Harvesting for survival?
Intro: Many cry for water scarcity everyday but very few take solid step to save it. Dr PC Jain, an Allopathic practitioner in Udaipur, has set a model worth emulating in rain water harvesting. He has so far persuaded about 1,400 house owners, institutions, schools or government offices in the city to opt for roof top rain water harvesting to recharge the bore wells or tube wells. Thanks to his tireless efforts of two decades not only the ground water level has increased substantially but also over a lakh people now drink safe water, writes Pramod Kumar ?
India is blessed with adequate rainfall as a whole, yet there are large swathes of dry and drought prone areas. Per capita availability of water is on the fast decline because of burgeoning population. Agriculture is said to be the single largest consumer of water, but industrial demand now shows the fastest growth. A disturbing fact about ground water is that it is increasingly getting polluted due to access use of pesticides in the fields. Bore wells and tube wells are either silting up, getting short of water or are drawing polluted water. Private purchase of water from tankers is unreliable in quality and also is expensive.
In this situation it makes ecological and financial sense not to waste the rain water available in large quantity on our roofs. Dr PC Jain of Udaipur realised this fact about two decades back and started persuading people to save rain water. Because of his efforts over 1,400 families of the city including various institutions like the Railways, medical college, etc conserve rain water. This system uses a building’s rooftop as a catchment area. After the rain falls, the water is channeled through pipe directly to the bore well or the tube well. A 1,000 square ft of roof area with one cm rain fall yields 1,000 litre of water in an average year of rain. This reveals the potential in rainwater harvesting.
Dr Jain clicked the idea around 1990 when he read a news item in a leading English daily. The news was from Dewas (Madhya Pradesh), where the people had decided to do something about their chronic water shortage. The entire city embarked on a massive rainwater harvesting programme and had phenomenal success in meeting their water needs and recharging their severely depleted groundwater table. Inspired with it Dr Jain started the work in Udaipur, thus becoming an unusual doctor. He encouraged all kinds of local citizens to install rainwater systems in their homes, offices, schools and community buildings. Interestingly, his wife, Dr Manju Jain, a homeopath, is his close associate in this endeavour.
Dewas water filter that Dr Jain has adopted enjoys the backing of Central Ground Water Board (CGWB) also. When asked how he started the work he says, “First I installed the system in my own house. It not only improved the water level but also bettered the taste of water. Buoyed over it I approached the Medical College to adopt it. But there were two opinions there on it. But the laboratory results silenced all the critics. Then I spoke to my friends, relatives and the people of the city at large. Meanwhile, the Railways also agreed to install the system to recharge an old well at Rana Pratap Railway Station.” Installation of the system in one house costs about Rs 10,000. If one installs it in the under construction house the cost reduces to just Rs 5,000.
|The wonder that Dr PC Jain does
Why Rainwater harvesting is need of the hour?
Rajasthan has a rich tradition of rain water harvesting since ancient time. Majority of the old houses used to have water tanks known as ‘tankas’ in local parlance. The water stored in ‘tankas’ was used throughout the year. The old houses with ‘tankas’, in Jodhpur and in the capital city of Jaipur can be seen even today and they are very much in use. In Jaipur, it is known as chauka system. Unfortunately, the new generations have ignored this method. But now they realise the old system was better.
Dr Jain is committed to the cause so much that he conducts different activities to educate the people—perform street plays, organise bhajans and songs, conducts presentations in conferences, congregations in clubs and meetings with local people. “We can produce anything in the labs but not the water. Therefore the only option is to save it today for tomorrow,” he says lamenting that he has so far spent about Rs 80,000 on writing to different authorities but the response has been very poor. But he is satisfied with the outcome of his efforts in Udaipur. All the families who opted for it witnessed miraculous results both in quality of water and in water level. A salty well turned sweet. Similarly, a girls’ hostel, which used to spend Rs 3.65 lakh per year on water tankers, saves this amount every year after installing this system.
According to CGWB, hardly 10 per cent of the rainwater goes into the land and rest flows through the drains. It is because of the concrete roads, streets and the sewage system. The access drawing of ground water has adversely damaged the quality of the water. “Rain water has the capacity to maintain this balance,” Dr Jain adds.
Experts say India can save 85 billion cubic meter water through harvesting rain water alone, which is more than the water flows in certain rivers like Krishna (78.12 billion cubic meter), Kavery (21) Mahanadi (66), Narmada (45 billion cubic meters), etc. The Central Ground Water Board has identified 9,41,541 sq. meter area in the country where ground water recharge system can be adopted on large scale. But this work has to be done by the State governments and not by the Centre. The governments of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Maharashtra have taken some effective steps in this regard. In Tamil Nadu alone it proved excellent and many states took it as role model. Since its implementation, Chennai saw a 50 per cent rise in water level in five years and the water quality significantly improved. Officially, rooftop rainwater harvesting systems are now mandatory for new buildings in 18 of the country’s 28 states and four of the seven Union Territories. But the poor implementation draws poor results.
Dr PC Jain’s initiative is eye opener for all of us. Instead of erying for water pollution or scarcity, we should take steps to recharge the ground water level if we wish to keep the lifeline of our future generations functioning.