Faced with an unprecedented water crisis, Mumbai is waking up to alternative water sources.
Rainwater harvesting plants, borewells, ringwells and the revival of old wells are becoming increasingly popular.
As of now, a 15 per cent water cut has been enforced on residences, while commercial users face a 30 per cent cut.
In the last three months, the civic rainwater harvesting cell has seen a 100 per cent rise in the number of inquiries and requests for assistance in setting up plants. The cell, which used to get 45 inquiries a month on an average, now gets 90.
In 2002, it was made mandatory for all new buildings to have rainwater harvesting plants, but builders rarely follow that rule.
In a survey of 10,374 Mumbaiites conducted by Hindustan Times and Ipsos Indica Research, Mumbai’s water crisis was identified as a major concern. The respondents were then divided into several smaller groups based on their top two concerns. Typically, every respondent was part of two smaller groups, each of which corresponded to one concern. Each group was then asked detailed questions abut their respective concerns.
In the case of water, the sample amounted to 5,689 people.
“We will not issue an occupancy certificate to a new building until a rainwater harvesting system is installed,” said Municipal Commissioner Swadheen Kshatriya. He added that the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) would not even accept building plans if a rainwater harvesting plant was not in the design.
Water Department records show that 188 borewells exist in Mumbai, of which 173 are in M Ward (Chembur, Mankhurd, Shivaji Nagar, Govandi) alone.
The demand for borewells has more than doubled since January. BMC officials said that permission has been sought for another 488 borewells. Work on 71 has already begun, while the others are awaiting clearance. Rs 50 crore has been budgeted for this.
The BMC is digging 300 ringwells in the city — 100 each in the island city, eastern and western suburbs — at a cost of Rs 41 crore.
“More than 70 per cent of the potable water supplied gets wasted for non-drinking purposes. By developing alternative sources, we can save a lot of potable water,” said Additional Municipal Commissioner Anil Diggikar.
The citizens’ group at Chembur’s Pestom Sagar society is an example of how people are becoming proactive. They dug a ringwell in a garden adopted by them; water for the garden is drawn from the ringwell, saving 150 litres every day, said Dr Vijay Sangole, of the citizens’ group.
The BMC has discontinued water supply to civic gardens and over 300 public toilets since May 1; many of them are now making do with ringwells or borewells. Even here, citizens are active — a local group in Santacruz supplies water to a public toilet from borewells.