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.
C/o Cancer Care Clinic
Q 13, Sneh Nagar, Yadav Colony,
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
Brig. Jagdev Singh
A-11/4, Vasant Vihar,
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.
D C Chowta
Samriddi Charitable Trust
Meenja Panchayat, PO Meeyapadavu,
Kasaragod 671 323, Kerala
Tel: 0499 - 2850251
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.
Flat No 8, Krishna Kutir,
11, Justice Sundaram Road, Mylapore,
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.
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
- 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.
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.
Anna University, Chennai
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
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.
Flat No 22, Temple View Apartments,
Dr Vasudev Nagar Extension,
Chennai 600 041
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.
No 5A, Plot No 105,
7th Street, Sri Sankara Nagar,
Pammal, Chennai 600 075
Tel: 2484283 / 2484841
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.
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.
Rooftop water harvesting and water management society
301, Shrisiti Apartments,
Shankar Nagar, Raipur 492 001
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.
Ramadies Charitable Trust
5 (1050), 41st Street,
TNHB Colony, Korattur,
Chennai 600 080
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.
Municipal Administration and Water Supply
Cheenai 600 009
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.
Jamalpura, Malerkotla 148023
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.
Sitalakshmi Raghavan Memorial Social and Charitable Trust
D 15, Bayview Apartments,
Kalakshetra Colony, Besant Nagar,
Chennai 600 090
Tel: 044 - 24918415
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.
113 Chetak Marg
Udaipur 313 001
Tel: 0294-2523809 / 2524961
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
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.
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.
House No 7, Staff Quarters,
Janaki Devi Mahila College
Old Rajendra Nagar