If we go by the meteorological forecast reports, the monsoon will strike Delhi on June 29. However, the civic agencies are still gearing up to tackle the fury of the rains: stormwater drains are yet to be desilted though ambitious plans have been on the anvil for some time. With all the accumulated garbage clogging the drains, Delhiites may soon find themselves knee-deep in trouble. But, think about it in another way: what if we could harvest this run-off water and recharge our thirsty aquifers? It is well known that the groundwater table in the Capital as well as satellite towns is depleting at an alarming rate. On an average, Delhi’s water table is said to be falling by 10 feet per year. A report by the Confederation of Indian Industry and the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation says that there will be a huge demand-supply gap by 2011. Overuse, misuse and lack of recharging have disturbed the city’s hydrological balance. This has lead to a decline in the productivity of wells, increasing pumping costs which, in turn, means more energy expended. In a scenario like this, it is criminal not to harvest and utilise whatever rain we get.
The Delhi government, through its Bhagidari scheme, and the Ministry of Urban Affairs and Poverty Alleviation have tried to popularise rainwater harvesting. Since June 2001, the ministry has made rainwater harvesting mandatory in all new buildings with a roof area of more than 100 sq m and in all plots with an area of over 1,000 sq m. Though the concept has caught on, efforts are localised and much more needs to be done if we want to secure our aqua-future.
To popularise projects like this on a large scale and make it worthwhile for the people, the government needs to come up with incentives. The Indore model (a rebate of 6 per cent on property tax is given as an incentive for implementing rainwater harvesting systems) is worth emulating. While Residents’ Welfare Associations must implement these water-saving schemes, the government must desilt old ponds and make recharge pits in the numerous parks we have in the city. In short, conserve as much run-off water as possible. Only rooftop rainwater harvesting won’t be enough to tackle the problem. Yet another option is to increase the water charges exponentially: the more you use, the more you pay. However, to do that the government will first have to ensure the quantity and quality of water.