People fight back

Delhi Harvesting

Centre goes for decentralisation


Enhancing public understanding

Initiating solutions

Spreading the good word

Youth for action

Agents of change


A quest for water

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Vol. 3                                      No. 4                               August 2001


Initiating solutions

The Tamil Nadu (TN) unit of National Water Harvester’s Network (NWHN) of which Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), a New Delhi-based nongovernmental organisation (NGO) is the central secretariat, participated in a two-day exhibition called SINDHANAI, along with 35 other NGOs. The exhibition was organised by Relief Foundation, an NGO working for the cause of juvenile children, on June 16 and 17, 2001. The TN unit highlighted the traditional water harvesting systems of India. This exhibition provided an entry point to the TN unit of NWHN to organise a civic meet on rainwater harvesting in Chennai on August 4, 2001.

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CSE Staff answering the queries of the vistors in a two-day exhibition

The state capital of TN, Chennai is facing a severe water scarcity for the past few years. This crisis has raised concern among its residents on the depleting groundwater tables, while   generating an interest in recharging it, through rainwater harvesting techniques. The feedback from the exhibition revealed that this interest was being overshadowed by doubts on how this technique could be actually executed and at what cost.   Thus, the TN unit of NWHN decided to actively facilitate an understanding and network among the concerned resident, at different levels, to clear the hurdles in the ways of executing this technique in a holistic manner.

With these objectives in mind, the civic meet was organised in Madras Institute of Development Studies, Chennai. A Vaidyanathan, chairperson of TN unit of NWHN chaired the meet. The main objective of this meet was to facilitate an interactive network among various civic groups involved in rainwater harvesting. In this meet a number of measures that the participants could adopt to improve the understanding on rainwater harvesting among the people in their areas were discussed. The participants were expected to indicate their choices and the role they expect the TN unit of NWHN to play in facilitating the execution of these measures. The measures discussed were as follows:

dot.gif (88 bytes)A need was expressed to strengthen the level of people’s awareness  on how the rainwater harvesting technique could solve their day to day water problems.
dot.gif (88 bytes)It was suggested that the successful efforts of local communities and state should be lauded.
dot.gif (88 bytes)The information on the design, costs and impact of works already  executed need to be highlighted to improve the confidence of the  local community in the potential of rainwater harvesting.
dot.gif (88 bytes)The specific local conditions like terrain and underground formations should be taken into consideration while designing the project.
dot.gif (88 bytes)There is a need to expand the existing information base on the design and installation of the rainwater harvesting technique.
dot.gif (88 bytes)A need was expressed to work out an action programme for each locality (falling, within the participating NGOs work area), to not only spread the information on rainwater harvesting, but also to plan and execute these works.  The networks in each of these locality needs to be strengthened, by organising periodic performance evaluation meetings.

Continuing with their significant work, the CSE staffer gave a talk on rainwater harvesting, in the seminar organised by the department of Social Work, Madras Christian College, Tambaram  on August 13, 2001. The participants were surprised when the CSE staffer suggested that they could tap nearly 120 million litres of water every year in their college campus with an area of about 300 hectares. The seminar discussed the status of public water supply system in Chennai, role of groundwater sources, need for rainwater harvesting, its benefits and costs. The participating post graduate students are involved in the community development projects in rural and urban slums. They sought the TN unit’s guidance to incorporate rainwater harvesting as one of the component of their project.

The TN unit of NWHN has been constantly finding ways to popularise  rainwater harvesting as a technique, which provides a simple, cheap and effective solution among the residents of Chennai. Their efforts are gaining acceptance among the people.

For further information:
J S Saravanan
Networking Associate
TN unit of NWHN, CSE
162B, Greams lane,
Thousand  lights,
Chennai- 600006


Spreading the good word

In July 2001, the water harvesting engineers from Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), a New Delhi-based non-governmental organisation (NGO)  participated in three training workshops organised in Agartala, Udaipur and Faridabad. CSE is actively extending technical support and service to individuals, NGOs and governmental organisations for design and installation of rainwater harvesting systems for urban residential and commercial complexes.

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A glimpse of the exhibition organised as part of the workshop in Agaratala

Agartala, Tripura:
A survey conducted by the government of Tripura in 1998 revealed that the habitations in the hill of Tripura were affected by scarcity of safe drinking water. On the basis of this review, drinking water was identified as one of the top priority areas. With a primary focus to find out an appropriate technology for providing safe and dependable drinking water to the population on the hills of Tripura, the government of Tripura organised a two-day workshop on Drinking Water Problems in Hilltops and Implementation of Sector Reforms, between July 11-12, 2001.

Apart from villagers, representatives of NGOs, Stupps Consultants, Kolkatta,  government officials, organisations like the Indian Council for Agricultural Research (ICAR), Agartala,   Rajiv Gandhi National Drinking Water Mission (RGNDWM), and public health engineering department of Meghalaya also participated in this workshop.

Manik Sarkar, chief minister of Tripura, in his inaugural speech, stressed upon the need for promoting rainwater harvesting in the hilly areas. He urged the concerned officers to act upon the suggestions coming out of the workshop at the earliest so that  government objective of making  drinking water available to all by March 2002 could be achieved. The additional advisor of RGNDWM, P K Chakroborty while giving the key note address voiced his concerns over the inability of government programmes in addressing water scarcity problems. The experience-sharing session involving the villagers made the workshop livelier. Most of them raised their concerns about the defunct government tubewells as well as depleting levels of aquifers. This was followed by presentations by various government agencies, which gave a statistical preview of the existing scenario in the field of drinking water and sanitation in Tripura.

CSE’s engineer informed about the relevance of rainwater harvesting in augmenting water supply in hilly areas. He also spoke on the various techniques, design aspects and quality issues related to rainwater harvesting as applicable to hilly areas. Case study from Lambucherra in Agartala presented by joint director, ICAR also brought out the benefits of rainwater harvesting.

The two-day long deliberations ended with a group discussion, involving all the participants so as to formulate recommendations regarding the water supply in hilly areas. It was recommended to promote rainwater harvesting as an alternate technology in hilly areas by constructing check dams and storage reservoirs, besides rooftop water harvesting. It was also decided to carry out a more detailed study of the hydrogeology of the area with the help of Central Ground Water Board. The recommendations were placed before the committee headed by the minister of rural development, who assured the gathering that immediate steps would be taken for the implementation of  recommendations.

Udaipur, Rajasthan:
On July 10 ,2001, Jheel Sanrakshan Samiti, (JSS) and Bharthiya Lok Kala Mandal, Udaipur-based NGOs organised a workshop on rainwater harvesting, jointly with CSE. Inaugurating the workshop, O P Saini, commissioner of Udaipur stressed upon the importance of people’s participation in water conservation. He also called for more effective dissemination of information regarding water harvesting amongst the rural people. Jagat S Mehta, chairperson, JSS, drew the attention of the participants towards the deteriorating groundwater quantity and quality in Udaipur. Anil Agarwal, chairperson, CSE, stressed upon the importance of water literacy. He enlightened the audience with the success stories of water harvesting from Sukhomajiri, near Chandigarh and Ralegan Siddhi in Ahmednagar district of Maharashtra, where water harvesting has reaped dividends by bringing tremendous socio-economic changes.

CSE’s engineer in his address covered various aspects of rainwater harvesting like need, methodology, filtering arrangements, cost estimation and   rainwater quality. He also referred  to case studies like Rashtrapati Bhawan,  Hamdard University and CSE office in Delhi where rainwater harvesting had been successfully implemented. While answering to one of the questions raised by the participants regarding the method of recharge that could be applied in Udaipur town considering that Udaipur sits on a hard rock area,  the CSE engineer replied,”In hard rock areas the weathered rock formation and fractures in the hard rocks are ideal zones for recharge purposes and the rainwater can be stored in these formations.” Another query was raised regarding whether the rooftop water can be directly diverted to the existing borewell.  The CSE engineer replied that the rooftop water could be diverted to a borewell provided it passes through a  sedimentation tank which would arrest the silt and installing a first flush device, wherein the first few litres, which may be polluted are not harvested.

By referring to the fact that the raiwater harvesting technique has been successfully implemented in Rastrapati Bhawan, Hamdard University and CSE office in Delhi, participants query were answered in Udaipur

Various aspects of small water harvesting structures were discussed by Ajay Garh, engineer, irrigation department of Rajasthan. Tej Razdan of JSS explained about the various water harvesting projects undertaken by their organisation in hilly areas in and around Udaipur, where they are providing PVC pipes for transportation of water from low lying areas to the hilltops for farmers at free of cost.

Faridabad, Haryana:
Society for Suitable Development (SSD), a Faridabad-based NGO, along with the Haryana Chapter of  India Institute of Architects, organised a workshop on July, 2001. The seminar Rainwater harvesting and water conservation was well attended by architects, engineers, students and senior citizens of Faridabad. LSM Salins, irrigation commissioner of Gurgaon while inaugurating the workshop informed on the need to make provisions for artificial recharge of groundwater an integral part of town planning. CSE’s engineer spoke on the importance of rainwater harvesting in urban context and the benefits of water harvesting. Daler Singh, senior hydrogeologist of CGWB, explained the rainwater harvesting projects executed by them in Delhi. Himanshu Grover, programme director of Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) in Udaipur also spoke on the urban water harvesting in which he expounded upon the scope and benefits of rainwater harvesting in Faridabad city. In his speech he also highlighted  the frequent flooding that happens during heavy down pour and also contamination of existing nallahs and talabs due to water mismanagement.

Youth for Action

Charged. That was only way to describe the 200-odd students and young water professionals gathered in Hogeschool Zeeland University, Vlissengen, Netherlands to participate in the Youth World Water Forum (YWWF). The YWWF was formed during the Second World Water Forum  held in the Hague in March 2000, where in accordance with the statement  ‘Water needs to be made everybody’s business,’ these students had presented their vision and action plan. In the conference held between June 25 to 28, 2001, the Youth Water Action Team (YWAT) was formed to press for action at the Third World Water Forum to be held in Japan in March 2003. The YWAT with its  36 members from different river basins from all over the world here adopted an action plan and before the end of summer, shall present its strategy.

Speaking on the occasion, Prince William Alexander of the Netherlands said, “I see many resemblances between the environmental issues of the 1970s and the water problems of the year 2000. In the 70s it was the young people who made environmental problems into a global issue with high priorities on political agendas. I think the same can happen in the first decade of this century in relation to water problems.” On the same occasion, a  website was inaugurated by the prince. The first words that the prince wrote on the website were: Water everybody’s business.

Out of the several workshops and lectures held on issues relating to water, about 25 students participated in the workshop on rainwater harvesting conducted by the Centre for Science and Environment, New Delhi. Most of the students were hearing about the concept and potential of rainwater harvesting for the first time. And yet their recommendations on how to make community-based rainwater harvesting a global and sustainable movement were interesting. Their suggestions included making contact at the lowest level possible, a sound understanding of social values from all over the world and most importantly, an understanding of the real value of water. At the end of the workshop the students vowed to try their best and make community efforts at water conservation an issue at the YWWF. “Together we will make sure that the voice of the youth is heard all over the world. Not only the voice however. We shall elaborate our actions and creatively contribute to solving the water problem,” said a confident Anke Hartevelt, a student from Hogeschool. So enthused were these youngsters in their determination to alleviate water-related problems that they managed to stir up the blood of many a ‘senior’ and jaded water expert also invited to Vlissengen to share their knowledge and experience.

Copyright CSE  Centre for Science and Environment