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Rain drain hits Chandigarh

chandigarh Updated: Jun 30, 2013 11:03 IST
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Rainwater harvesting may be the perfect solution to the water scarcity faced every summer and fast-depleting groundwater, but is yet to get popular in the city - perhaps because of the UT administration's lack of enthusiasm in implementing it and lack of awareness among city residents.

In 2010, the UT administration had asked all houses and commercial complexes spread in an area of more than one kanal to get a rainwater-harvesting system in place by December 31, 2010. To ensure residents comply, the administration had said that those failing to install the system would be liable for resumption of property, non-issuance of completion certificates and also monetary fine, which it did not quantify.

But, after all the noise it made, the administration, which had even issued 400 notices to owners for not complying with the notice and appealed to owners of smaller houses to volunteer, lost steam. A senior official of the estate office, who did not wish to be named, said that initially the rules were applicable to all. "However, later it was decided that houses renovated or constructed after 2008 will have to adhere to the rules on rainwater harvesting."

A city-based architect claimed that on receiving the notices, most property owners had got the system installed. "But now the administration is going slow and not many residents are volunteering," said architect Shiv Malhotra.

"I have installed the system in about 400 houses, most in sectors 9 and 33, in the past four years. But now people are not very keen," he said. "Earlier, at least 10 households used to approach me in a month, but now the figure's come down to five."

Rainwater harvesting is one of the option which would go a long way in solving water scarcity problem and would definitely replenish depleting underground water level. But awareness among residents is low and the implementing agencies are not pursuing the same. Chandigarh has made it mandatory but GMADA is yet to wake up," added Arvinder Bedi, a consultant from SAS Nagar.

City residents, meanwhile, say the administration needs to bring about change in society.

"Resident welfare associations should be roped in for better results," says Sector-21 resident Vishal Garg. "This is the best way to encourage rainwater harvesting as it would be financially viable."

When it started
Rainwater harvesting's relationship with Chandigarh dates to October 2008. Then, the estate office had issued a notification, asking all existing buildings to get installing rainwater-harvesting systems installed within two days from the date notification. But the response was lukewarm. Later in 2010, the UT administration amended the notification and made a provision for penalisation, which included resumption of property, non-issuance of completion certificates and also monetary fine, which was not quantified.
On its part, the administration had proposed to install rainwater-harvesting systems at seven government buildings, including government colleges in Sector 46 and Sector 11, Deluxe Building in Sector 9, Paryavaran Bhavan in Sector 19, Punjab and Haryana high court, and a skating rink in Sector 10. However, most of these buildings are yet to have such a system. A senior official of the estate office, who did not wish to be named, said: "Rainwater-harvesting systems have already been installed at the state judicial academy in Sector 43, union territory guest house in Sector 6, and Government College for Girls in Sector 11."

What rules say
New or revised building plan of a house spread over an area of more than one kanal is approved only if it includes a rainwater-harvesting system.

MC building does not have rain harvesting system
Despite claiming to generate public awareness on rainwater harvesting and water recycling, the municipal corporation of Chandigarh (MCC) has no system in its buildings. These include the MC's main building in Sector 17, community centres and fire stations.
On the other hand, the civic authorities have been saying that the provisions of rainwater harvesting have been made for new buildings. City's groundwater level is decreasing at the rate of 2.5 metres a year in northern sectors and 1.5 metres a year in southern sectors, says an MC study conducted last year. Later, it was observed that groundwater could be recharged with the help of rainwater harvesting. In recent times, the city has witnessed water shortage in summer. In 2004, after a study tour to Chennai, councillors had proposed rainwater-harvesting systems at all government buildings. However, so far, no such arrangement has been made at any MC building.

1. What is Rainwater Harvesting?
Rainwater harvesting is a way of saving rainwater which would normally fall on a roof and go down the drain.
2. How does rainwater harvesting work? A storage tank is fitted to your stormwater drain, and falling rain enters the tank through a filter which removes leaves and other matter. The storage tank is usually buried underground, or under the house's driveway. The tank contains a machine for pumping the rainwater to the building where it is piped to toilets and outside for gardening.
3. What can you use the water for? Filtered, untreated rainwater should only be used for non- drinking or bathing purposes. It can also be used as flush water in toilets, for watering gardens and car washes.
4. Is it only for new buildings? No, it can be installed in existing buildings, but will cost more, because of the extra plumbing required.
5. How much does it cost? For a house of a kanal the installation of the system would cost around Rs 85,000.

Why you should opt for rain water harvesting

Depending on average use, one can save 30% to 50% of treated drinking water in houses and up to 80% treated drinking water in a business or commercial building. This will help overcome water shortage and bring down your bills, too.