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Delhi grapples with heat, water woes

A fact that rankles many in scorching summer when taps turn out a trickle and water bodies across nation dry up.

india Updated: May 08, 2006 10:45 IST

Did you know that a leaky tap deprives you of 20 litres of water with a drop every second in 24 hours?

A fact that rankles many in these scorching summer months when taps turn out a trickle and water bodies across the country dry up.

Even the "grey" water that results from washing vessels and clothes and from bathing need not be thrown out. It can be used to irrigate a patch of flourishing canna plants and banana trees in your backyard.

These and several other interesting nuggets of information are provided by water conservation expert Indukath S Ragade in his book "Self-Reliance In Water", which gives detailed instructions on the construction of water harvesting systems in flats, cooperative apartments and individual houses.

"Do not ignore a leaking tap or a shower head, have it repaired as quickly as possible," says the author, who is an urban environmentalist and draws from his experiences during his pioneering activity in setting up rainwater harvesting systems in more than 200 apartment complexes in Chennai.

With more and more people migrating from villages to urban areas, by 2015 the urban population is expected to become 60 per cent of the country's total population.

According to Ragade, though India receives about 110 cm of rainfall annually, which is much higher than the 80 cm global average, the country has been unable to harness water properly.

The idea of harvesting rain, says the author, is not a new concept. It was practised hundreds of years ago through an intelligent system of tanks to store rainwater for future use.

Some areas of Maharashtra, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh have revived the traditional systems of rainwater harvesting, which is inexpensive, to very good results.

The author says that ground water levels are getting depleted due to boring of water and in Chennai bore-wells have to be sunk 200-250 ft deep to get water, while in Coimbatore and in Ahmedabad water has to be "mined" from depths of 400-600 feet.

Keeping the bleak scenario in mind, he says that rainwater harvesting should be adopted.

The rainwater harvesting systems, which can be installed at a very "low cost", will provide water for drinking and cooking.

"Because water happens to flow at the turn of a tap or a shower valve, we take it for granted... We never give water the kind of value we give to our clothes and vessels and other possessions," writes Ragade.

He maintains: "One of the most common forms of wastage arises from the belief that water on storing gets spoilt and should not be used. So we tend to throw away water stored by us yesterday and in its place store fresh water today. Nothing can be further from the truth than the belief that water deteriorates on storage."

He says that water that does not contain any "dissolved or suspended organic compound" can be stored.

"We can make a difference if only we put in efforts at the micro level - at the individual level, at the household level at the neighbourhood level and at the community level -- to reduce our dependence on water on external sources," he writes.

Detailed drawings of how to construct rainwater-harvesting systems in flats, apartment blocks and individual houses have been provided by the author.

The book, priced at Rs 140, is a mine of useful information on how "waste" water can be treated and re-used, how to have a system of rainwater harvesting to ensure that only clean water seeps in and how cisterns mean a massive waste of water.

First Published: May 08, 2006 10:45 IST