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Ashutosh Agnihotri
Instead of relying on others for solving his water problem, Ashutosh Agnihotri, an enterprising resident of Jabalpur, Madhya Pradesh, took up the responsibility himself. In June 2001, while constructing his house, Agnihotri decided to build an underground tank to store rainwater, instead of levelling the ground. The runoff from the roof is diverted through PVC pipes to a 35,000 litres tank. Today, when his neighbours are feeling the stress due to meagre rains, he feels investing Rs 15,000 in installing the system was worth it.

His motivation to harness rainwater came from one of CSE's publications, Dying Wisdom, which vividly documented age-old water harvesting systems of communities in India. Today, he is deeply involved in sensitising his neighbours.

For details:

C/o Cancer Care Clinic
Q 13, Sneh Nagar, Yadav Colony,
Madhya Pradesh
Tel: 0761-2317973

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Brig Jagdev Singh
For most of us, rights come before duties, but not for Brigadier Jagdev Singh, a resident of Vasant Vihar, New Delhi. He understood the importance of rainwater harvesting and decided to implement it in his two-storied flat, irrespective of the negative attitude of others around him. CSE gave him technical support. In June 2001, the water management committee of the Vasant Vihar Residents' Welfare Association invited CSE to give a presentation on rainwater harvesting. Brigadier Singh, like many others, was negatively affected by the declining water table. He said, "I had two tube wells with plenty of water, but in due course of time they got dried up." He continued, "People are careless towards the environment. Though the amount required is nominal, people still are reluctant to contribute, as they think that these are not their problem." He, unlike many others, decided to take action.

A proposal was prepared by CSE for reviving the dried up tube wells. In the plan, the casing pipe of the tube well is slotted, so as to facilitate easy recharging. Filter beds comprising sand and gravel are provided to take care of silt and sediments. The entire plan, for an area of 285 square meters with an annual average water harvesting potential of 1.47 lakh litres, was completed within a cost of Rs 7,500. While speaking about the expected benefits, he said, "I hope that the water table will go up." His hopes will come true; if few others keep joining this conservation drive everyday.

For details:
Brig. Jagdev Singh
A-11/4, Vasant Vihar,
New Delhi

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D C Chowta
He is a man with a mission - to revive the vanishing madakas, the traditional water harvesting structures in coastal districts of Dakshina Kannadain in Karnataka and Kasargod in Kerala. Realising the importance of these structures in people's lives, D C Chowta and his Kasargod-based organisation Samriddi Charitable Trust has been generating awareness about these practices and ways to regenerate them.

For details:

D C Chowta
Samriddi Charitable Trust
Meenja Panchayat, PO Meeyapadavu,
Kasaragod 671 323, Kerala
Tel: 0499 - 2850251
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D V Subramanaian
After personally testing the benefits of rainwater harvesting, D V Subramanaian, a retired deputy director from the Indian Meteorological Department, is actively involved in sharing his understanding with the people in Chennai city. It began in 1999, when he decided to try to improve the quality of water, which had high a iron content, by implementing rainwater harvesting in his house. The cost being a constraint, he initially diverted the water from only half the roof area to the borewell through a filtering chamber. The results were remarkable, encouraging him to cover the entire roof.

In 2000, during a talk in the Indian Meteorological Society, Chennai, he became the first person to speak about the need to divert rainwater from the flyovers and the roofs of Mass Rapid Transport System (MRTS) stations for recharging, which was accepted. This physics postgraduate has 40 projects to his credit till date and is still going strong.

For details:

Flat No 8, Krishna Kutir,
11, Justice Sundaram Road, Mylapore,
Chennai 4

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K R Gopinath
This is a story about a man who used to deal with iron and steel in his factory at Chennai, Tamil Nadu. Today, his name has become synonymous with rainwater harvesting. K R Gopinath launched rainwater harvesting as a community service project in 1993, as President of the Rotary Club, Anna Nagar, Chennai. He started as an ordinary builder. "Water level in my well has increased from 28 feet in 1983 to two feet in the peak of summer in my house," he says. This project began in a humble manner, but has gone a long way. At present, more than 2,500 houses in Chennai, some industrial complexes like Mahindra and Mahindra, Indian Oil Corporation, and also the area office of Chennai Metro Water Supply and Sewage Board use these systems. The techniques include harvesting rainwater on rooftops and catching the runoff in the paved areas, and channelling it to a recharged borewell.

Gopinath has also set up a firm called KRG Rainwater Harvesting Company to promote rainwater harvesting in urban areas and farms. It has a technical tie-up with TAHAL Consulting Engineering Company, Israel, which is one of the leading water conservation companies of the world. On November 19, 2001 his contributions were honoured with the Indira Gandhi Priyadarshini award, 2001 by B N Singh, ex-governor of Tamil Nadu in a function organised on the occasion of late prime minister Indira Gandhi's birth anniversary at New Delhi.

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K R Narayanan
In November 1998, the then-President of India K R Narayanan invited CSE to suggest measures to harvest water at the Rashtrapati Bhavan. An advisory committee was set up by CSE, which developed a plan for water harvesting at the Rashtrapati Bhavan. The Central Public Works Department (CPWD) and Central Ground Water Board (CGWB) are undertaking the implementation of the scheme. The Presidential Estate covers an area of 133 hectares (1.33 sq. km.). The water requirements of the presidential estate are huge since there are about 7,000 people residing in the estate. Approximately 3,000 people visit the presidential premises everyday. The Mughal Gardens in the estate require a lot of water. The total demand is about 2 million litres of water per day (730 million litres per year). This demand is met through the New Delhi Municipal Corporation supply and the estates own borewells.

Since about 35 per cent of the water requirements are being met through groundwater sources, there had been an alarming decline of groundwater levels in the estate. Levels have gone down by 2 to 7 m in the past decade, with one well running dry.

The rainwater endowment of the area is 811 millions litres annually. Estimated cost of installing the system is Rs 20 lakh. The following measures are planned for the estate:

  • Rainwater from the northern side of roof and paved areas surrounding Rashtrapati Bhavan is diverted to an underground storage tank of 1 lakh litre capacity for low quality use.
  • Overflow from the one-lakh litre capacity rainwater storage tank mentioned above is diverted to two dugwells for recharging. Rainwater from the southern side of the roof is diverted for recharging a dry open well. Rainfall runoff from the staff residential area is also diverted to the dry well. Water passing into the recharge well is passed through a desilting tank to remove pollutants. The nine-lakh litre capacity swimming pool in the estate is planned to be connected to the dry dug well, so that during periodic emptying of the pool, water can be used for recharging instead of being drained away.
  • 15 m deep recharge shafts will be constructed in the staff residential area. Rainwater available from rooftops, roads and parks will be used for recharging.
  • A johad is a crescent-shaped bund that is built across a sloping catchment to capture the surface runoff. Water accumulating in the johad percolates in the soil to augment the groundwater. Johads have traditionally been used in Rajasthan for harvesting water. A johad is planned to be constructed near the Mughal Gardens.
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Lakshmi Narayanan, Shweta and Uma Maheshwari
Three final year civil engineering students Ð Lakshmi Narayanan, Shweta and Uma Maheshwari from Anna University, Chennai are successfully harvesting rain since August 8, 2001. Their initiatives have also inspired ten other students to join the group. It all started when R Jeyakumar, a builder and rainwater harvesting consultant, approached Lakshmi, who has already worked with him as an intern with a project proposal. These three students decided to utilise this invaluable opportunity. In three months, despite a strict academic schedule, they completed 15 projects. Metro water and the rainwater harvesting cell of Tamil Nadu Water Supply and Drainage Board are encouraging them by giving them the projects.

They use simple methods to catch rain, while also trying to fully utilise the existing facilities. As Lakshmi explains, first we look for existing facilities like pipes, wells, sumps and tanks. Then we draw up the plan with Jeyakumar's guidance. Following this principle, a 15 years old septic tank was converted into a rainwater storage tank in Thomas Nagar. Three pipes from the terrace are connected to a filter tank filled with pebbles, sand, charcoal and layered with netlon mats and a bucket, thus cutting the cost. They do significantly realise that there is no one model for all the projects. They can bet on every project and Chennai is certainly going to have watery days ahead.

For details:

Anna University, Chennai
Mobile: 9840142482

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M N Mitra
Though he has no formal training in engineering or water management, M N Mitra has been pioneering rainwater harvesting in Chennai. He has completed more than 150 projects after starting the TRY (Trees, Rain and You) Charitable Trust in 1999. His employer, the State Bank of Hyderabad, is promoting the work. It all started in 1997, when faced with severe drought Mitra decided to install a rainwater harvesting system in his apartment building. Undeterred by the lack of response on the part of the other residents, he went ahead. Mitra not only did the entire initial planning himself but also paid for the implementation cost. His hard work paid off. Today, the complex is able to meet its water needs.

One unique feature of TRY's work that deserves particular attention is the use of baby wells. "If all the shop owners in the crowded area of Pondy Bazaar build one baby well each, the problem of water logging could be solved", says Mitra. Moreover, while 100 storm drains cost over Rs 48 lakhs, 100 baby wells will just need Rs 8 lakhs.

For details:

Flat No 22, Temple View Apartments,
Dr Vasudev Nagar Extension,
Chennai 600 041

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Mangalam Balasubramaniam
An advisor to Danida, Mangalam Balasubramaniam is actively involved in mobilizing communities to take up rainwater harvesting. One of her major achievements includes inspiring about 1,000 residents of Pammal, Chennai to not only implement rainwater harvesting in their houses but to restore the temple tank as well. "Once we started the desilting and cleaning up of the tank, even people who had previously ignored the renovation came forward to offer their services - in the form of technical advice, monetary help or voluntary labour", reminisced Balasubramaniam. To achieve the goal, a fund-raising campaign was launched. Pammel women went from door to door seeking contributions. "We accepted whatever sum was given. One person contributed a rupee, which we accepted gratefully," shared Mahalakshmi Janarthanan, a resident. To attract the attention of the people, the fund raisers used a catchy line, 'Oru addiku munnuru rooba' - which literally means "Rs 300 for one foot (of the temple tank wall)". However, adi in Tamil also means a beating, thus, making many residents laugh at the pun and contribute the requisite amount.

Sri Sankara Vidyalaya, the Exnora Innovators Club, the Rotary Club, Pammal Tanneries Association and a few individuals were the major contributors. About Rs 13 lakhs were raised through this campaign. The ease with which the community mobilised itself to collect funds was the direct result of the change in the mindset of the people, who had experienced the positive impact of implementing rainwater harvesting in their houses. Initially they used to say, 'Namakken vambu?' (why bother?). But when they realised that the quality of water in their wells had improved drastically, and the money they would spend on buying water resources during summer had declined - their attitudes changed. Balasubramanian rightly explains, "For any community effort to be successful, the change must be visual."

More than half the fund was utilised to strengthen the banks of the tank, by constructing a wall around it. This measure was taken up to protect the tank from degeneration in the future. In September 2001, the works began and within three months the project was successfully completed, despite heavy rains. Seeing the people's enthusiasm, the administration of Kanchipuram district also joined in, by extending its support to the project. The results of the work have surprised the residents as well. Both the quality and quantity of water in the region have improved, due to the restoration of the tank.

For details:
No 5A, Plot No 105,
7th Street, Sri Sankara Nagar,
Pammal, Chennai 600 075
Tel: 2484283 / 2484841

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Mohit Ray
Mohit Ray is the co-founder of Vasundhara, a self-funded citizens group, actively involved in the protection of urban and semi-urban water bodies in and around Kolkata. It is actively encouraging and mobilising the local communities to protect 3,000 urban water bodies. All these water bodies are under the jurisdiction of the Kolkata Municipal Corporation. Their major achievement is not only removing the encroachments from the 8,500-sq m of the water body at Jheel Road near Jadavpur railway station in south Kolkata, but also reviving it. It all happened when in March 1999, the concerned residents formed the Jheel Sanrakshan Samiti that generated a huge public support for the pond's protection. Later, the municipal authority also extended its support. Together, they not only brought the pond back to life, 13 affected families were also rehabilitated. For the past years, Vasundhara has been celebrating June 16 as the wetlands day to generate awareness among the people. Impressed by their efforts, the Central Pollution Control Board has entrusted Vasundhara with the task of developing a management plan for protecting the ponds of Kolkata.

For details:

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Pawan Garg
Pawan Garg, a hydro-geologist turned industrialist, is promoting rooftop rainwater harvesting to control the depleting groundwater tables in and around Raipur, Madhya Pradesh. In 1997 he set up a non-governmental organisation - 'Rooftop water harvesting and water management society', comprising four hydro-geologists and 10 skilled and unskilled workers, who have successfully implemented the technique in about 2,000 houses. When he started working, the area was suffering from acute water scarcity. "About 60 per cent of the population in Raipur is dependent on groundwater. Almost every house has a borewell. Continued extraction of water has aggravated the problem, forcing people to go in for deeper borewells."

With the assistance of pamphlets and street shows he started a campaign to generate awareness among the people. The initial response was poor but slowly hope started emerging and strengthening with the increase in people's level of awareness. "It all started from Dr Sudarshan's residence," he fondly remembers, "Although the rainwater harvesting system was installed in 1998, the yield and quality of water from his bore well improved only in 2001." He uses simple techniques. The rainwater from the roof is diverted through pipes into the filtration pit and then to the bore well for groundwater recharging. For every 1,200 sq ft, one filter is used. This success story snowballed - with more and more people coming forward to harvest rain.

For details:

Rooftop water harvesting and water management society
301, Shrisiti Apartments,
Shankar Nagar, Raipur 492 001

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R Ramani
Ramani likes to be known as the 'crusader for rainwater harvesting'. Just a couple of minutes of interaction with him leaves one with no doubt that he is truly worthy of this sobriquet. To avoid buying water in the wake of 1988's severe water scarcity that had gripped Chennai, he decided to undertake rooftop rainwater harvesting. The initial results were not good. A considerable presence of salinity and iron in the water made it unpotable. However, he never gave up. Through trial and error and, by using proper filtration methods, his water-related problems were solved.

Ramani has set up the Akash Ganga project and introduced different types of water conservation techniques in his residence. As a result, not a single drop of water is wasted in his house, which has been developed as a model. It is also open for people to come and visit.

After retiring from ONGC, Ramani started a trust called 'Ramadies' in 2000 - offering consultative services to interested individuals and institutions. He has completed 130 projects and the number is steadily swelling.

For details:

Ramadies Charitable Trust
5 (1050), 41st Street,
TNHB Colony, Korattur,
Chennai 600 080

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Shanta Sheela Nair
You might as well call her Chennai's water woman. Shanta Sheela Nair, secretary, Municipal Administration and Water Supply (MAWS), is the driving force behind the successful implementation of rainwater harvesting schemes in the bustling metro. She has also been instrumental in passing the Chennai Groundwater Regulation Act. It was a difficult battle, but the tough-talking bureaucrat eventually won. "It took strict enforcement of the anti-water mining legislation coupled with active support from local communities to stop the mining," she reveals.

A woman with a mission, Nair has even included rainwater harvesting as a part of the flood mitigation and storm drain construction schemes. It was due to her efforts that rainwater harvesting was made mandatory for new buildings in 1994, and for all buildings in 2002.

To step up the campaign, information centres were put up at all district headquarters. Nair, who has earlier worked with different government departments in Tamil Nadu, has now taken her mission beyond Chennai to the rural areas.

For details:
Municipal Administration and Water Supply
Cheenai 600 009
Tel: 044-25360491
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Surinder Bansal
Bansal is an unassuming businessman from Haryana, who is doing remarkable work for the people in Jamalpura. His life took a significant turn in 1995, when he read a review of Talab, a well-known book written by Anupam Mishra. Not only did he read the book carefully, he also met the author. "It was an inspiring encounter. And, I decided to spread awareness about this book and the issues it addresses. The response of the people was encouraging", he said. He has translated Talab in Gurmukhi, so that more people can read it. "I never thought of joining or starting any organisation or group. I want to work with people on my own terms", he says. For past few years, in the months from June to September, he and a few other interested people plant new trees. Recently, he has also obtained approval from Shiromoni Gurduwara Prabandhan Committee to take up tree plantation on vast tracts of land owned by this body.

For details:

Jamalpura, Malerkotla 148023
Tel: 0167-23652435

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Shekhar Raghavan
Shekhar Raghavan has extensively campaigned for rooftop water harvesting by going door-to-door in Besant Nagar, Chennai. This area is close to the sea, hence, groundwater is plentiful. For the same reason there has been unchecked overexploitation of groundwater. It is bound to lead to ingress, rendering the groundwater source non-potable. Raghavan could foresee the danger and undertook the campaign to avert it. He has also persuaded government agencies like the Chennai Metropolitan Water Supply and Sewerage Board to encourage rainwater harvesting. Over the years, his network has expanded as he extends technical assistance to interested individuals, communities and institutions. One of his well-known accomplishments is of facilitating the setting up of a rainwater harvesting system in Padmanabha Nagar in Adyar, a residential colony, with active participation of the people. This has resolved the neighborhood's persistent drinking water problem.

For details:

Sitalakshmi Raghavan Memorial Social and Charitable Trust
D 15, Bayview Apartments,
Kalakshetra Colony, Besant Nagar,
Chennai 600 090
Tel: 044 - 24918415

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Tej Razdan
An ardent environmental activist, Razdan heads the Jheel Sanrakshan Samiti (JSS), an Udaipur-based non-governmental organisation, which is initiating the process of awareness generation among the people to manage rainwater in both urban and rural areas. Under his leadership, JSS has been able to mobilise more than 80 villages of Udaipur district to join the jal biradari network. The major challenge before this network has been on how to make people understand the importance of managing their water resources themselves. According to Tej Razdan, the secretary of JSS, a surgeon by profession, "It has become a habit among the villagers to get work done without moving a finger. They show interest only in those works, which are either funded by the government or NGOs and where they don't have to give their own contribution." JSS devised a comprehensive awareness generation strategy, including various aspects like village pheri, puppet shows and plays to get their message across.

JSS has waged a relentless struggle to save the lakes of Udaipur - Pichhola, Swaroop Sagar, Fateh Sagar and Badi - through public interest litigations. Filed in 1997, it seeks urgent judicial intervention to clean up and to check the flow of pollutants into these water bodies, which form the city's lifeline. Their concerted efforts have been able to strengthen the local people's resolve to brave long delays in the judicial process and an apathetic and partisan government to protect their lakes. But their hard work paid off. The city has received funds under the National Lakes Conservation Plan (NLCP) to restore the water bodies. And, the High Court is itself monitoring the executive compliance of its orders on a regular basis. Recently, his group has joined CSE's Urban Wetland campaign to collectively motivate the urban population to understand the manifold uses that these decaying water bodies once served, and to emphasise the urgent need to protect and revive them.

For details:
113 Chetak Marg
Udaipur 313 001
Tel: 0294-2523809 / 2524961

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Venkatraman, president of PN welfare association, decided to adopt the technique of rainwater harvesting in his colony. Shekhar Raghavan, a Chennai-based rainwater harvesting facilitator, assisted him. Venkatraman decided to begin with his own house. It all started in 2001, when Chennai was going through a period of severe water scarcity. This colony of 65 individual houses, covering an area of around three acres, was also facing a problem due to seawater intrusion. The state water supply was not only irregular but limited in quantity as well, thus compelling people to buy water. The middle class residents of PN were spending about Rs 2,000 - Rs 3,000 per month on water.

Venkatraman decided to begin with his house. To demonstrate the benefits of this technique to other residents he designed a diversion pipe (a four inch PVC pipe bend with a reducer of four inch to one inch that can be fitted with any rooftop water down a pipe of four inches in diameter) through which water can be diverted to any part of the house. Initially, to popularise rainwater harvesting among the residents, he also announced a subsidy of Rs 250 for feasibility study.

In 2001, when one night of rain filled the sumps of 4,000-litre capacity with water, people started realising the potential of rainwater harvesting. Today, 54 houses in PN are catching rain. The designs used are simple. Venkataraman explains, "Rooftop rainwater is diverted to sumps for direct usage". To reduce the cost, pipes near the sump and dug wells are used. Rainwater harvesting is also strengthening inter community bonds in PN. As Venkatarman narrates, "When Seshadri, a PN resident decided to go for water harvesting, he realised that his neighbour - Krishnaswamy and Afzal's pipes runs near his dug well. Thus, it would be in everyone's interest to take collective action. Both of them not only agreed but also gave their financial contribution for the project." It clearly shows that water knows no boundaries of caste or religion - it stays with people, who respect and conserve it.

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Vijay Kumar
When it comes to making a difference, a little initiative can go a long way. And no one knows this better than Vijay Kumar, a gardener-cum-mason, who has taken upon himself the responsibility of maintaining the rainwater harvesting systems, designed by CSE, at Janaki Devi Mahila College (JDMC), New Delhi. A daily wager for the last ten years, Vijay used his observant nature to study the potentiality of rainwater harvesting to overcome Delhi's water problems. He has a complete understanding of the rainwater harvesting systems of JDMC. While sharing his views, he made some valuable suggestions to improve the system. He proposed increasing the width of the pipes carrying water from the trench on the main gate to the recharge well. This, he believes, will prevent 50 per cent of the run-off from getting wasted. Vijay feels that broken bricks should be used in the filtration bed rather than stones, as bricks have a better capacity to soak and release water.

Vijay has implemented these changes in one of the four-filtration beds at JDMC and is now looking forward to spreading the revolutionary technique across a wider spectrum.

For details:

House No 7, Staff Quarters,
Janaki Devi Mahila College
Old Rajendra Nagar
New Delhi

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