Last week the whole world observed ‘World Water Day’ and in India too several announcements were made to conserve water and provide tapped water to everyone. Though water is a basic necessity it’s a luxury for many people in the country. Therefore, any attempt/plan to provide this basic necessity needs to be applauded. However, if the government had given equal, if not more, significance to conservation efforts, its universal tapped water provision would have been more sustainable and successful. This is more so because the attempt to popularise rain water harvesting in the country seems to be reaching nowhere.
Metro cities are torn between 2 extremes
In India we are facing a peculiar situation – Metropolitan cities are currently experiencing a situation of acute shortage of drinking water in the summer season and flooding in the monsoon season. Moreover, availability of water is still unpredictable and erratic in most part of the year. At the same time ground water table (pre-monsoon) when compared to decadal level has fallen in many Metropolitan cities like Bengaluru, Chennai, Kolkata, Ranchi, Hyderabad and many more cities, whereas it has fallen 100% in prominent towns of Allahabad, Ghaziabad, Kanpur, Lucknow, Meerut and Banaras.
Our country is not water scarce as out of 1,123 BCM of utilizable water resources (690 BCM is surface water and 433 BCM is ground water) as large as 571 BCM is lost due to inefficient management of water for utilization purpose resulting in huge dependence on ground water which caters to 55% of total water supply demand in the country.
Traditional rain water harvesting neglected
Most of the traditional water harvesting systems in cities have been neglected and fallen into disuse, worsening the urban water scenario and suggesting that one of the solutions to the urban water crisis is rain water harvesting capturing the run off.
Countries like Germany, Japan, United States and Singapore are also adopting rain water harvesting and there is a need to implement the rain water harvesting on a serious note in the country, including urban areas which are suffering from decline in ground water level.
Therefore, there is need on the part of the government simultaneously along with providing tapped water to citizens on universal basis should also implement rain water harvesting on war footing. To begin with and what is imminently doable rain water harvesting systems should be mandatorily installed in all Government and public premises.
‘Water is a state subject’
But water is State subject thus the central government will always say it is the responsibility of State Governments/UTs Administrations. However, leaving the subject of rain water harvesting to States/UTs on the ground that subject of ‘Water’ and urban development including urban planning and urban water supply is a ‘State subject’, is thoroughly inappropriate and may only ensure perpetual water crisis in the country. It should be noted that ‘Swachh Bharat Mission’ was implemented in the country even when the subject of ‘sanitation’ is ‘State’ subject.
Though rain water harvesting is very important and its necessity is felt at the highest level its actual implementation is hardly seen at ground level and at the most implemented half-heartedly.
Absence of monitoring
For instance, for building and construction projects, the requirement of complete plan for rain water harvesting, adequate provision for open storage and recharge where local laws are not available etc. are mandatory. Similarly, for industrial projects maximum possible rain water harvesting and minimizing water consumption in steel plants by segregating used water and recycling treated water are the conditions to be complied with. Likewise, for non-coal mining projects usage of mined out area is mandatory for rain water harvesting purposes. But these conditions are rarely complied with neither in letter nor in spirit and the most states don’t have enough resources to monitor the implementation at the ground level.
Lack of data is a handicap
One of the greatest drawbacks of the government agencies implementing various schemes is the lack of accurate and up to date data. For example, the Ministry of Water Resources is managing with data available in Master Plan for Artificial Recharge to Ground Water, 2013 brought out by Central Ground Water Board (CGWB). There is need for updating of Master Plan incorporating the data generated by different agencies in coordination with States. Further, there seems to be no attempt to create a sustainable infrastructure by use of excellent technologies available through satellite mapping of ground water for assessing the water needs of each city by use of five sources of water.
Laws are there but enforcement is weak
Although the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs have come out with Model Building Bye-laws, 2016 and most of the states have made necessary provisions about rain water harvesting in their respective State laws which makes the approval to Building Plan and issuing Occupancy-cum-Completion Certificate only after rain water harvesting provisions are adhered to, enforcement of these provisions have not yet become stricter. Further, ULBs don’t have the resources or monitoring mechanism to ensure that wherever they are installed they remain in good working condition throughout their lifetime. Mandatory provisions for Rain Water harvesting in MBBL, 2016 regarding compulsory rain water harvesting for 100 sq. water for residential plotted Houses, avoiding concrete paving and use of permeable material in open parking spaces for Group Housing Societies, storage and recharge pits percolation walls for public and semi public buildings and so on are hardly seen as implemented at ground level and whatever work that is being done is for namesake only. So there is urgent need to strengthen monitoring system and make enforcement more stricter.
Although various rain harvesting technologies both traditional and otherwise, are already available with the State Governments, yet there is virtually no work done at ground level for the intended purpose. Rain water harvesting has not been getting the required level of attention at Government level in spite of development of a time bound national strategy for water conservation for long term water sustainability. A lot more is still desired on the issue and the modus operandi needs to be revisited urgently.