John’s. We sincerely believe that this approach to waste disposal creates new jobs, helps the informal sector and will be responsible for a sustainable waste management in the future. But before this beautiful dream can come true, a lot should happen. Therefore, we formulated a new research question, which is as follows:


How can we aid in strengthening the infrastructure of solid waste management, which deemed a priority of the High Court, by focussing on the DWCCs which embrace a bottom-up approach and see the informal sector as legitimate?

Dry Waste Collection Centers, CISCO and further research

For the past five weeks we did quite some research regarding waste management in Bangalore. Last week we talked about the enlightening encounter we had with John, manager of one of the many Dry Waste Collection Centers (DWCCs) in Bangalore. This meeting was a deciding moment for our research. We noticed that a DWCC represents exactly what we  proposed in our first problem statement: a bottom-up approach to waste management in the city and also strengthens the legitimacy of the informal sector.

This week we made more decisions and presented them to CISCO on our second meeting. Another great encounter with them, we got interesting feedback and some tips of how to proceed with our research.

 

Dry Waste Collection Centers

 

 

Our next step is to get deeper in the DWCCs. After talking to representatives of Hasiru Dala, we found out that they give training for scrap dealers.  The curriculum involves financial aspects of running a scrap business, account maintenance, customer service among other important management skills. As a result, the trainee can become a service provider or even a micro-entrepreneur of waste management. After concluding the training they receive an official certificate and an ID card issued by the BBMP itself.

 

We’re also interested in the processes of DWCCs. Waste collection, waste segregation and waste disposal. How do they deal with waste that is not segregated? Does every DWCC also segregate or they just receive segregated waste? What happens with the waste after it leaves the DWCC? Who buys it? How many people work in each DWCC? These are just a few of the questions we hope to get answered in the next weeks.

 

One of the most difficult things to get our hands on is data. And when I say data, I mean good, clean data. Not information in a PDF format or some pictures of tables. We’re interested in data like: where are these DWCCs? How much garbage does each of them handle per day/month? How much they pay for each kilo of different materials? Which DWCC receives the largest amount of segregated waste? And which receives the smallest and why? Who manages each DWCC? Who should I contact if I want more information about the DWCC in my ward?

 

Lots and lots and lots of questions. We hope that if we engage these three points (training, processes and data), we’ll have a better overview of the DWCCs in Bangalore and what’s their real impact when it comes to waste management in the city.

Meeting with Hasirudala

Meeting with Hasirudala

Week 3

_____________________________________________________________________________

  • By Pawan Dhananjay

Research is always an incremental process, at every step we have learn something new. However, if there is anything we know for sure, it’s that Banglore’s waste management is a multi-dimensional problem. Most strikingly, the root of this problem lies at the source itself i.e the garbage generation.

We decided to talk to the experts abot this problem. This quest led us to Nalini Sekar from Hasirudala. What we learned from her was a real eye-opener. In 2012, a group of concerned citizens, activists and NGO’s moved the courts demanding a better waste management process for their city. Following this, the Integrated solid waste management act of 2012 was passed.

Since there was no segregation at the source earlier, different types of waste like the dry and wet waste ended up in a huge stinking pile in the landfills, which is hazardous not only for the environment but also the people living nearby. However, this law made it mandatory for all the waste generators to segregate their waste at source itself. The government also promised to provide all the necessary infrastructure for waste management. Under this new law, each ward (a region of the city) would have a Dry waste collection center (DWCC) where all the dry waste would be processed. It also proved to be a major boost toward the integration of the informal sector into the waste management of the city.

The waste generators of the city were now classified into Residential waste generators and Bulk waste generators. The residential waste generators are the ones who generate garbage in domestic spheres. Ms Sekar told us that Hasirudala and other NGOs have already set up frameworks for dealing with this residential waste in which the expertise of the informal sector was well incorporated. The Government has taken a step to legitimize informal workers by providing them with government approved identity cards. These NGOs have trained these waste pickers in management skills. Armed with these skills, many of the waste pickers have now become managers of some DWCCs which has led to a significant improvement in their quality of life. They have turned from waste pickers to “waste entrepreneurs”.

The bulk waste generators on the other hand are more of a “free for all market”. They include commercial centres who produce more than 10kg of waste/day or apartments consisting of more that 50 residential units. The government has instructed them to process their own waste in a proper manner. Hasirudala has been taking care of the waste management for some bulk waste generators but this is clearly not enough. As these big commercial centers are more likely to generate huge amounts of waste and they process it with little government intrusion, we saw a lot of scope for ‘healthy’ waste management plans which can incorporate the informal waste pickers on a much larger scale. What better way to understand their working and waste management processes than to go visit them. Once we decided to focus on these bulk waste generators, we decided to go on field visits to further our understanding of their waste management scenario. Our problem statement now, looks something like this:

How do we improve solid waste management processes of ‘bulk waste generators’, in light of newly introduced laws, in a way that we reinforce a bottom-up approach that sees the informal sector as legitimate?

Disconnected waste stakeholders

between hands and blackspots
garbage in the land
garbage in my thoughts

Cities are ecosystems. Urban ecosystems. A community of living organisms (humans, animals, trees) in combination with nonliving components (like streets, cars, buildings) interacting as a system. Therefore, we, the “living organisms”, have to do our best to keep this ecosystem up and working.

After a couple of weeks researching and talking to several people about the waste management situation in Bangalore I started to imagine the city also as a living organism, like a tree. When the leaves of a tree falls from their branches, it reaches the ground and then becomes part of the soil. This soil is later absorbed by the roots of the tree and contains several nutrients to nurture the entire tree. Additionally, the living leaves perform photosynthesis that uses carbon dioxide (and water) to generate energy for the tree, releasing oxygen to the environment.

This is a sustainable process that keeps the tree alive. What’s happening now in Bangalore regarding waste management is utterly unsustainable. It’s comparable with the tree ceasing its photosynthesis, for that reason cutting off the recycling process of the air. Simultaneously, the tree sends its leaves elsewhere, breaking the nurturing of the soil and, consequently, damaging it’s own subsistence. Crazy right? Sounds like nonsense, but if Bangalore were a tree, that would be the case.

The slight research we did in the past two weeks indicates that there are several issues in the waste management flow in Bangalore. From lack of awareness of the consequences of poor waste management, to deficiency in communication between stakeholders of the whole process; the overall garbage situation doesn’t look good. It’s like the unsustainable tree described above, the waste of the city is mainly sent to landfills instead of being recycled or converted into compost for reuse in agriculture.

On the next sections I will get deeper into this process and, finally, present what we agreed that would be a satisfying approach to this waste issue in Bangalore.

Bangaloreans (lack of) waste consciousness?

The amount of people that are concerned about the garbage in Bangalore is overwhelming. From local initiatives to larger institutes, people are working with recycling, composting and general awareness with all ages and groups about this messy subject. Unfortunately, this is just a small part of the Bangalorean population.

This week we went to Daily Dump to get more insights in their approach to this issue. Daily Dump is a company focused in designing and building solutions around waste management. They have a huge variety of products concerning segregation and composting that ranges from books to specific tools to assist in a waste-conscious lifestyle.

 

Daily Dump

Daily Dump office and their composting and segregation products
Photo credits: Sandro Miccoli

 

One main aspect about waste in Bangalore that we should take in consideration, is the culture of dumping garbage in the streets. After talking to several locals, we discovered that this was a natural thing to do, if you were living in Bangalore decades ago, since the waste generated by houses basically comprised organic material. This garbage, also know as wet waste, would then be spread around backyards and land around the houses, and would naturally decompose, becoming part of the earth again and restarting their cycle in a completely natural process.

With the economic growth of the city, combined with intense rural-urban migration, the consumption culture also transformed. Nowadays, along with this organic waste also exists a huge diversity of the so called dry waste, like plastics, glass, metal and so on. This kind of garbage doesn’t decompose easily, so it tends to pile up all around streets and corners, which are know as blackspots.

 

Blackspot

One of the inumerous blackspots in Bangalore
Photo credits: Sandro Miccoli

After 3 weeks living in Bangalore, I regularly saw piles of garbage in corners and in the streets. Although we talked to several people that are very concerned about waste management, what we see in the the city is another picture. We found that there is a noticeable behavioural barrier that’s rooted in a big portion of the Bangaloreans way of perceiving the waste that they generate. Instead of thinking of what happens after they dump their consumed goods, they prefer to distance themselves and ignore the problem by keeping it out of their sight. However, since it’s no longer a natural cyclic process, the problem will eventually return to them, by polluting their land, rivers and air.

 

smelly

Woman displeased with the smell caused by street garbage at the Madiwala Market
Photo credits: Sandro Miccoli

Where is the waste going?

Although there are several amazing initiatives to promote segregation of dry waste, some of those who segregate lose faith in their attitude, since there is, essentially, no formal initiative to collect segregated waste. The garbage collected around the city is, basically, thrown together in one truck and ultimately dumped, in the streets or in a landfill.

The waste in Bangalore that is recycled is mainly the result of the informal sectors’ efforts. The ragpickers manually segregate dry waste and search for valuable recyclable material in open dumps. They sell these goods to traders, who in their turn are connected with recycling industries. Another important informal dry waste dealers are the kabbadiwalla. They also collect and segregate waste to resell to traders, but the main difference from the ragpickers is that they gather their waste straight from households.

Essentially, the transportation of the waste mainly winds up in landfills and recycle centers. The small portion that doesn’t ends up in one of those two, become blackspots around the city. Currently, there is only one official landfill used by the trucks to dispose the city’s waste: Mandur. Mandur is a village in the outskirts of Bangalore, and has been used since the last landfill, Mavallipura, closed, in 2012. In June of this year, the state government set a four-month deadline (December 1st) for the municipality of Bangalore (BBMP) to find an alternative dump site, since the Mandur residents have been protesting because of this disastrous situation (The Times of India, 6/6/14).

Recently, the BBMP declared that they intend to reopen Mavallipura, even though the area still contains accumulated waste from the last time it was used (The Hindu, 11/09/14). However, BBMP announced that the landfill will be used purely to dump wet waste and convert it to compost. Now, some questions still remain: how will the municipality guarantee that the trucks will only take wet waste to the landfill? And what will happen with the tons of waste that are just laying there for the past 2 years? And the waste in Mandur?

 

Tragic situation at the Mandur landfill

Tragic situation at the Mandur landfill
Photo credits: Bhagya Prakash K from The Hindu

Simplified Garbage Flow

We analyzed this garbage flow in Bangalore and created a simplified model that has mainly four stages: Consumption, Collection, Transportation and Disposal. We are aware that before a product can be considered as waste it was created by a manufacturer and distributed to consumers. This step does not enter in our first analysis, considering that each industry has it’s own methods of production and distribution. The variety of types of waste is also very broad, from e-waste to several kinds of hazardous waste, and each of those have their own singularities.

 

Garbage Flow

Simplified Garbage Flow: Consumption; Collection; Transportation; Disposal

There are several stakeholders in this process: individuals to higher organizations; formal and informal sectors; and innumerous crucial participants of every single stage. We noticed that, in spite of considerable attempts of connecting these stakeholders, this group is extremely disconnected. Obviously, they are all connected because of one main component: garbage. Although they share this common element, the relationship between the different stages of waste management is inadequate.

In our research we found several projects regarding source waste segregation, that is supposed to be one of the most effective ways to achieve sustainability in waste management. However, there is no formal collection service that takes into account segregated waste, invalidating any attempt of source segregation.

The informal wastepickers take responsibility in manually segregating dry waste to, eventually, sell the most valuable items to traders and recycling industries. The Hasirudala organization works on integrating the wastepickers and other informal workers to the formal sector. However, we consider that the extent of this integration is questionable, since we heard stories of the informal sector going against some of the Hasirudala’s initiative. This is a subject that we should get deeper in to better understand the needs of the informal sector.

 

Centralized Garbage Flow

Centralized waste management

The question that we keep asking ourselves is: where should we focus on in order to cause a heavy impact in the big picture of this waste situation in Bangalore?

One option is to work at source. Segregation and composting, if done well, can cause a huge impact in later phases of the flow. However, if the next steps can’t handle the efforts made initially, maybe we should approach with another perspective. Recycling is also a great solution for excessive dry waste, but it also needs some connection between initial and later steps in the garbage system.

Along these lines, we noticed that there is a lack of communication between these stakeholders. If the individual is not immersed in this waste consciousness mindset, he or she probably won’t be aware of the consequences of poor waste management.

Therefore, we concluded that an interesting approach to this problem is to investigate the connection between the stakeholders and attempt to support the communication between each participant in the process.

 

GarbageFlow-04

Interconnected waste management ambition

  

First Cisco meeting

This week we also went to Cisco’s Bangalore office to present them these initial findings and meet for the first time the Amsterdam team.

 

Cisco Bangalore Office and TelePresentation between Amsterdam and Bangalore

Cisco Bangalore Office and TelePresentation between Amsterdam and Bangalore
Photo credits: Sandro Miccoli

 

During this meeting we received valuable feedback from Cisco about our analysis and some suggestions for our next steps. The most important observation was to work hard on our problem statement. Basically, we need to use our creativity to ask the right question about this garbage situation in Bangalore.

It was also nice to see that in their office they have waste awareness posters and that they also segregate their dry waste.

 

Waste management at the Cisco Bangalore office

Waste management at the Cisco Bangalore office
Photo credits: Sandro Miccoli

References

Daily Dump, Trash Tour Trail booklet

H N Chanakya, “Towards a sustainable waste management system for Bangalore”, CST, Bangalore.

Times of India, “BBMP can dump garbage at Mandur for 4 more months”, <http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/bangalore/BBMP-can-dump-garbage-at-Mandur-for-4-more-months/articleshow/36119370.cms>

Ramani, V. Chitra, “BBMP sets its sights on Mavallipura”, <http://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/bangalore/bbmp-sets-its-sights-on-mavallipura/article6401893.ece>

The Hindu, “BBMP looks for ways to deal with city’s trash”, <http://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/bangalore/bbmp-looks-for-ways-to-deal-with-citys-trash/article3834645.ece>

Pushby DonBLC 123 from The Noun Project
Garbage Truck by Edward Boatman from The Noun Project
Rubbish by chiccabubble from The Noun Project
Network by Brennan Novak from The Noun Project
DNA by Zoe Austin from The Noun Project

Garbage Flow

The trashcan is like a magic hat; you put a bunny in it and magically, it disappears. If you are living in an major Indian city, you roughly produce between the 0.2 KG and the 0.6 KG of waste per day (India Together). Unfortunately, by performing this magic trick, the garbage you throw in this trashcan is not being shipped off to a mysterious fantasy land, but rather enters a waste chain in which it affects the environment and lives of all that are allocated to make a living out of this.

Curious how your garbage can affect the lives of people you never even met? So were we. Therefore, we investigated the waste situation in Bangalore. We found that garbage poses great complications in Bangalore and is rooted within different layers of society and accordingly poses issues in different fields. Concerned fields here consist of government, municipality, economics, public health, geography and culture. In order to better understand the issues concerning garbage, literature research was done. As we attempt to describe the current situation, please be aware of the fact that we have only scratched the surface of the problem. Here we seek to map out the landscape in which the garbage problem currently exists.

 

So where does garbage actually come from and why has this become an ever present problem? Twenty-five percent of all Indian population now lives in urban areas, due to the rural-urban migration over the last decades. Rural-urban migration is estimated to account for 40 percent of urban growth. Although this is a steep increase in a short timespan, the urban centres have not simultaneously created the capacity to deal with this growth. Naturally, the quantum of waste generated varies across urban centers, depending to some extent on the population, the degree of industrialism and consumption patterns (Venkateswaran, 1994). However, not only the amount of generated waste increases, but also the nature of the waste is changing. More plastic is produced in contrast to the decrease of organic waste. Economic growth simultaneously encourages consumption culture, which will ensure of more waste being generated. Currently, Bangalore counts approximately 8 million inhabitants, who generated about 3500 tonnes waste per day (Daily Dump).

Before understanding the different issues, we propose to first identify the basic flow of garbage. In mapping out this garbage flow, we solely focused upon the disposal of domestic waste within Bangalore. This waste is largely generated by households, markets and small businesses and is roughly composed of 60 percent organic waste, 20 percent recyclable waste, 10 percent toxic waste and 10 percent rejects (Daily Dump).

In order to collect this waste, the municipality in Bangalore collaborates with certain contractors. These collaborations between public and private bodies are called PPP’s. The contractors subsequently employ Pourakarmikas, who are responsible for picking up the city’s garbage using trucks and vans (note that the Pourakarmikas therefore are indirectly employed by the BBMP). The garbage is transported to landfills located just outside the city centers. Here the non segregated waste is thrown on huge piles. This system roughly characterizes the flow of garbage in the formal sector and is responsible for approximately 60 percent of the waste collection. Meanwhile, the informal sector is responsible for 30 percent of all domestic waste collection. These so called ragpickers search the trash for valuable recyclables and subsequently sell these to recycle businesses. Note that about 10 percent of waste ‘leaks’ to so called blackspots; sites in the city where waste is illegally dumped.

 

Issues concerning waste management

As already discussed above, waste disposal is deeply rooted in various different dimensions. Many of the issues are intertwined with each other and must therefore be evaluated as complex systems. Below I will elaborate on a majority of the associated problems concerning waste management in Bangalore.

First of all, waste is considered to pose a threat to a person’s dignity and status. Therefore, waste is not desired in the house and subsequently thrown on the street. This human tendency to ignore the consequences of behaviours we can’t see, can be described by the term distancing. This also relates to a lack of ownership, as people do not consider garbage to be their problem. But in an attempt to keep their houses clean, the garbage now piles up in front of someone elses frontdoor, namely the inhabitants of for instance Mandur or Mavallipura. These enormous landfills are located just outside Bangalore and have triggered many protests by local inhabitants.

When not done properly, landfills can cause great threats not only for the environment, but also for the health of nearby residents. Disease outbreaks around these areas are not unusual, due to all kinds of rodents and pests attracted by the garbage mountains. Ground water gets contaminated and due to lack of better commodities, the residents are forced to face the risk of health problems. Recent studies show that there has been a sudden spike in rate of cancers, kidney failures and heart diseases (ESG). Furthermore, livestock at these landfills die, as they also are exposed to contaminated water. Therefore the locals are also suffering from economic loss. However, not only the local residents are subjected to contaminated water. The Mavallipura landfills are only 2.5 kms. away from the flow of River Arkavathi, which ultimately discharges in Tippagondanahalli Reservoir. Research has shown that leachates released from Mavallipura landfills have contaminated surface and groundwater. As Tippagondanahalli reservoir functions as a major drinking water source for Bangalore, this consequently means that bangalorean citizens may possibly also be exposed to contaminated drinking water (ESG).

 

Another landfill that activists protest against is Mandur. According to BBMP commissioner M. Lakshiminarayan, Mandur landfill will close the first of December (The Hindu). Although the landfill might close, the question remains: Where will these 3500 tonnes of waste generated daily in Bangalore be shipped off to?

Given the high percentage of organic waste (60 percent) in Bangalore, segregation at the source of waste generation might provide the answer. Organic waste could be composted at individual and domestic level and the compost can be used in gardens or parks. The rest of the waste would be segregated and recyclables should be brought to scrap buyers. The BBMP is setting up Dry Waste Collection Centres in individual wards, so waste collection can be done on a more local level.

 

Although composting and segregation of waste  will reduce the amount of garbage significantly, there are some problems concerning this system. One significant problem consists of the lack of knowledge about the waste disposal problems. Education makes for more awareness, not only about how to segregate and compost, but also about the consequences of failing to do so.

Furthermore, as described above, a significant percentage of waste is collected by informal workers who sell the valuable recyclables to scrap buyers. But as the BBMP is now setting up DWCCs, their waste supply is being jeopardized and subsequently they face economic loss. Some organizations (Waste Wise, Hasirudala etc.) have tried to minimum the competitive relationship between the formal and the informal sector, by attempting to formalize the informal workers. Grounds for successful projects are based on understanding cultural differences and monitoring.

 

Evidently, when mapping out the problem landscape of the waste disposal in Bangalore it is important to understand the inter-relatedness of all areas concerning the waste disposal problems. Although the problem is rooted in a variety of dimensions, it should be considered as a holistic system, in which every part is connected to the whole cycle.

 

References

Saritha Rai, The Indian Express <http://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/garden-city-garbage-city/3/>

ESG, Environment Support Trust Group

<http://www.esgindia.org/campaigns/mavallipura/press/bangalores-toxic-legacy-investigating-ma.html-0>

Chitra V. Ramani, The Hindu 03/09/14

Daily Dump, Trash Tour Trail booklet

Sandhya Venkateswaran, “Managing Waste: Ecological, Economic and Social Dimensions”

<http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/4401996?uid=3738256&uid=2&uid=4&sid=21104153862971>

India Together

<http://indiatogether.org/environment/articles/wastefact.htm>

Bangalore City Tour

Garbage! The very word triggers images of stink, filth, rot and disease. And yet, garbage was the topic that we had decided to focus on for the next five months as part of the project. Having lived in Bangalore all my life, I had a vague idea that garbage might be a problem, but I had no knowledge about the specifics.

 

Since we were to focus on the garbage problem in Bangalore specifically, the first logical step was understand and familiarize ourselves with the city. With this agenda in mind, a city tour was organized for the people who would be working on the project.

 

The date was set – the tour would be on Thursday. I was very excited because although I was a native Bangalorean, I had never actually been outside the areas where I have lived. So it was as much a new experience for me, as it was for everyone else.

 

We started off the day (or rather afternoon) with lunch. We ate a traditional Karnataka style meal, complete with jola rotti served on a banana leaf. There was so much food, and it was delicious! It is interesting to note how the traditional method of eating on a banana leaf is far more sustainable that eating on a plastic disposable plate. While the disposal of a banana leaf is not a pressing problem since it is biodegradable, a plastic plate will never decompose, but continue to persist in the environment.

 

We passed the Madivala market on our way. I had been on that road at least a hundred times before, but this time, I noticed things that I hadn’t paid attention to earlier. Apart from the piles of fruits and vegetables on either side of the road, there were mounds of garbage at fairly periodic intervals, mostly consisting of rotting fruits, vegetables and leaves. Stray dogs and cows were feeding on them.

Cows in Madiwala Market (Picture Credits: Sandro Miccoli)

 

Our first stop was Richard’s Park in Richard’s Town. Richard’s Town was a clean, friendly looking neighbourhood, with footpaths and wide roads. We walked around for a while in Richard’s Park. Then we proceeded to a quaint little shop just opposite the park called Apaulogy. This shop was filled with paintings, mugs, bags and other curios, decorated with caricatures of India of the 60s. Obviously, Bangalore had changed a lot since then. The streets were more crowded, the buildings were taller and there were far more people living in the city now.

Richard's Park
Richard’s Park (Picture Credits: Tanmayee Narendra)

 

Later, we boarded the metro at the Sampige Road station. The station was practically empty except for the guards. It was the quietest place that we had visited so far, which seemed a bit weird because it was supposed to be a place bustling with people. The train was also not crowded. We spent some time at the Yeshvathpur station, looking at the traffic zooming below us and the industries around us. From the perch of the metro station, one thing that struck me was the sheer size of the city; So many people, and consequently, so much garbage. Our last stop was the Sandal Soap factory, where we unsuccessfully tried to catch a whiff of sandal from the factory.

View from Yeshwanthpur Metro Station (Picture Credits: Tanmayee Narendra)
View from Yeshwanthpur Metro Station (Picture Credits: Tanmayee Narendra)

 

One thing that was ubiquitous in all areas of Bangalore was piles of garbage. Sometimes it would be in the form of two plastic bags of rotting waste just left in the corner of the street, or sometimes it would be an enormous pile of all kinds of refuse. Every few roads, one would come across a stinky, pile of waste, with a dog or two feeding on it. The unsettling thing is that passers-by would barely glance at the garbage pile before continuing to walk past it. Garbage lying around streets had become so common that most people seemed to have silently accepted it as a fact.

 

What makes the city of Bangalore so filthy? How does garbage get managed here? We hope to find answers to these questions in the following weeks.

On Immersive and Realistic Environments for Gaming-simulations

While designing gaming-simulations, it is necessary for a player to feel game-elements represents reality. Game elements, even when simplified or abstracted for the sake of a game, have to represent reality in order to achieve meaningful play. This involves establishing two types of validity:

 

  1. The validity of an action/element within the game world.

  2. The relationship of an action/element with the real world

For example, in a traditional first person shooter game, killing monsters/players/characters should award points if that is the rule set by the game. If a game is inconsistent in achieving this, the player will loose confidence on the game’s validity. Similarly, if the game involves a hammer with functions similar to the real world, it has to be modelled to have the properties of a common hammer and it has to have the ability to ‘hammer’ other objects. The game-hammer establishes an acceptable relationship to the real world hammer though its physical properties in the game, weight, visual, etc. and its usability.

 

A change in the design of game-elements can alter the player’s perception of the game and hence we risk loosing the player’s confidence in a game. Typically, players proceed to experiment within the gaming world in order to establish confidence in its validity. Once established, the training systems can take over and the player can be exposed to an experiential learning environment.     Consider the following scenarios which require an immersive environment for training and learning:

  1. For the sake of training in hazardous environments. A player in the role of a security personnel, during her operations in a simulated disaster situation has to react and respond to the events in the environment.

    In such cases, a realistic experience allows grater level of interaction with the simulated environment.
  2. For equipment maintenance in a hazardous environment, realism of the environment (immersion) induces the sense of caution and intensity in the player and allows her to experience the type of stress that can be expected in such working conditions. Walkthrough of Oil Rig

 

 

Here are some examples of entertainment games where one game design technique stands out in achieving a good level of immersion:

  1. Limbo: The lighting and sound used to create a dark storyline
  2. Sound design in Amnesia to create a sense of fear
  3. Camera angles and a full model of Renaissance Italy to create ” The Leap of Faith” Assassins Creed” to allow players experience falling off buildings.
  4. Enabling people to play in completely non-linear game-play with a near realistic simulation of open-world city (Chicago) in Watchdogs.

In serious games, player learning is paramount without having to sacrifice play. Designing games with realistic visuals and player experiences in serious games have to be combined with learning systems. Such games are then tested for their ability to deliver the experiential learning to its players. While the commercial games focus on entertainment while pursuing immersion, serious gaming approaches will consider addition criteria such as, domain relevance, training, calibration and additional testing for the same.

 

We are very excited about a new tool we have been able to acquire called the Occulus Rift. This is a virtual reality head-gear that can be connected to any standard computer and is capable of presenting an existing 3D environment to a player in stereoscopic format. Unlike 3D movies or stereoscopic “mode” on monitors, using the Occulus Rift in games, we can have the player within a completely interactive 3D environment.

1394234_10152134870947688_9202051621195815648_n oculusrift_large2

 

 

 

This allows us to explore a new method of immersion for use in training simulations such as hazardous environment training, disaster management training, etc. By combining this technology with additional sensor based devices such as the Kinect or Wii for motion detection we will be able to enhance player interaction and feedback in the virtual environment. This provides a far more implicit, ubiquitous and realistic means of validation. We have been testing various possibilities for the device at FoV. We have ported a prototype of a training system we developed for the Institute for Plasma Research, Gandhinagar. 

 

We are also very eager to test the this new device for disaster training simulations. Here is a gameplay video using Oculus Rift with the modified safety training game.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                             
This post is co-authored by Harsha Krishna and Bharath M Pallavalli.

Visit to Nellorepuram

A couple of weeks ago (24th May, 2014), I got my first opportunity to participate in conducting a survey on water & sanitation facilities in one of the peripheral slums of Bangalore. Though I have been working on studying urban poverty for a year, the curiosity to learn the process of conducting surveys (qualitative & quantitative) excited me. We visited Nellorepuram, which is located near the International Technology Park Bangalore (ITPB), one of the busiest IT corridors in Bangalore. We reached the near by bus stop at 10:30 AM and walked almost 3 km to reach the slum. On entering the slum, I got a general understanding of the water facilities in the slum. Looking around, I could see water containers, drums and pots at the entrance of almost every house.

 

1_nellorepuram

 

We began our first interview with an old woman who was busy with her daily activities. We requested for her time and explained about the survey. We were informed about the challenges the household has been facing with the frequency of water supply, expenditure on water, distance to water source, and quality of water . We were also informed about the sanitation facilities available in the slum and the challenges with the same.

 

In between the conversations, the respondent took small breaks to continue with her work. I felt it was kind of her to spare some time with us despite being occupied with her work.

 

The respondent informed that the public water (Kaveri water) was supplied only once in last six months and that they depend a lot on private water tanker and water tanker supplied by the area corporator. Every alternate day, the household spends Rs. 30 per container of water (20 litre) for drinking purposes. As the drainage system in the slum is not connected to the houses, the household uses pit for the sanitation purposes. They get the pit cleaned twice a year, by spending an amount of approximately Rs. 5000 – Rs. 6000 per year. After a rough calculation on expenditure on water & sanitation, it was shocking to think of how a family with pension as their primary source of income could even meet other needs, after spending a significant percentage of their income on basic utilities like water & sanitation.

 

 

We thanked the respondent for sharing the details and continued with our second interview with the next 10th household. Similar problems related to water & sanitation were reported by the second household. This household reported that it is highly expensive to stay in Bangalore and that they would prefer to move back to their home town in Andhra Pradesh, hoping that the new government would help the poor. Until after completing the second interview, I was under the perception that it is very easy to conduct surveys! The next respondent (this time a qualitative interview), told us about the variations in slum demographics, the availability of water, sources of water, and the mechanisms of fetching water in past 20 years. As we continued our discussion, the respondent informed that she is not comfortable discussing this further and requested us to close the interview. We made a few attempts to complete the interview but could not succeed in convincing the respondent.

 

We had a similar experience in our fourth interview, where in the middle of the interview, the mother of the respondent informed us that the interview will not be useful for them. She informed us that there were no measures taken despite informing the concerned authorities about the problems with water. She also informed that the water connection provided by BBMP rarely worked and they have to spend a lot towards drinking water and water for daily activities (cooking, washing, bathing etc.). This was the longest of the interviews we had conducted during the first half do the day.

all_taps_2

We took a lunch break and continued with our next interview. This household appeared to be doing economically better when compared to the earlier households. They had a sump to store the water. While we were conducting the interview, a passer-by informed us that the major problem faced by households in Nellorepuram was water and sanitation. He showed us the community water tank that was not working and a garbage dump in the locality.

 

 

All the households we interviewed reported that they buy water separately for drinking and other daily activities, and they use a pit for sanitation. On an average, every household spent approximately Rs. 100 per week towards drinking, and Rs. 200 – Rs. 420 per week towards daily activities . They reported that the public water tanker comes either once in a week or once in two weeks.

all_drums

When asked about the aspirations towards the end of each interview, most of the respondents said they wished for good water and sanitation facilities in the slum. Some of the respondents said they had aspirations of providing their children with good education and jobs.


In the last two interviews we conducted, a few other households nearby were interested in sharing the details and asked us to come the next day for conducting the survey.

 

 

From the interviews we conducted, it seemed that the respondents were not ready to trust us in the beginning of an interview. Towards the end, when we moved to the section on household income and expenditure, the respondents asked the reason behind collecting data with respect to household income and expenditure. While a few respondents seemed to have no issues with sharing the data on income and expenditure, a few others were not comfortable to discuss in detail.

 

 

For every such incomplete response towards household income and expenditure, I felt disappointed that we could not get complete data from some households. However, was my disappointment justified? During the follow-up discussions at work, I informed my colleague (a social scientist) that the respondents didn’t share complete details on household income & expenditure, and went further to say that the respondents were lying on income & expenditure data. In response, I was asked to think about the following :

 

  • What will my response be if a stranger asks me for my salary and expenditure details?
  • What right do I have as a surveyor/researcher to expect data of others?
  • Who is doing whom a favour by sharing the data?

 

These were a realisation to me, and helped me understand the importance of respect the respondents deserve for their contribution. From the day we conducted the survey, I was intrigued by how the households in the periphery of the city could meet all their needs when they end up spending 10%-20% of their income towards water & sanitation.

City game with Urban Design Collective

On April 20 2014, we played the city game with participants from Urban Design Collective, Chennai. It is a non-profit organization that works as a collaborative platform for professionals from the fields of architecture, urban design/ planning to promote liveable and sustainable cities through community engagement.



We began by informing the players about the game, game rules and asked them to build the city in turns by placing blocks that were abstract representation of various elements of a city. Some of the modifications we introduced in the game play were:

 

  • Role play: We asked the players to choose the undisclosed roles in a random fashion. The roles used were governors/administrators, builders and inhabitants.

  • Endorsement cards: Players were given 20 endorsement cards at the beginning of the game. After each round, players could endorse the actions of other players by giving away one or more endorsement cards they possessed. However, players can’t be part of the city building process if they run out of the endorsement cards.

Along with the core objective of eliciting players’ preferences, and their perception of a city in a bottom up manner, we wanted to observe and document the preferences and decisions of players that got attention of other players. In order to meet this objective, we introduced the endorsement cards.

Artefacts representing green bodies and lakes were spread across the area to build the city.

 

After round 1, players discussed if they should lay the roads first and then place the facilities in the city or vice versa. At the end of 4th round in the game, we observed that the players seemed to ignore their roles. The city had bus terminals, restaurants, play grounds, housing, sewage treatment, university, zoo, airport, urban farm, planetarium, public library, solar farm, cycle trek, high-way, petrol-pumps, recycling centre, theatre, food processing & cold storage, railway, assembly and a stock exchange.

 

It was interesting to observe the importance given to connectivity and green layouts in the city that was built. Most of the roads laid were followed by green stretches along them. Through out the game session, we observed active discussions and debates, which we could observe in few of the game sessions we had conducted so far. The discussions were focused on location of the blocks, connectivity to them from other parts, and greenery in the city.

 

Facilities such as sewage treatment plant, water front, green belt, solar farm, and public library received endorsements from all the players. Players described the city as a small city with global aspirations and identified that it has no slums.

During the debrief, we discussed with the players about the usefulness of such games in encouraging participation, and eliciting an individuals’ views, biasses and requirements.

 

Here is a snapshot of the city at various stages of the game –

cg1

City Game session at the excITe program at IIIT-B

We played a session of the City Game with school kids participating in the excITe program at IIIT-B on 28th April. We played the game for nine rounds, and captured the city which was built at the end of each round. Here is an animation of the evolution of their city!

 

Animation of the City Game session with excITe participants