Yatra with a purpose
Influencing individuals for water harvesting


Udaipur lakes: action at last







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Vol. 2                                    No. 3                           June 2000

Influencing individuals for water harvesting

In the past 50 years, the Indian government has spent vast sums of money on water resource development. Programmes have focussed on irrigation development for increasing green revolution-style agricultural production and drinking water supply. But no specific effort has been directed to drought-proof rainfed areas which suffer from high rainfall variability from year to year. "The government has intervened in the country’s hydrological systems in a very big way. But it has done precious little to sustain its integrity," said Anil Agarwal, director Centre for Science and Environment (CSE).

Addressing a public meeting on ‘Water harvesting for a drought-free future’ organised by the CSE in New Delhi, Agarwal observed that the government has suddenly woken up to the importance of water harvesting and financial assistance to the tune of around Rs. 2,000 crore have been allotted to build water harvesting structures in different states. He pointed out that the water harvesting process required more than just monetary support. "It involves a process of awareness raising and institution building among the villagers. The entire concept of community water harvesting requires time and effort," he said, adding: "If the government does not make the effort to involve the people, there could be more money harvesting than water harvesting."

But rainwater harvesting need not only be restricted to rural India. "For city-dwellers, used to buying things and services off-the-shelf, the concept of ‘People’s Management of Water’ may seem fantastic. However, it has now become a necessity," CSE’s water harvesting engineer spoke about the potential, modalities and the cost of urban water harvesting.

The public meeting was addressed by Anil Agarwal, director CSE, Sunita Narain, deputy director CSE, R N Athavale, emeritus scientist National Geophysical Research Institute, Hyderabad, Rajendra Singh, Secretary, Tarun Bharat Sangh and CSE’s water engineer.

The meeting emphasised the role of people and community in preventing droughts. Speakers elaborated that water harvesting is not for rural communities alone, because if water needs are to be met, harvesting needs to be done in the urban settings as well. The meeting also provided a platform for an active discussion.

The public meeting got an overwhelming response thereby indicating the growing interest and consciousness amongst the people towards water harvesting.


As part of its People’s Management of Water campaign, Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) organised a workshop on water harvesting for architects, builders and engineers on 12 June 2000. The objective of the workshop was to disseminate technical know-how of water harvesting amongst the professional community. It was also the occasion for release of the urban water harvesting manual published by CSE.

The workshop was attended by architects and engineers from both private and government organisations. Organisations represented at the workshop included Delhi Development Authority (DDA), Central Public Works Department (CPWD), National Buildings Construction Corporation Ltd. (NBCC) and Engineers India Ltd. (EIL).

The speakers invited to share their experiences in water harvesting were R Jeyakumar, Managing Director, Rajparis Civil Constructions Limited, Chennai, and S Vishwanath, engineer-planner, Bangalore, both professionally involved in design and construction of buildings. The water harvesting engineer from CSE, spoke about the technical aspects of water harvesting based on the case studies of the systems designed by the Centre in Delhi. The valedictory address for the workshop was given by Anil Agarwal, director, CSE.

Jeyakumar presented a short video documentary on water harvesting and spoke about the efforts done in Chennai to recharge groundwater at a domestic level on a wide scale to reverse salinity intrusion taking place along the coast of the Bay of Bengal. He gave details of the water harvesting techniques used in Chennai and various practical aspects of implementing structures like cost of construction, appropriate materials for construction etc. Apart from various aspects of groundwater recharging, Jeyakumar also presented a case study of a drinking water project undertaken by Rotary Club in Kuil Thottam, a slum settlement in Chennai (see "Slums capture rainwater" Oct 1999 CatchWater).

S Vishwanath has been experimenting with self-reliant and low-energy housing in the Bangalore region, and has a special interest in water harvesting. He is part of the group that formed the Rainwater Club, an informal network on architects and engineers with interest in water management. Vishwanath gave technical and financial details of water harvesting work undertaken by him, especially of the recently-commissioned system at the Escorts factory at Bangalore. At the Escorts plant, water harvested and stored in underground tanks was found to be cheaper than water from both corporation and private supplies.

Anil Agarwal, also addressed the participants of the workshop. He pointed out how dealing with water issues in isolation is not sufficient and other problems such as atmospheric pollution, which have an impact on water, also have to be dealt with separately. He highlighted the role of the building professionals in implementing water harvesting systems. Copies of the urban water harvesting manual were distributed to the participants at the end of the workshop.