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India’s water warriors

Urban India’s water challenges are many. Resources are being spread thin, or not at all. Neighbours are fighting with each other over a few buckets of water. Faced with these challenges, some people are taking matters into their own hands for the benefit of the community. Abhijit Patnaik writes. Water footprint

india Updated: Mar 22, 2012 01:20 IST
Abhijit Patnaik

Urban India’s water challenges are many. Resources are being spread thin, or not at all. Neighbours are fighting with each other over a few buckets of water. Faced with these challenges, some people are taking matters into their own hands for the benefit of the community.


Meet India’s water warriors. Ruchi Singhal, a 43-year-old interior designer, lives in Saket, one of South Delhi’s more affluent areas. She installed a rain water harvesting (RWH) facility in her home in 2004. The economics of installing this were simple. “We save about 20-25% on our water bill every cycle,” she said.

Singhal’s children go to the area’s prestigious Mother’s International School.

“The school had set up a RWH system, which is what inspired us,” said the mother of two. Their house channels all rain water into pipes connected to a harvesting tank with a capacity of 3800 litres. This water is used for mopping, washing cars and gardening.

Mindset Matters

Singhal is one of an increasing number of people across the nation who realise the importance of taking action now to prevent future water wars. Vinod Tare, a professor at IIT Kanpur, specialises in water and waste-water treatment. He is a key person involved in the development of ‘zero discharge toilets’. Aligarh, his hometown, does not have a sewerage system, making his home there a perfect testing ground for this technology. The ingenious system recycles toilet excrements in a safe manner, converting faecal matter into manure and passing the liquid through micro filters and reusing it for flushing.

Apart from individual efforts like Singhal’s and Tare’s, communities in rural areas are also waking up to better water management. Slum dwellers in the settlement of Kachpura, near Agra, are some of India’s early adopters of water conservation technology. With the participation of the community, a Delhi-based NGO, CURE, has set up a waste-water treatment system there, which treats the waste from five clusters of slums in the area. The community was involved in the design, construction, operation and maintenance of the system.

Singhal wishes more people would change their lifestyles and mindsets and conserve earth’s resources. “I have a separate bucket to keep used water (after washing vegetables or half drunk glasses) with which we water the garden,” she said. From composting biodegradable waste to using air-conditioning only at night, Singhal and her family reduce their water and carbon footprint as much as possible. So, why does she think that more people don’t adopt similar measures?

“Implementation of the law is poor. Even though it is mandatory for newly constructed buildings to have RWH facilities, people pay bribes and don’t get it done,” she said. “The price of water has to go up. When electricity bills went up, people started conserving it. The same goes for water.”

Such people are but a drop in the ocean of individual initiatives that can help solve Iia’s water crisis. Mindsets need to change now, since conservation is the need of the day.