In the last week of June this year, Chennai was officially declared a parched city.
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Amidst the panic and uproar from the citizens and assurances from the authorities, a group of youngsters silently chalked out a plan to restore the groundwater levels in the city’s Muthulakshmi Nagar area.
Two days later, the authorities gave them permission to set up the structure on the Pugazhendhi street and on July 14 it was ready to store the rainwater.
These efforts taken by the citizens were fruitful as the city received rainfall only a few days after the roadside rainwater harvesting system was erected.
The idea behind installing the roadside harvesting system was not to resolve immediate water issues of the people. In fact, the objective of the structure is long term, which is to sufficiently recharge the groundwater tables so that the city does not run out of water in the future.
Speaking to The Better India, DR Shivakumar, the Secretary of the Association says:
Due to the disruptive technology and urbanisation, there is a need to have high groundwater tables. Chennai is witnessing some really bad days where people are forced to purchase water from private agencies at very high prices. Rainwater Harvesting will not only recharge groundwater but will also save the rainwater that otherwise was getting wasted.
How And Why The Concept of Roadside RWH System Was Born
To understand why the association did not visit each of the odd 700 families in the area to convince them to install the water-saving technique at home, The Better India spoke to L Sundararaman, who has been the President of the CMNWA since the last 20 years.
In 2001, the Tamil Nadu government had made Rainwater Harvesting mandatory at home to collect rainwater and recharge the groundwater. Unfortunately, the implementation was not at par. The consequences were faced almost two decades later (the recent water crisis).
People are eager to conserve water, but the time and effort needed to invest in the project often keep them from executing their intentions. So, we came up with the idea of collective effort, and as anticipated, it worked,” he adds.
Around 200 members of the association pitched money, and the entire project, including the labour cost, was completed in Rs 7,000.
A five-foot-deep pit of three feet diameter was dug. Five RCC Rings, each with a 2.5 diameter were installed, and a lid with holes covers the pit. To prevent waste from entering the cavity, a wire mesh has been placed below the lid. The process was completed in 3-4 hours.
Since Chennai has 306 mapped flood-prone areas, there are slim chances of rainwater overflowing from the pit, but the association is positive that the likelihood is low.
Based on the rainfall patterns and zero groundwater tables, we predict that it will take at least two years to raise the water levels, says Shivakumar.
After getting a thumbs up from the residents in their pilot project, the association now plans to replicate the model in 20 other locations of the area.
We are presently inspecting the areas where the most volume of water gets accumulated every year. Since this one will be on a large scale, we are looking for sponsors to fund the project, says Sundararaman.
The 68-year-old recently installed a water sump at his house to collect rainwater, and when it rained, approximately 6,000 litres of water got collected. Seeing this, 15 other households in the area have erected a similar sump to store the water and meet their non-drinking needs.
Members of Chitlapakkam Muthulakshmi Nagar Welfare Association and the residents of Chitlapakkam have shown how with collective efforts and a strong will, a crisis can be solved without intervention from the government.
If you wish to reach the Chitlapakkam Muthulakshmi Nagar Welfare Association, write to them at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit here.
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)