In a first of its kind effort, four water-harvesting benches will be installed at two parks in south Mumbai by the end of the month. These benches have a dual purpose of providing seating, as well as collecting and reusing water for the gardens.
The benches have been created by a Dutch-Chinese architecture firm and are the outcome of ideas from the BMW Guggenheim Lab that took place from December to January in the city. The water-harvesting benches are one of the legacies of that mobile initiative around urban challenges. Water use and scarcity in the city was one of the issues discussed, and architect Neville Mars, whose firm is responsible for conceptualising and executing the project, was one of the lab participants.
Two benches will be installed in Horniman Circle garden and two in Cross Maidan garden out of eight to be donated to the city.
The benches are made of partially recycled polyethylene with chesterfield patterns that channel rainwater into inlet buttons. Water trickles down into the hollow tank inside that stores and collects it. The water can be accessed through a tap on the base of one of the legs of the bench.
"Public spaces in developing cities consume a lot of water and it is unfair to use public water for making parks greener when there's not even enough water to meet basic demands," said Anitra Baliga, project architect, Mars Architects, the firm behind the project.
"Here the water is simply collected and reused. The bench can be used in other situations too, in terrace gardens for instance," she added.
Every bench is 2.1 metres long and 0.9 metres wide and can seat four people. It has a water holding capacity of 500 litres that can be stretched to 1,800 litres by connecting it to a similar bench unit below the ground.
"We constantly have water shortages in both Horniman Circle garden and Cross Maidan garden, and we thought this was worth a try," said Nayana Kathpalia, trustee of O.V.A.L Trust and the Horniman Circle Garden Trust. "It is environment-friendly and we aren't using up potable water, plus we need benches in the gardens in any case."
The benches are being funded by the Guggenheim lab and will be installed for a one-year period to begin with.
"We thought it was a great initiative in a water-starved city," said Shirin Bharucha, a trustee of both gardens. "More spaces should adopt this. It would be to everyone's advantage."