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This Visually-Impaired Hero Does 1 Lakh Litres of Rainwater Harvesting Every Monsoon

Mahendrasinh Zala from Gujarat has been doing rainwater harvesting for over 10 years now. Here’s how he does it despite being 90 per cent blind.

It’s 1992, and in the midst of an intense volleyball game, Rajkot-based Mahindrasinh Zala suffered a shot that detached his retinas, causing him to lose 90 per cent of his vision. After six surgeries in Ahmedabad and Rajkot, his vision still didn’t return. “Maybe this is what was written in my destiny, that whatever I do, I have to work with only 10 per cent of my vision,” he tells The Better India.

Now 60 years old, the ex-ITI employee has found another passion to direct his energies toward — water harvesting.

For over 10 years, he has been saving the water that flows through his building every monsoon. With seven tanks distributed across the second floor terrace, first floor terrace, and ground floor of the Kothariya colony where he lives, he collects water during the monsoon, and directs it through the pipes he has installed there. He is aided in his work by brother Gajendrasinh, son Yashrajsinh, and nephew Harshdeepsinh.

A seamless process

Once the 3,000 litre second floor terrace tank fills, the water that overflows goes to two 1,000 litre tanks on the first floor terrace through pipes. The excess water from there is redirected to a 2,000 litre tank on the ground floor. There is another tank in the parking area which can also store1,000 litres of water. For the water overflowing from this tank, there are two filters which ensure the water is clean, pure and useable. From here, pipes direct the excess water into two ground-level stores; a 3,000 litre tank and a 250 feet deep bore.

“Through this system I save a total of 1 lakh litres of water every year. This is used throughout the year,” says Zala.

This saved water meets the needs of the entire household. For instance, one hour of rain leads to them using the saved water for three days. “The water is used to wash clothes and vessels, to shower, water plants, everything. Wherever water is required in the household, we use that water only,” explains his daughter-in-law Asha. And even when it doesn’t rain, the saved water sustains the house for about 20 days.

“This also saves electricity,” adds Asha, “since we don’t put on the water motor,” instead using the saved water for their needs.

Being a mechanical engineer by profession, Zala had some idea, when starting out, about how to go about the entire project. “The tank level, capacity, how it flows, where the force comes from, how the water travels, how to make sure the maximum amount of water is being stored, I had an idea about all this. So I have used all this knowledge,” he says.

man at bore
Mahindrasinh Zala at his rainwater harvesting tank. Photo source: Mahindrasinh Zala

An urgent need

Zala’s project was inspired by the water scarcity he noticed early on. “If we don’t save water then the next generation will have to drink tears instead of water. And we will be responsible for that,” he says, and raises the question: “If we can open accounts and save money, can’t we also save water for our kids?”

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Even though Zala lives on rent instead of owning a place, he has invested Rs 25,000 to set up the project. Recognising his efforts, in 2021, the Jal Shakti Department (Department of Drinking Water and Sanitation) awarded him the title ‘water hero,’ and he’s due to received Rs 10,000 as reward. “With that money I will install more tanks and save more water.”

Water harvesting is something Zala thinks every person should be doing. “When it rains, 22 litres of water falls per yard. Suppose the house is 100 yards, then when it rains and you don’t do anything, 2,200 litres of water just flows away. And no one is responsible for that except the homeowner.” For this reason, he believes that as more people start harvesting water, the world will come closer to mitigating the oncoming water crisis.

And this doesn’t have to be very economically taxing either. “I have a two-floor house, so I have to do more. But if you have a single bedroom-hall-kitchen (BHK), then maybe it will cost you Rs 6,000,” he adds.

His family is deeply proud of the work he’s doing. People in the colony and from around the city come to inquire about his work and the process. “Many people ask about the water harvesting process and want to understand how it happens and why it’s done. About five people are imitating the entire process now,” says Asha about Zala’s impact.

“I only have 10 per cent light in my eyes and I can do this. You are all healthy, you should definitely take this up. We have to do something for our kids because we, and no one else, are responsible for our water,” says Zala. “I don’t even need recognition. Just practice water harvesting… for me there’s no greater reward than that,” he adds.

Edited by Yoshita Rao

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