Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Kamir Raziudin Brata: Finding a holistic solution

Matheos Viktor Messakh , THE JAKARTA POST , JAKARTA | Tue, 02/17/2009 11:52 AM | People

Kamir Raziudin Brata: JP/Matheos V. MessakhKamir Raziudin Brata: JP/Matheos V. Messakh

When talking about how people treat the environment, Kamir Raizudin Brata can’t help but laugh.

The land ecology lecturer explained that he was at loss as to why many people claim to have found solutions to environmental problems when in reality they disregard environment principles in the process or simply shift the problem somewhere else.

He said it is simply not fair to blame upstream Puncak for “sending in” floods to Jakarta every year, or expect the hilly area to serve as the city’s water absorption area.

“We forget that Jakarta has its own rain and by saying ‘expect’, it means we put so much burden on a certain area, while leaving another with no burden at all,” the lecturer of the Bogor Agriculture Institute (IPB) said.

“We can’t solve enviromental problems by disregarding environmental principles. The best way to conserve the environment is to share the burden as equally as possible.”

He said that from generation to generation people only look for shortcuts to deal with environmental problems -- treating only the symptom and not the cause.

“I’m afraid we have started to believe that flooding is an oversupply of water, so that the best way to handle floods is to throw the water away somewhere else,” Kamir said.

“Flooding happens because the land has lost its capacity to absorb rainwater and we must do something to help the soil do its work better because it is human being who reduced the capacity of the soil.”

For more than 30 years Kamir has been defending his belief that the best way to conserve land and water is to let every component of the ecosystem do its part to equally share the burden of the environment.

Kamir is the inventor of the biophore absorption method, a technique which prevents flooding and conserves water by drilling holes in the ground.

The method, which he developed in 1976, his first year teaching at IPB, solves both water and waste management problems. By drilling holes no bigger than 30 centimeters wide and 100 centimeters deep, an organic waste bin is created which also increases the absorption of rainwater.

He said the method was so simple that nobody pays attention to it.

“Maybe it is because it’s so simple that people don’t believe it actually works,” Kamir said, laughing.

He said many have called his invention a simplification of water and waste problems, but nobody has successfully refuted its effectiveness.

“What I’m waiting for now is not testimony but to find the weaknesses of the method,” he said.
The man, who was born in West Java town of Cirebon on Dec. 12, 1948, said that with his invention he was trying to stick to the simple rules of soil and water conservation he learned from his former teachers.

But many people, including some of his former teachers, were upset with him for revealing that many efforts to conserve the environment have been conducted against environment principles.

“Shifting the quantity of material and energy into another part of the world will simply cut back the burden in that place but add the burden in another,” he said. “This is the environmental principle and everybody knows it.”

Just like global warming, he said, the problems can not be solved by merely depending on austerity, but have to utilize all components of the ecosystem.

“An ecosystem is a system formed with interdependency between its components. All components must be considered in any conservation effort to make sure nothing is wrong,” he said.

“We should be ashamed of ourselves for throwing our waste away to another place just because we want our place to be clean, but we just make another place dirty.

“It’s so easy to claim to be a friend of the enviroment. But throwing away waste to another place like developed countries do is no solution. What about the places that they throw their waste away to, are they not the part of environment?”

Kamir is willing to face anything to defend his ideas, including spending five and a half years to finish his master in Soil Physic at the University of Western Australia. “Although my thesis is against the mainstream, they were fair to me,” he recalled.

He also had to abandon his doctoral studies to uphold his ideas.

Being an inventor does not bring him riches and glory.

For his research, he even took up a bank loan which he still has to pay back. “My employee card is still with the bank. I still have four years to pay my debt,” he said.

Dig this: A hole solution

Matheos Viktor Messakh , THE JAKARTA POST , JAKARTA | Tue, 02/17/2009 1:08 PM | Environment

Simple way: Researcher Kamir Raziudin Brata shows his solution to deal with flooding and waste problem: by digging holes in the ground. JP/Matheos V. MessakhSimple way: Researcher Kamir Raziudin Brata shows his solution to deal with flooding and waste problem: by digging holes in the ground. JP/Matheos V. Messakh

For years flooding and waste management have been the two biggest problems for Jakarta. But researcher Kamir Raziudin Brata has a simple solution to both – dig holes in the ground.

The technique – so simple that it has been ignored since he first concieved it in 1976 – preserves water, naturally retains soil humidity, prevents flooding, stores carbon and can securely dispose of household waste.

The lecturer at the Bogor Agriculture Institute (IPB)’s Soil and Natural Resource Science Department based the technique on the hidrological cyclus principle.

He conceived absoption holes that give land the ability to absorb more water and procces organic waste into compost, while at the same time maintaining the soil’s role as a carbon sink.

The holes – called biophore absorbtion holes – are tunnel bored into the soil, enabling organisms to become more active and plants to take root easily.

The technique utilizes organic waste to allow organisms to actively create hollow spaces inside the soil, which then fill with air and serve as channels to absorb water more rapidly.

The more holes, the better the soil can absorb water, and this minimizes the possibility of flooding.

He said that human activities are unavoidable, but this method can increase the ability of the land to absorb water.

“Even land being used for farming or plantations has less ability to absorb water, even less is in a city with cemented ground everywhere,” Kamir said.

He said that even in a virgin forest rainwater does not directly reach the ground to be absorbed by land – most rainwater is caught or intercepted by plants and crops, which increase the rate of absorption.

Forest soil has more hollow spaces, created by the roots of the trees and other organism, which creates a channel for water.

“This is called biophore, but now that most land has been turned into farms, plantations, residential areas or public spaces, the biophore under the ground has been greatly reduced and has even dissapeared in some places,” he said.

Up close: An earth auger created by Kamir to facilitate the drilling. JP/Matheos V. MessakhUp close: An earth auger created by Kamir to facilitate the drilling. JP/Matheos V. Messakh

By drilling a hole no bigger than 10 centimeters wide and 100 centimeters deep in the ground, the space of absorbtion is vertically broadened to 3,140 centimeters squared.

The rainwater absorbtion does not only prevent flooding, but is also the best way to conserve water.

“The most healthy way to store rainwater is to let the ground absorb it and not catch it all in a container,” Kamir said. “Rainwater absorbed into the soil becomes
mineral water.”

All other methods to catch rainwater in man-made containers, such as infiltration wells, man-made lakes or large containers, can catch only a limited amount of lower quality water.

A hydrology cyclus, Kamir explains, is only good after rainwater has been mostly absorbed into the ground and after certain natural processes have occoured.

Besides broadening the space for water absorbtion, the biophores can also process organic waste.

He said that if each household in Jakarta put their organic waste in their biophore hole every day, 55 percent of the city’s waste problem would be solved.

The utilization of organic waste, Kamir said, activates the compostation process, which creates more hollows in the soil for water, but also reduces carbon emission.

“Human beings, as a component of the ecosystem, don’t have to work alone. Many people talk about biodiversity but they ussually forget about the biodiversity below ground.”

His idea is the result of trying to solve the problem of how to store water and at the same time reduce carbon emmissions.

“By this method, waste and water management is treated equally, it doesn’t have to compete with other land purposes.”

Composting underground also solves the world’s carbon and methane emission problem, as the gasses are captured by the soil.

“Never separate water management and carbon emissions. Many organic wastes are turned into
compost but if the composting process is made in the athmosphere, carbon emissions are still relatively high, though not as high as with burning waste.”

In order to facilitate the drilling of the biophore holes, Kamir has designed an ‘earth auger,’ made of a ¾ inch pipe, with several attachment sizes depending on the diameter of the hole needed.

Since no sophisticated equipment is needed, it can eaasily be done at home. “One doesn’t need to be rich to help others. We don’t need expensive or sophisticated things to help the environment,” he said.

After the city was heavily flooded in February 2007, the long forgoten and simple method is back in the spotlight.

The Jakarta administration has also started to recognized the technology and, with a 2008 gubernatorial instruction, aims to speed up of the drilling of biophore holes across Jakarta.

The regulation stipulates that a subdistrict should have had at least 100 augers by the end of 2008 in order to speed up drilling.

The Cipinang Elok subdistrict in East Jakarta has seen good results since drilling 2,000 holes in 2007.

“After drilling 2,000 holes, floods are no longer as high as they used to be,” Saksono Soehodo, head of a neighborhood unit in the subdistrict said.

The IPB’s biophore team, lead by Kamir, has calculated that, in order to reduce organic waste and flooding during the rainy season, Jakarta should have no less than 76,000 holes.

The State Ministry for Environment plans to issue a regulation requiring houses and commercial building owners across the country to build facilties to store rainwater or face punishment under the Environment Law of 1997.

However, with growing attention to technology, business speculation arises.

Kamir said the IPB’s biophor team calculated a price of no less than Rp 200,000 (US$17) for each auger to cover its production costs and tax.

In order to ensure quality, the team have appointed CV La Conserva as the single license holder for the mass priodcution of the auger. However, he said, many variations of the auger have been sold at lower prices.

Since he invented the technology in 1976, Kamir is reluctant to apply for patent rights. It was only a year ago that IPB applied to acquire the rights; the result is not yet known.

“I just want to prevent this [technology] being turned into a sort of project because it’s not expensive. It works even without making a project out of it.”

For more information on the technology see: www.biopori.com