When Kalpana Ramesh moved to Hyderabad, she never thought that a basic necessity like water would prove to be an everyday problem. From the very beginning, Kalpana’s family had to order tankers on a weekly basis to fulfill their water needs, and when she asked around, she discovered that this is somewhat of a norm in Hyderabad.
Even after changing houses and localities, the water situation did not improve, and Kalpana soon realised that the only way to resolve this, at least on a household level, was to start conserving water. Coming from a design background, she decided to harvest rainwater at her home.
The whole system was such that rainwater could be stored for a long time without any foreign elements polluting it.
Speaking to The Better India, Kalpana said, “We put up a net on our roof so that leaves, twigs and other such elements do not enter the tank. Below the net, we have installed a tank where rainwater passes through sand and coal filters. They naturally take pollutants out of the water and make it useable.”
Kalpana’s family started using this stored water, which was perfectly fit to use when the tap water ran out.
Now, instead of calling water tankers every week, they reuse the water that would otherwise just evaporate.
For Kalpana, however, this project was just a step towards crusading for water management on a larger scale, and when she started harvesting rainwater, she asked herself, why not recycle the water that gets wasted in showers and sinks too?
“There’s the black water from commodes and toilets, which cannot be easily recycled for obvious reasons, and then there’s the grey water, which flows away in showers, sinks, and basins,” Kalpana told TBI, adding that “We started recycling grey water at our home. An organisation from Pune came here to install tall cans of water. They had a switch attached to a lever. People talk about using buckets instead of showers to save water. Sure, that may be part of the solution, but I decided to recycle the water that flows away.”
All this recycled water is used by the family to water their garden that grows organic vegetables and fruits.
Once the passion for managing water ignited in Kalpana, there was no stopping her. She encouraged more people in her housing society to give up their reliance on water tankers and take up rainwater harvesting instead.
Speaking to TBI, she said, “When we saw success in the community, that’s when the TEDx salon by SAHE event happened. Their theme was ‘water,’ and I participated in the event. That was the trigger, and I started to finally understand the ground reality for the city, and how people travel up to 200 kms sometimes, to get water.”
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Soon, Kalpana started utilising her weekends to take her rainwater harvesting initiative to more communities.
She successfully got about 200 families to repair their defunct boring wells and adopt water harvesting methods.
“I worked with Hyderabad Metropolitan Water Supply and Sewerage Board (HMWSSB) for three months with enthusiasts who wanted to save water. We gave them a 60-day city-wide awareness campaign plan. Awareness is the key to people adopting any initiative, and we wanted it to be supported by a policy change and strict implementation.”
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In these three months, Kalpana realised that she needed to work on lakes and surface water bodies in Hyderabad since they are the largest water catchment areas. At the same time, since lakes are surrounded by both slums and posh communities, it was essential to create awareness among the residents of both areas. Now a Go Green activist, Kalpana works with the organisation to restore lakes and ponds in the city.
“We started resolving small problems like organising regular garbage pick-ups from the community, to keeping the lake banks clean.
Additionally, I approached the government to get street lights installed in places where snakes were entering their homes or drunkards would harass them,” says Kalpana.
She even got an open drain near a slum community fixed and joined it to an existing drain nearby. Such small steps led to a considerable difference in the society. Where people would throw garbage around without a second thought, they now contribute to lake cleaning activities!
What started as an initiative to manage water on a household level, has now escalated to a city-wide project, and today, even governmental and forest authorities are joining her in her endeavour. Kudos to Kalpana for sharing her passion for water management with the entire city!
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)