Har­vest wa­ter for happy days ahead

Hindustan Times (Chandigarh) - Estates - - NEWS - Gay­a­tri Bel­pathak ht­es­tates@hin­dus­tan­times.com

Com­mu­nity ini­tia­tives are lead­ing the way in solv­ing thirsty Mum­bai’s wa­ter woes, with rain­wa­ter col­lec­tion ini­tia­tives and ev­ery­one chip­ping in.

“It has been a mir­a­cle,” says Caro­line D’Souza, for­mer chair­per­son of the Blos­som cooper­a­tive hous­ing so­ci­ety in And­heri, re­fer­ring to the rain­wa­ter har­vest­ing (RWH) sys­tem in­stalled in 2010.

This 51-year-old hous­ing so­ci­ety spread over 5 acres in Marol dug six recharge pits and be­gan col­lect­ing rain­wa­ter to recharge the two borewells on the premises, seven years ago. Set­ting up the sys­tem cost them just ₹1.20 lakh.

“Within the same year, we re­cov­ered that in­vest­ment many times over,” D’Souza says. “We did ma­jor struc­tural re­pairs on all our 11 build­ings and did not need to or­der a sin­gle tanker of wa­ter for the ce­ment cur­ing process. The re­pair work lasted about five years and at the rate of ₹800 to ₹1,200 per tanker, we had a gross sav­ing of ₹8 lakh to ₹10 lakh right there.”

Many peo­ple fear that an RWH will re­quire ex­ten­sive main­te­nance, she adds, but all the main­te­nance theirs has needed is an an­nual clean­ing of the pits and a fresh layer of sand and por­ous brick pow­der. “We breed guppy fish and frogs in the wa­ter, which helps keep it clean nat­u­rally,” D’Souza adds.

“Com­mu­nity-driven, de-cen­tralised ini­tia­tives in rain­wa­ter har­vest­ing are most ur­gent and manda­tory for the city of Mum­bai,” says wa­ter con­ser­va­tion­ist and Magsaysay awardee Ra­jen­dra Singh.

“There needs to be ef­fec­tive man­age­ment, mon­i­tor­ing and su­per­vi­sion by the gov­ern­ment. But for their part, cit­i­zens can start with a catch­ment sys­tem on the roof of their home or build­ing and ex­tend that to com­mu­nity ini­tia­tives in their neigh­bour­hoods.”

Cit­i­zen ini­tia­tive is im­por­tant in Mum­bai, since there is no rule mak­ing it com­pul­sory for ex­ist­ing hous­ing so­ci­eties to har­vest rain­wa­ter — and the rule say­ing new build­ings must do so is not en­forced be­yond the blue­print stage.

“RWH has been com­pul­sory for all new con­struc­tions in Mum­bai since 2002,” says Ajit Gokhale, founder of en­vi­ron­men­tal con­sul­tancy Nat­u­ral So­lu­tions. “The Thane mu­nic­i­pal cor­po­ra­tion, which made it com­pul­sory for all new con­struc­tions in 2005, is even of­fer­ing a 0.5% waiver in prop­erty tax.”

But in Mum­bai, there are no records even of how many new build­ings are ac­tu­ally in­stalling the sys­tems, say ex­perts. “There is no mon­i­tor­ing or in­cen­tive for devel­op­ment of an RWH; no penalty for a lack thereof,” Roshni Udyavar, ar­chi­tect and head of the en­vi­ron­men­tal ar­chi­tec­ture depart­ment at Rachana Sansad col­lege. “There needs to be en­force­ment in the right man­ner, with cer­ti­fi­ca­tion only af­ter im­ple­men­ta­tion of the RWH sys­tem.”

San­deep Ad­hya­pak, CMD of con­sul­tancy Water­field Tech­nolo­gies, calls it civic lip ser­vice. “If you pro­pose the con­struc­tion of a new build­ing, you need an ar­chi­tect to sub­mit a de­sign, a struc­tural en­gi­neer for the li­cens­ing sys­tem, a li­cenced plumber for the pipes, but for rain­wa­ter har­vest­ing? Any­body can do it, so no­body does it,” he says.


So what does it take to get rain­wa­ter har­vest­ing right?

“To make it a suc­cess, you need thor­ough knowl­edge of geo­graphic lo­ca­tion, cli­mate, ge­ol­ogy, soil, land use, wa­ter re­quire­ments and the ex­ist­ing wa­ter sup­ply sys­tem,” says Ra­jeeb Dash, head of cor­po­rate mar­ket­ing at Tata Hous­ing.

“It doesn’t al­ways have to be about fill­ing up stor­age tanks. In ur­ban ar­eas, rain­wa­ter flows away as sur­face runoff and is wasted. In­stead, it can be caught and used to recharge aquifers and re­plen­ish the ground­wa­ter sys­tem.”

Un­der­stand the prin­ci­ples of RWH and then im­ple­ment them dili­gently in your com­mu­nity, ad­vises Pra­bodh Halde, pres­i­dent of the Ox­ford co-op­er­a­tive hous­ing so­ci­ety in Hi­ranan­dani Es­tates, Thane. He spear­headed the RWH project here in 2011, as CHS sec­re­tary.

It in­volved build­ing three un­der­ground tanks, con­nec­tions to borewells and beau­ti­fi­ca­tion of the premises, and cost Rs 2 lakh.

“There has been a rise in pri­vate ef­forts, with or­di­nary cit­i­zens com­ing to­gether in hous­ing so­ci­eties to har­vest rain­wa­ter, thus re­duc­ing their de­pen­dence on the mu­nic­i­pal cor­po­ra­tion. Sadly, as far as the BMC is con­cerned, the en­tire fo­cus is on sup­ply, while de­mand-side mea­sures such as RWH are over­looked,” says Dhaval Desai, vice pres­i­dent at the city-based think­tank Ob­server Re­search Foun­da­tion.

“There are large gated com­mu­ni­ties com­ing up across the city, and we are led to be­lieve that they are com­pli­ant with rain­wa­ter har­vest­ing. How much of it is func­tional needs to be stud­ied in­de­pen­dently and au­dited. As a city, we are ex­pand­ing re­sources such as Shah­pur for our wa­ter needs, but how sus­tain­able is this go­ing to be in the fu­ture?”


Many peo­ple fear that rain­wa­ter har­vest­ing will re­quire ex­ten­sive main­te­nance.

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