Rain water harvesting remains mainly on paper

Rain water harvesting remains mainly on paper

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More than half of India’s population faces high to extreme water stress and about 2 lakh people die every year due to inadequate access to safe water in the country. For 75% of the households in India drinking water within their premises is not even a luxury but a distant dream. With nearly 70% of water being contaminated, India is placed 120th amongst 122 countries in the water quality index. “Achhe Din” for water starved people is still a mirage and problem is likely to aggravate in the coming days.

Further, rapid urbanisation has resulted in rapid increase demand for water in cities, especially in Metropolitan cities while availability of water at the source remaining almost the same.  In urban areas water shortage  is a conundrum which our experts have not been able solve till now – the cities which face acute shortage of water in summer also have to live with excess rainfall and floods during Monsoon! According to NITI Aayog “most metro cities in India are water starved but not rain starved.” According to NITI Aayog rain water harvesting is a simple, viable and eco-friendly method of water conservation and a sustainable solution to recharge the groundwater. One need not be an expert to admit that rain water harvesting is much simpler and economical solution for water problem than mega projects like interlinking of rivers and desalination of sea water.

According to a NITI Aayog Report, Bengaluru city will go without ground water by 2021 if the water crisis is not handled immediately and properly. But it doesn’t mean that other cities are better off than Bengaluru. They too will face similar situation sooner or later.

One of the solutions to the urban water crisis is rainwater harvesting – capturing the runoff. Countries like Germany, Japan, United States, and Singapore are also adopting rainwater harvesting. The need of the hour is to implement the rain water harvesting on a serious note in all the areas in the country including urban areas which are suffering from continuous decline of water level.

Who will bell the cat?

We are aware of impending water crisis and we also know the solution for the problem. Resources too are not a problem. The issue is who will bell the cat? According to NITI Aayog “The work relating to rainwater harvesting particularly in metropolitan cities primarily comes within the purview of Ministry of Urban Development, Ministry of Water Resources and the State Governments. The initiatives taken by NITI Aayog have been largely to supplement their initiatives and to play an advisory role.” On the other hand, the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MOHUA) says “Urban Development including urban planning and urban water supply is a State subject. Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs supplements the efforts of the States and Urban Local Bodies in these sectors through its various flagship programmes.” The Ministry of Environment and Forest and Climate change (M/o EF &CC) can impact the situation only by way of granting such clearances by stricter following of rainwater harvesting provisions under Environment Impact Assessment Notification. These arguments given by various ministries and agencies show that onus of implementing rain water harvesting falls squarely on states. But same is the case with sanitation and smart city projects where issues are purely state subjects but the central government has been able to make much difference through carrot and stick method. The same mission mode is also needed to make rain water harvesting programme a success in the country.

Model building bye law

Model Building Bye Laws (MBBL), 2016 circulated by Ministry of Urban Development include the provision of Rainwater Harvesting. As per Model Building Bye Laws, water harvesting through storing of water runoff including rainwater in all new buildings on plots of 100 sq.m and above will be mandatory. Barring the States/UT of Manipur, Sikkim Mizoram and Lakshadweep, all the States have incorporated the provisions in their respective building bye laws. So, existing buildings are out of the purview of the new bye laws. Also, one need to install rain water harvesting system in their premises to get necessary building permissions but there are no mechanisms to check whether they are properly maintained and used after their installation. Till date only Municipal Corporations of Madurai, Mumbai, Hyderabad(HMWS&SB), Bengaluru (BWSSB) have constituted rainwater harvesting cell which monitors the implementation of rainwater harvesting provision.

Some noteworthy developments in RWH

RegionRemarks
ChennaiA Separate legislation making rain water harvesting mandatory in Chennai Metropolitan area
DelhiDelhi Jal Board gives 10% rebate in water bills for providing adequate and functional rain water harvesting system for its consumers on the plots/ properties of 100 sqm or more
HyderabadDedicated RWH Cell in Metro Water Supply and Sewerage Board
BengaluruAround 1 lakh buildings have implemented RWH measures
Madhya PradeshOne time rebate of 6 % in property tax for providing rain water harvesting facility is given by Jabalpur, Indore and Gwalior Municipal Corporations
Surat, GujaratRebate scheme for Rain Water Harvesting – 50% of actual amount or Rs. 2000/- (whichever is more)
AllahabadAllahabad Municipal Corporation gives a rebate of 2% in house tax for buildings which have operational RWH system

According one government official we have spoken to “the building plan approvals and issuance of Occupancy-cum- Completion Certificate (OCC) is granted subject to adherence to the rainwater provision.” But there are several instances where people at the time of taking occupation certificate make space for rain water harvesting purpose but later close the space or convert the same for parking and other purposes.  Therefore, we need to have some provisions like mandatory water audit for all buildings which again need to be done at the state level. In short, the government need to ensure that MBBL, 2016 rainwater harvesting provisions are being implemented in letter and spirit.

Water conservation has been a part of larger campaign like Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT) while the need of the hour is to go on a mission mode  as the government has done in case of sanitation programme.  In spite of almost all the States having enacted laws for roof top harvesting, the decline in ground water level is quite huge. From this one can safely conclude that the laws for rain water harvesting have not been able to serve the intended purposes and have remained on paper. Its high time that the Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation and Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs stop taking shelter behind ‘Water’ being State Subject and take proactive steps to implement the rain water harvesting programme.

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