With monsoon getting more and more delayed every year, and the month of July practically seeing no rain annually, rainwater harvesting is an issue which is increasingly becoming the need of the hour.
But despite the fact that August was declared by the Met Department as the second wettest August in over a decade-and-a-half, there are hardly any takers for that singular step that could bring immense relief for Delhiites – albeit at a price.
After more than 10 years of making rainwater harvesting compulsory in Delhi, Chief Minister, Sheila Dikshit has accepted that the decision has not been successful for the City’s groundwater levels are falling consistently and abysmally low with each passing year and the problem is becoming more acute with time.
Adding to woes is the fact that surface level sources are restricted. So what becomes important is to increase ground water level which can only be done by rainwater harvesting.
There has been an increase in awareness where some institutions are concerned. For instance, Amity University had set up a huge rain water harvesting tank at the time of construction of their Noida campus.
Dr Balwinder Singh, the VC, says, “Conserving resources and their optimum utilisation is our main aim. Right from when the University came into existence, we set up an underground water tank spread all over the campus to save rain water.”
Centre for Science and Environment under the leadership of Sunita Narain has also set up its own rainwater harvesting unit which has led to increase in groundwater levels substantially and benefited not just CSE but the area around its offices in Tuglaqabad as well.
The scenario is unfortunately not so appreciative in most residential areas which back out primarily because of the investment cost.
Sanjay Kaushik, president of Uthaan, an NGO that has been working for harvesting rainwater since eight years shares that it is difficult to convince people who live in small houses to set up rain water harvesting as a community effort. “We tried convincing a colony of 50 houses in Faridabad to set up community rainwater harvesting system which would have cost every household Rs 8,000 approx. but not all of them agreed and we had to back out,” he says.
However, for bigger homes, the NGO as also CSE strive to save not just rain water but also suggest recycling of kitchen and sewage water for purposes like gardening and car washes. Sanjay says, “Recycling is important as it takes place the year round rather than just during monsoon. The recycled water can be used for plants.”
Still, implementation comes a close second to increasing awareness among masses. Sushmita Sengupta, deputy programme manager, Water Unit, CSE says, “Delhi Jal Board offers incentives for implementation of rainwater harvesting systems to institutions, RWAs, hospitals and schools.
The board also has awards for best implementers. Of course, implementation costs can be borne by private players and institutions than by individual residents. Still
if residents plan a harvesting structure from the very beginning of construction, then the cost comes down substantially.”
So as they say, if you pay then you care and if you care only then you pay. So it is essential to care now rather than repent later!