Planting new seedlings, fertigating soil with organic manure, and eliminating weeds – these are the actions performed by the 20+ members of the weekly Panchavati Hill Tree Plantation Service. However, this was not the same one year ago. Last year, most of our time was spent in manually watering the plants by using repurposed water bottles or cooking oil containers. This was time-consuming and inhibited the group from achieving the goal of planting more trees. I strongly believe that problems are the thorns on the stem of progress, but identifying them is the first step towards cultivating the seeds of innovation. The identification of the limitations of manually watering the plants triggered a series of actions that enabled me and my 3 group members to create an irrigation system that can water 1000+ saplings.
The first step of this innovative journey was the investigation stage, which involved selection of the solution for the detected problem. In this stage, I collaborated with my group members and reflected on the reasons that caused inefficiencies in the manual watering process. Through this, I learnt the major reason for the inefficiencies in the watering process was the location of the water tanks. As the tanks were located towards the base of the hilly plantation area, it was challenging for the members to lift the completely filled water containers and water the saplings located along the upward sloping section of the hill. This inspired me to come up with a solution that could eliminate the human labour required for the watering process, and subsequently led me to the idea of constructing a pump-based drip irrigation system.
The second step of this journey was preparation. In this step, I surveyed the plantation area to determine the specifications of the pump-based drip irrigation system. This called for innovative solutions. I used a calibrated 12-metre rope instead of the conventional metallic measuring tape to measure the distance of the long, curved path that leads to the plantation area from the water tank. Moreover, I used a rope, which was weighted with a rock at one end, to measure the plantation area height accurately. All these measures enabled me and my group members to accurately deduce that a 0.5 – 1 HP pump will be required to power the pump. The second stage of preparation was preparing a bill of materials to determine the total budget of the project. As the initial design involved a solar-power enabled pump, the total cost of the project was high. Therefore, the final stage of preparation involved preparing a budget proposal and presenting it to the Director to acquire funds from the school.
The third step of this journey was action. In this step, me and my group members used the acquired funds to procure the required material for the project. However, this process involved a lot of dynamicity from our end. As the heads of the tree plantation drive made arrangements for a grid power supply near the water tank, it eliminated the need of a solar-cell to power the pump, consequently changing our project design and reducing the total cost of the project. By using the assistance of the heads of tree plantation drive as well as other professionals such as electricians and plumbers, we successfully assembled the drip irrigation system that could water all 1000+ saplings located on the upward sloping section of the hilly plantation area.
Reflecting on our actions was a key contributor to our success. Throughout the process we had to reflect on our decisions to ensure that there has been sufficient consideration of feasible hurdles in the preparation and action stage. Reflection was crucial while modifying the design in the action stage as we had to make a choice that balanced the budget constraints and environmental concerns, as we transitioned from solar-power to grid power supply. Throughout this process, I learnt the importance of foreseeing the snowball of effects that may arise because of my actions.
In conclusion, the construction of the drip irrigation system was an innovative and extremely useful project that taught us the importance of collaboration, problem-solving and effective planning. The ease of watering the saplings which is currently being experienced by the members of the tree plantation drive demonstrates the practicality of our project. Beyond learning the vitality of perseverance and being goal oriented, the project provided me and my group members an opportunity to leverage our classroom knowledge in a practical scenario to help improve the depleting state of the environment.