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Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Societies harness rain power as BMC flounders

Civic Bosses Propose Unusable Ideas Like Desalination To Tackle Water Shortage

 Several peculiar ideas have been thrown up in the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation to give the city round-the-year, roundthe-clock water, including cloud seeding. But several housing societies have not waited for these plans to materialise, instead helping themselves by opting for rainwater harvesting. 

    Municipal bosses have often travelled abroad for "study tours" to learn ways to deliver the city from its not infrequent water crises. Their recommendations have been as diverse as desalination, cloud seeding and water recycling. Realistic citizens, however, have taken steps of their own. Two societies that 
TOI visited–Raheja Vihar Rainbow society in Powai and Avanti Niketan CHS, Sion–chose rainwater harvesting to circumvent recurring water shortages. 
    Residents of Avanti Niketan made the key decision in 2007. "We needed an ecofriendly way to solve our problem and rainwater harvesting was the ideal solution for us," said Gaurang Damani, a social activist and a committee member. "We did not have technical knowledge of how to set up the system but somehow we managed to 
gather the information from the internet and put it up." 
    The residents used their open terrace, which is roughly 500 sq m in size, as a catchment area. The rainwater 
that falls on the terrace is channelled through pipes into a storage tank at the base of the building after basic filtration. This water is pumped back to a separate tank on the terrace, which is connected to all the toilets in the building. The society spent a little more than Rs 1 lakh on the project; but the money, they say, was well spent. 
    "The water from our rainwater harvesting sys
tem is used for all secondary purposes like gardening, washing cars and the building premises as well as in our toilets," said Lyomesh Takwani, another committee member. 
    Residents of Powai's Raheja Vihar Rainbow say water tankers have not been called to their society in years. The society installed two rainwater harvesting systems, one of which gathers water from the society's 12,000 sq ft terrace while the second collects rainwater falling on the lawn. 
    Rainwater from the terrace is collected in a 15,000-litre tank beneath the car park through special pipes. The water from the tank flows into a filtration system consisting of a layer each of fine sand, activated charcoal and gravel. This water is then let into the well where it is stored. 
    "Before we installed the system, there was a water short
age. The society used to spend about Rs 4 lakh on water tankers. No more. The society has not had a tanker come in since the last five years," said A K Mukherjee, a retired engineer and a resident of the society. 
Times View: Learn from citizens 
One would have thought the BMC would have learned a lesson from the bad monsoon a couple of seasons ago and put in place a mechanism that would assure the city of adequate water in taps. It's a shame that the country's richest civic agency has to depend on the monsoon to fulfil citizens' basic needs. The BMC should stop thinking of outlandish ideas and try to emulate what some housing societies have done. Why doesn't it plug the leaks in its distribution system? Doing just that would solve the problem to a large extent.


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