Catching rain in Gansu
Wastage banned More than 80 per cent of water in Beijing, China, is
recycled for industrial use. Tanks with a capacity of over nine litres for flushing
toilets are banned. Such changes are the result of the local governments willingness
to take action, as the average consumption rate soared from 28 (in 1949) to 300 (in 2000)
litres. In 2000, decrees and regulations were issued to adopt water saving techniques. A
plan detailing an annual quota of water consumption was drawn, which is strictly adhered,
as any default increases the fee by 15 times the regular rate.
The people in Loess plateau of Gansu province,
located in north China, have successfully turned a crisis into an opportunity to rewrite
their destinies. During the drought of 1995, the households harvesting rain were able to
sustain themselves, making the others realise the potential of the system.
Loess is one of the driest and poorest areas in
China with a per capita availability of water is only one-fifth of that in the rest of the
country. Due to an unfavourable topography it is difficult to divert river water.
Ironically, about 80 per cent of the annual precipitation, received between July and
September is estimated to be more than eight times the flow of the Yellow river at the
Lanzhou section. In other words, the utilisation of rain was low.Realising this truth,
since 1988, the Gansu Research Institute for Water Conservancy started developing
demonstration projects. The 1995 drought gave the government an opportunity to initiate
the 121 project, to supply water for drinking and courtyard irrigation.
The positive response of the people ensured
smooth functioning. About 60 80 per cent of the total cost was contributed by the
farmers, while rest of the funds were partially given by the state and partially generated
through a donation campaign. The project provided for the rainwater catchment and
utilisation (RWCU) system. It is composed of three parts, namely, rainwater collection
sub-system, storage sub-system and water supply and irrigation sub-system.
The results are worth noticing. Not only are the
basic water needs of the population being easily met, but there is plenty of water to
To know more about such initiatives in India and
across the globe, read Anil Agarwal, Sunita Narain and Indira Khurana 2001, Making Water
Everybodys Business, CSE.