Rainwater Harvesting system still a long way to go

Sravani Nellore

Chennai, Mar 7: Only about 50% of the buildings in the city have rain water harvesting systems in the city, says Sekhar Raghavan, director of Rain Centre, an organisation that is working on alternatives for storing water.

Abhishek Karanam, an IT employee staying in Nungambakkam, was one of many residents who didn’t receive water for two days last month. “We were supplied bore water initially, but it was too salty to use for anything. Later, we purchased water from private water tankers,” he said. When asked about the rainwater harvesting system, he was clueless.

According to the Tamil Nadu Combined Development and Building Rules that was released last month during the Budget, every building has to set up a RHW system. The rule was made keeping in view the impending water crisis in the city.

But, this is not the first time such a rule has come out. Sekhar says, “As per 2002 law, RHWs were mandatory in every building in the State. By 2004, almost every household in Chennai had a sump to collect the water. But the structures, that resembled bore wells, were poorly designed. Its intake was low, and it overflowed and clogged often. Seeing this, the people switched to borewells. The bore wells are dug deep into the ground, where, rainwater that would have seeped in through cracks, is drawn. The water is usually very salty and is not recommended by us.”

Photo Credit: DTNEXT

As the older RHW systems didn’t last longer than three years, Sekhar’s team filed an audit to the government, recommending an improvised structure, called recharge wells. The State government has asked the citizens to incorporate the changes suggested by Sekhar’s report.

Rajasekharan, an official at the Chennai Metro Water Supply and Sewage Board, said that there is a lack of knowledge about the benefits of the RWHs. He says, “Chennai doesn’t have many options to fall back on. The water table(the height of groundwater) in many areas is dipping day by day. All the water that the city gets, comes from the rains. It is sensible that we store the rainwater to escape the crisis, but the people here hesitate to install it. Every owner spends lakhs on having a parking slot and a garden, but installing a RHW is considered a waste.”

 “In coastal areas like Chennai, if the rainwater is not collected, the water goes directly into the sea and gets wasted. We cannot afford to waste water in this way. It is the responsibility of the government to check on the implementation of the law. When it was not done in 15 years, what can be expected now?, he asked.

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