Parched cap­i­tal

Down to Earth - - ANALYSIS - DOWN TO EARTH

IT IS a known fact that Delhi, like most other met­ro­pol­i­tan ci­ties, is strug­gling to meet its wa­ter de­mand. The cap­i­tal faces a short­age of 207 mil­lion gal­lons per day (mgd) or 302 mil­lion cu­bic me­tres (mcm) of wa­ter an­nu­ally, ac­cord­ing to the 2013 Comptroller and Au­di­tor Gen­eral (cag) re­port. To make mat­ters worse, this short­age is be­ing bridged through il­le­gal with­drawal of ground­wa­ter, which is low­er­ing the ground­wa­ter ta­ble.

Iron­i­cally, Delhi was one of the first ci­ties in In­dia to amend its byelaws to ac­com­mo­date rain­wa­ter har­vest­ing in 2001.On an av­er­age, the city re­ceives 755.4 mil­lime­tres

While Delhi strug­gles to make rain­wa­ter har­vest­ing com­pul­sory even after 13 years of amending byelaws, Chen­nai shows the way SUSH­MITA SEN­GUPTA | DELHI

(mm) of rain­fall ev­ery year. Ac­cord­ing to the in­ter­na­tion­ally ac­cepted for­mula of mul­ti­ply­ing to­tal area, an­nual rain­wa­ter and a co­ef­fi­cient of rain­wa­ter runoff, Delhi can recharge its ground­wa­ter with 560 mcm of rain­wa­ter an­nu­ally—nearly twice the an­nual wa­ter short­age of the city.

But 13 years after the city made rain­wa­ter har­vest­ing manda­tory, the prac­tice has failed to pick up be­cause of com­pli­cated sys­tems for ap­proval, in­ex­pe­ri­enced of­fi­cials and dis­in­ter­ested res­i­dents. As a re­sult, 470 mcm of wa­ter (about 85 per cent of the to­tal runoff gen­er­ated in the city) goes waste as it flows down storm wa­ter drains that are

meant to carry rain­wa­ter (see ‘Cap­i­tal loss’). Rain­wa­ter har­vest­ing can solve wa­ter cri­sis in the south dis­trict of the city that faces acute wa­ter crunch.The dis­trict can recharge ground­wa­ter with 93.8 mcm of rain­wa­ter an­nu­ally. In­stead, as per the Cen­tral Ground Wa­ter Board (cgwb) data, the ground­wa­ter level in the area has been dip­ping by a me­tre ev­ery year since 2001.

In 2000, Vinod Jain, who runs a non­profit called Ta­pas, had filed a pub­lic in­ter­est pe­ti­tion in the Delhi High Court on the scarcity of drink­ing wa­ter in the cap­i­tal. Fol­low­ing his plea, the court made rooftop rain­wa­ter har­vest­ing com­pul­sory in Delhi in 2001. In the same year, the min­istry of ur­ban de­vel­op­ment and poverty alle­vi­a­tion (Delhi di­vi­sion) is­sued a no­ti­fi­ca­tion to mod­ify Delhi’s build­ing byelaws of 1983 to ac­com­mo­date the high court ver­dict. Ac­cord­ing to the amend­ment, it be­came manda­tory for new build­ings with a rooftop area of 100 square me­tres or above to har­vest rain­wa­ter. Wa­ter re­cy­cle plants are also manda­tory for all build­ings that dis­charge more than 10,000 litres of waste wa­ter a day. But things have not changed much in 13 years.

Poor im­ple­men­ta­tion

Mu­nic­i­pal Cor­po­ra­tion of Delhi (mcd) of­fi­cials say that while all build­ing plans that come to them for sanc­tion­ing have a pro­posal for rain­wa­ter har­vest­ing, only a few builders fi­nally con­struct rain­wa­ter har­vest­ing struc­tures. They say they are help­less as only 10 per cent of fin­ished projects ap­ply for the manda­tory com­ple­tion cer­tifi­cate, when the depart­ment can stop projects that do not have rain­wa­ter har­vest­ing pro­vi­sions. Although it is manda­tory, “not get­ting a com­ple­tion cer­tifi­cate does not af­fect them in any way as there is gen­er­ally no penalty im­posed. So, they sim­ply do not bother ap­ply­ing for it”, says B S Yadav, ex­ec­u­tive en­gi­neer, mcd.

This is just one part of the prob­lem.The other prob­lem is that even the projects that have rain­wa­ter har­vest­ing fa­cil­i­ties do not use them. Sev­eral gov­ern­ment de­part­ments, in­sti­tu­tions and res­i­den­tial so­ci­eties have non-func­tional rain­wa­ter har­vest­ing struc­tures.In 2013,ac­tivist Ma­hesh Chan­dra Sax­ena filed a pe­ti­tion in the Na­tional Green Tri­bunal (ngt) high­light­ing that at least 18 gov­ern­ment de­part­ments in­clud­ing the Delhi Jal Board, the Pub­lic Works Depart­ment, the New Delhi Mu­nic­i­pal Cor­po­ra­tion and Flood and Ir­ri­ga­tion Depart­ment were not do­ing rain­wa­ter har­vest­ing. The green tri­bunal asked the Delhi Pol­lu­tion Con­trol Com­mit­tee (dpcc) to pre­pare a re­port on this, but dpcc re­fused say­ing it lacked the ex­per­tise.

This year, another pub­lic in­ter­est pe­ti­tion was filed, by ad­vo­cate Raj Kumar Kapoor, to make rain­wa­ter har­vest­ing com­pul­sory in Delhi, and more im­por­tantly to en­sure ex­e­cu­tion of the man­date. Kapoor says his pe­ti­tion pleads that the court in­struct gov­ern­ment in­sti­tu­tions with big rooftop ar­eas to go for rain­wa­ter har­vest­ing. “The ear­lier pe­ti­tion talks about new con­struc­tions but look­ing at the dip in ground­wa­ter in the city, rain­wa­ter har­vest­ing should be manda­tory in all build­ings—old and new,” adds Kapoor.

In fact, the Cen­tral Ground Wa­ter Au­thor­ity (cgwa)—the apex agency for reg­u­lat­ing ground­wa­ter in the coun­try—had is­sued no­tices in 2001 and 2004 to hous­ing so­ci­eties, in­sti­tu­tions, schools, ho­tels, in­dus­trial es­tab­lish­ments and farm­houses in South and South West dis­tricts to adopt rooftop rain­wa­ter har­vest­ing sys­tems in their premises.

But noth­ing has hap­pened so far.

Half-hearted at­tempts

To en­cour­age rain­wa­ter har­vest­ing, the Delhi Jal Board has adopted a method of award­ing sub­sidy in wa­ter bills to con­sumers who have in­stalled rain­wa­ter har­vest­ing sys­tems. Ac­cord­ing to the pro­vi­sion, plots hav­ing an area of 2,000 square me­tres or more with a func­tional rain­wa­ter har­vest­ing sys­tem re­ceive a 10 per cent re­bate on the wa­ter bill. For non-com­pli­ance, the tar­iff ap­pli­ca­ble on the con­sumer in­creases by 1.5 times.

Delhi is also pro­vid­ing fi­nan­cial as­sis­tance to regis­tered res­i­dent wel­fare as­so­ci­a­tions, co­op­er­a­tive group hous­ing so­ci­eties and in­sti­tu­tions for the en­tire city (ex­cept for a few places in North West, West and North East dis­tricts) for im­ple­men­ta­tion of rain­wa­ter har­vest­ing sys­tems. Un­der the My Delhi I Care Fund, fi­nan­cial aid is up to a max­i­mum of 50 per cent of to­tal cost of the rain­wa­ter har­vest­ing struc­ture or 100,000,

which­ever is less. Rain­wa­ter har­vest­ing schemes can also be taken up through lo­cal de­vel­op­ment funds avail­able with area mlas.

But Van­dana Menon, an East Niza­mud­din Colony res­i­dent, says the process to get fi­nan­cial as­sis­tance is not sim­ple. Ap­pli­cants are only sup­posed to follow a typ­i­cal de­sign ap­proved by a gov­ern­ment agency. The de­sign of­ten may not be ap­pro­pri­ate for a par­tic­u­lar area. She says her colony used its own money to im­ple­ment rain­wa­ter har­vest­ing in parks.

The web­site of Delhi Jal Board says 189 cases have so far been ap­proved for grant of fi­nan­cial as­sis­tance and it has been re­leased in 117 cases. How­ever, the gov­ern­ment body does not have a data­base on the im­ple­mented projects. It in­sists that mu­nic­i­pal bod­ies un­der ur­ban lo­cal bod­ies and depart­ment of ur­ban de­vel­op­ment are sup­posed to im­ple­ment the no­ti­fi­ca­tion on rain­wa­ter har­vest­ing. Hence, the data should be col­lected by the mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties. The depart­ment of en­vi­ron­ment also does not main­tain any record.

With con­fu­sion over im­ple­men­ta­tion, in­di­vid­u­als in­ter­ested in har­vest­ing rain­wa­ter run from one depart­ment to the other to get ap­provals for the same. For bor­ing recharge well, the mcd has to be ap­proached; then the Delhi Jal Board, dis­trict com­mis­sioner along with cgwb are to be con­sulted for sanc­tion of the rain­wa­ter har­vest­ing plan. “So, there is a need of a nodal agency to give per­mis­sion, help the in­di­vid­ual with plan­ning and im­ple­men­ta­tion of rain­wa­ter har­vest­ing sys­tems and even ad­vis­ing him on mon­i­tor­ing of the sys­tem,” says Jain. A rain­wa­ter har­vest­ing cell was de­vel­oped in the Delhi Jal Board to help in­di­vid­u­als/ com­mu­ni­ties.But of­fi­cials’ lack of knowl­edge de­mo­ti­vated them, Jain points out.

Learn­ing from Chen­nai

While Delhi is strug­gling with sev­eral lit­i­ga­tions on mak­ing rain­wa­ter har­vest­ing com­pul­sory for the city, Chen­nai is show­ing the way. Tamil Nadu faced a se­vere drought in 1999-2000. This pushed the state to make rain­wa­ter har­vest­ing manda­tory in all build­ings in 2003. Even the ex­ist­ing struc­tures had to de­velop rain­wa­ter har­vest­ing fa­cil­i­ties. A dead­line was fixed. Po­lit­i­cal will and ad­min­is­tra­tive ef­fi­ciency helped a lot. (see ‘Rain­wa­ter down the drain’)

The Chen­nai Met­ro­pol­i­tan Devel­opm- ent Au­thor­ity (cmda) was di­rected to sanc­tion build­ings plans only if they in­cluded rain­wa­ter har­vest­ing sys­tems.The state also made it manda­tory for the oc­cu­pants to main­tain rain­wa­ter har­vest­ing struc­tures.

Chen­nai also set strict pro­vi­sions to pe­nalise the de­fault­ers, which were im­ple­mented by the gov­ern­ment bod­ies. For ex­am­ple, wa­ter sup­ply is stopped to build­ings that do not have rain­wa­ter har­vest­ing struc­tures.

Chen­nai Wa­ter Sup­ply and Sew­er­age Board (cwssb) has taken other ini­tia­tives as well to pro­mote rain­wa­ter har­vest­ing in the city, such as aware­ness cam­paigns.It worked closely with com­mu­ni­ties to bring about the change; ngos were roped in to mo­ti­vate peo­ple to go for rain­wa­ter har­vest­ing projects. A to­tal of 659,026 build­ings in Chen­nai are suc­cess­fully do­ing rain­wa­ter har­vest­ing to­day, says cwssb.

Boun­ti­ful rain­fall (2,064mm) in 2005 and ef­fi­cient rain­wa­ter har­vest­ing have led to an ap­pre­cia­ble rise in the wa­ter ta­ble, says cwssb. On an av­er­age, the ground­wa­ter ta­ble has in­creased across the city. The ground­wa­ter ta­ble of Tiru­man­galam area, one of the highly pop­u­lated ar­eas in the city, has risen from six me­tres to three me­tres be­low ground level be­tween 2005 and 2013.

In 2002, New Delhi-based non-profit Cen­tre for Sci­ence and En­vi­ron­ment (cse), in part­ner­ship with Akash Ganga Trust, a Chen­nai-based cit­i­zen’s ac­tion group, jointly launched In­dia’s first rain cen­tre to help peo­ple learn about dif­fer­ent ini­tia­tives on rain­wa­ter har­vest­ing. The cen­tre played an im­por­tant role in tak­ing the move­ment from the­ory to prac­tice.And even after 10 years, the state gov­ern­ment has not lost its vi­sion. An au­dit of rain­wa­ter har­vest­ing im­ple­men­ta­tion will be car­ried out soon by a non-gov­ern­ment agency.The wa­ter agency, on its part, launched a drive this year to check the main­te­nance of rain­wa­ter har­vest­ing fa­cil­i­ties ahead of the north-east mon­soon. The agency pe­nalised res­i­dents of 1,300 res­i­den­tial build­ings that had not de-silted the struc­tures or had dam­aged rain­wa­ter har­vest­ing fa­cil­i­ties.

Ef­fec­tive ex­e­cu­tion is the pri­mary rea­son Chen­nai has been suc­cess­ful in its rain­wa­ter har­vest­ing ini­tia­tives. This con­tin­ues to be the big­gest chal­lenge for the cap­i­tal.


Non-profit Cen­tre for Sci­ence and En­vi­ron­ment in the cap­i­tal is one of the few in­sti­tu­tions with func­tional rain­wa­ter har­vest­ing struc­tures

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