Sasikala Rajeswaran, Editor, Sawdust
On World Water Day one of the best news heard was about Gujarat Chief Minister launching dual flush toilet in Ahmedabad. Though water shortage is an all-India problem, many states preferred to skip the World Water Day celebrations for different reasons. It is in this background one has to see what the Gujarat Chief Minister did on 22nd March.
dual flush toilet in Ahmedabad-min
It is a well known fact that the average water availability in the country remains more or less fixed according to the natural hydrologic cycle. The per capita availability of water is reducing progressively owing to increasing population. In 1991, the national average per capita availability of water in India was around 2209 cubic meter (cu.m.) per year, which has gone down to about 1545 cu.m. per year in 2011. And by 2050, per capita availability of water will go down further to 1140 cu.m.
While nearly 70 percent of the world is covered by water, only 2.5 percent of it is fresh. The rest is saline and ocean-based. Even then, just 1 percent of our freshwater is easily accessible, with much of it trapped in glaciers and snowfields.
Thus, water scarcity or shortage is an issue faced by most of the nations in the world. However, this issue has become a major problem in India because of poor and inappropriate handling of water issue by the government and its agencies. Further, improper prioritisation has also aggravated the problem.
Since, agriculture is the main occupation of large portion of the population, government’s efforts to conserve, store and supply water are mainly concentrated on rural side. Barring few irrigation projects, most of the water storage projects in rural India too are afflicted by problems of cost and time overruns.
Government’s efforts on conservation of water in urban areas is almost non-existent. Making rainwater harvesting mandatory in many states for new construction is a new phenomenon. This being our history of water management, Gujarat government’s decision to instal dual flushing system should be applauded and emulated by other states.
Think of states like Tamil Nadu where water scarcity is a perennial problem and the sttae government is trying to solve the problem by installing desalination plants in the state. Nearly, 15-20% of its budget will be spent in buying desalinated water leaving little money for other development works. In such cases, water conservation should be its topmost priority. In fact, Tamil Nadu should have been the pioneer of dual flushing system in the country.
The dual flush cistern has the option of full flush or low flush depending on selection of option. Thus, a six litres flushing cistern can discharge either six litres or three litres in one go depending on the option selected by the users. Usually less water is required to flush liquid waste than in case of solid waste and in dual flush cistern, user gets the option of full flush or low flush depending upon the type of waste. In case of, conventional flushing system this option is not there resulting in considerable waste of water.
At present the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) for toilet’s flush, IS 774:2004, provides for ‘single and dual flush’ to save water. However, there is a plan to include ‘dual flush only’ (criteria) in the future constructions. The BIS should move fast to amend the standards as early as possible because we are hearing this since last few years.
The government itself has admitted that by using water efficient toilets using six liters of water per flush can save 30 liters of water a day per person in the country. Look at the possible saving of water by switching over to dual flushing system in a country 1.3 billion population where nearly 30% lives in urban areas.
Recently Maharashtra state government banned the use of plastic bags in the state. The state government has banned the manufacturing of plastic bags in the factory to tackle the menace of plastic bags in the state. The same methodology can be used here also by banning manufacturing of single flush. This will also ensure the use of dual flush at the time of renovation/repair/replacement.
Just as the government is creating awareness about toilet and its significance in sanitation through TV commercials, people should also be educated about the benefits of using dual flush system. Architects and engineers also need to be involved in this campaign as they are the major influencers at the time of buying building products by the home owners.
Studies have shown that imposing water tax can help in containing water wastage. But the step is punitive in nature and our political leaders may be reluctant to take such measures which are politically risky in a country where elections are often won by promising freebies. However, incentivising the water conservation should create win-win situation for all and our political leadership shouldn’t have any problem in adopting and implementing it.
By supplying water through tankers politicians and government officials can earn money from tanker mafias. By supplying water free of cost or subsidised rates, politicians can get votes from the public at the time of elections. But by conserving water they may not get either of them – but at the same time they can win the hearts of our future generation!