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Yes, you can

On a day when one person died in a protest against water cuts outside the civic headquarters, a Mira Road building shows how rainwater harvesting and small changes in usage patterns can help you beat the water crisis, reports Soubhik Mitra.

mumbai Updated: Dec 04, 2009 01:04 IST
Soubhik Mitra

Every time Mira Road resident Ramesh Iyer washes his car or waters the building garden, passersby from the neighbourhood give him envious looks.

The 15 per cent water cut, courtesy the poor monsoon, has made little difference to Punarvasan Housing Society, where Iyer stays. That’s because Iyer — inspired by An Inconvenient Truth, the 2006 documentary made by former US Vice-President Al Gore on climate change — convinced Punarvasan’s residents to install a rainwater harvesting facility in the building.

While the rest of the city struggles to cope with a reduced supply, Punarvasan’s residents go about their lives without any disruption. No wonder Iyer says the neighbourhood is “quietly jealous” of his building.

Fifty-six of the 100-odd families staying at Shristi Complex, of which Punarvasan is a part, made a few small changes in the way they use water.

To begin with, every flat replaced conventional flush tanks (12 litres) with small ones (3 litres). This helped save several hundred litres every day.

Then, every household contributed just over Rs 3,000 to install a rainwater harvesting facility in the backyard and another Rs 700 to get a parallel connection in the washrooms from the rainwater tank.

The benefits are visible. Despite the bad monsoon, residents get 14,000 litres every day from the rainwater captured in the ring well. This is equivalent to the Mira Bhayander Municipal Corporation supply to the building.

“We have learnt not to flush away drinking water,” said Iyer, the former secretary of the building.

As a result, the 45-minute supply of water from the civic body is more than enough for residents’ daily chores.

The building uses rainwater reserves for cleaning, gardening and other such purposes. Contrary to common belief, water pumped up from the soil is not dirty. It used to be slightly muddy for a few months after the facility was installed, but has over the months become clear.

“An Inconvenient Truth teaches you how simple efforts [like rainwater harvesting] can save our children’s future,” said Iyer. “We have to understand that global warming is not as distant as it appears.”

Punarvasan is not an exception. Other Mumbaiites are adopting water conservation methods. Over a dozen housing societies have hired the services of Sunlight Consultancy, for instance, this year to get a rainwater harvesting facility.

“People are getting increasingly aware about an alternative water reserve,” said Ajay Kale, who runs the company.