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
countrys 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
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
Peoples Management of Water may seem fantastic. However, it has now
become a necessity," CSEs 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 CSEs 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.
ON WATER HARVESTING
As part of its Peoples 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
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
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.