Thursday, June 25, 2009

Monsoon here, time for RWH

Citizen Matters, Bangalore: Monsoon here, time for RWH
Monsoon here, time for RWH

The long-overdue uptick for RWH is finally here. Around 10,000 buildings in the city may be catching rainwater, by one informal estimate, and the numbers are steadily rising.
By Vaishnavi Vittal
21 Jun 2009, Citizen Matters
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Gautam B Pandit and his family were very excited last Wednesday after the heavy downpour in the city. The rain filled up the 5000 litre barrel they have set up in their house for rainwater harvesting (RWH). “We could have filled another two barrels that night. The barrel just overflowed”, Gautam says. The Pandits have just installed RWH at their home on Hayes Road in Richmond Town.

The 40 houses in Sherwood Apartments, located on Kaggadasapura Main Road in CV Raman Nagar, have not faced any water problem for the past four months. All thanks to RWH says the residents. K S Thirumaran, one of the residents of CV Raman Nagar says that he suggested RWH to his neighbours. “They all welcomed the idea and contributed”, he says adding “ The entire apartment depended on one borewell”.

At the Embassy Tranquil Apartments in Koramangala 6th block, Rajiv Kuchchal mooted the idea to his neighbours around two months back. “Everyone was positive”, he says.

Since the groundwater level in their building is high, they adopted the storage method. Now instead of overflowing drains, our sumps get filled, Kuchchal says, adding that they don’t switch on the borewell when there is heavy rain. They collect anywhere between 15,000-20,000 litres of water per day during heavy rains.


Rekha Arun with her RWH system, the blue barrel is the first rain separator(pic: VV)

Pandit, Thirumaran and the residents of the Embassy Tranquil Apartments are among those in the city who have installed RWH recently to combat erratic Cauvery water supply and avoid shelling out money to buy water from tankers.

Bangalore has primarily depended on Cauvery water. Traditional sources of water supply like tanks and lakes are now declining. Groundwater levels have already fallen due to heavy extraction.

In his book, ‘Amruthavarshini’, a guide to RWH, A R Shivakumar, Executive Secretary and Principal Investigator – RWH, Karnataka State Council for Science and Technology (KSCST), states that in the last 30 years, Bangalore has experienced five years of severe drought and three years of moderate drought. The quest for water has resulted in over exploitation of groundwater, he says in the book. “The quantity of run-off water in the storm drains has increased tremendously. RWH is all about conserving this water, thereby, supplementing the present supply”.
In Chennai, during J Jayalalithaa’s tenure as Chief Minister, she made it mandatory to harvest rainwater in both old and new buildings, and also provide a duct for recharging the groundwater. According to the Chennai Metropolitan Water Supply and Sewerage Board, nearly four lakh buildings have RWH.

As the monsoons set in, for many in the city, RWH seems to be the way to address this problem. In 2007, the Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB) made it mandatory to implement RWH for all new applicants of water connections.

T Venkataraju, Chief Engineer, BWSSB, says this is being strictly enforced now. He explains that sanctions for new water connections are approved only after inspections by the Assistant Executive Engineer and Water Inspector of the concerned sub division. “They’ll go to the spot and inspect directly. They’ll see the pipelines and check the filter media. Then they will certify”, he explains. Between April 2008 and May 2009, 3000 new buildings implemented RWH, says Venkataraju.

Implementation of RWH has been made mandatory in Bangalore by two other bodies apart from the BWSSB. The June 2007 Zoning Regulations of the Bangalore Development Authority (BDA) states that the “Provision of RWH is mandatory for all plots which are more than 240 sq metres in extent. A five per cent rebate on the property tax is offered for residential properties and two per cent for non residential buildings within Bangalore Metropolitan Area for the first five years when RWH is made an integral part of the building constructed”.

The Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike’s (BBMP) building bye-laws of 2003 also mention RWH. Part IV, bye-law 32 says “Every building with a plinth area of exceeding 100 sq mtrs and built on a site measuring not less than 200 sq mtrs shall have one or more RWH structures having a minimum total capacity as detailed in Schedule XII”. The bye-laws also mention that a levy of about Rs. 1000 for every 100 sq. mtr will be collected if the owner fails to provide RWH.

B M Tirakanagoudar, Joint Director of Town Planning, BBMP, says that all high rise buildings that have approached the BBMP for plan sanction have RWH. “These owners come to us for Occupancy Certificate (OC). We do not give OC without looking into whether they have installed RWH. But most houses violate this. They do not come to us for OC”, he says, adding that it is not strictly implemented.
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