Chennai had a severely deficient monsoon in 2018 with 40% less rain than normal. Since then, the city has been bracing itself for a water crisis. But clearly not enough had been done and the severe water scarcity this summer has been a wake-up call for people, highlighting the urgency of finding ways to use their water resources better.
Though rainwater harvesting was made mandatory in 2003 when the city experienced similar drought like conditions, the idea has been poorly implemented across the city. With the recent water crisis, the focus has shifted to efforts that the citizens can undertake to save water in these times of need.
Roadside rainwater harvesting
The latest in a line of citizen-led initiatives has seen Chitlapakkam Muthulakshmi Nagar Welfare Association launch the pilot project of erecting roadside rainwater harvesting (RWH) pits. Though roadside RWH had been under discussion for quite some time, the process received impetus from the idea and physical support given by members of the Youth Wing of Chitlapakkam Muthulakshmi Nagar Welfare Association.
A 5-ft pit, of 3 ft diameter, has been dug and five RCC Rings (Urai) of 2.5 ft diameter have been installed and covered with a lid with holes. A wire mesh has been placed below the lid to prevent garbage going inside and to enable rain water falling on the road to percolate to the pit. Each pit cost Rs 6750 and was funded by the residents’ welfare association.
Members had heard about roadside rainwater harvesting, but not much progress could be made earlier for want of know-how. The Association’s youth wing suggested active exploration of the idea of roadside rainwater harvesting in a meeting held in May 2019. After discussion with the youth wing executives, the project was selected to be taken up.
The next step involved drawing up of plans and the rainwater harvesting set up. Once that was completed, in my capacity as president of the Welfare Association, I briefed the Chitlapakkam Town Panchayat Executive Officer D.Gunasekaran, seeking permission to work on Bheeshmer street on a pilot project. Permission was granted on the same day and the work was completed by July 14th.
A small event was organised to inaugurate the rainwater harvesting pits. V.Ramajeyam, Vice President presided over the brief function in the presence of V.L.Narasimhan, fellow Vice President. Both of them emphasised the need for maintenance of the RWH pits and urged members not to throw garbage on the streets, to enable free flow of rain water from street to pit.
Speaking at the event inaugurating the setup, Secretary of the RWA, D R Shivakumar appreciated the efforts taken by the youth wing coordinators S Mugundan and P Mahesh and all members for bringing up the proposal and implementing it. He hoped such rainwater harvesting pits will now be installed in various parts of Muthulakshmi Nagar.
S.Mugundan, coordinator, highlighted that the severe drought this year jolted members into thinking seriously about conservation of water by installing such pits across the nagar, with the support of the parent association.
The members also thanked the Executive Officer of Chitlapakkam Town Panchayat who gave permission to undertake the project without any delay. The youth wing also received appreciation for coming out with a concrete plan and drawing for the set up quickly.
At the inauguration, the residents took a pledge to save water with the lines, “We, the members of Chitlapakkam Muthulakshmi Nagar Welfare Association, will not allow even a drop of rain water to be wasted from our house.”
The efforts of the community bore fruit immediately with good rains in the days that followed in the coming days. As the pits has been dug at the spots where water was known to stagnate the most, the rainwater harvesting facility came into play immediately after the set up was complete.