Every drop of natural freshwater we enjoy comes from the rain. Most of the rain falls roughly around the same time, almost at the same measure globally, with occasional spatial and temporal variations. All the life forms of the planet live on this. Rain is indeed our mother, it nourishes everything.
Life on land exists only because just about 0.5% more water falls on it than that evaporated from it. This excess water flown through the lands made civilisations and modern development possible.
Accessibility and availability of freshwater are increasingly threatened and we are running out of it in many parts of the world. Urbanisation increases the land area covered by pavements, roads and buildings and water has nowhere to go, causing floods and everything finally get into the oceans, depleting water resources on the land, threatening the existence of all life forms.
The only solution is to collect and store water. Period.
This is called rainwater harvesting (RWH). There are many time-tested methods and several societies have been saved from drought by this simple measure. There are many champions of this across the world, in our country and in each of our regions.
We need a national initiative on RWH and this is the time to strengthen it, as we are just about to get the Southwest monsoon, 75% of the country’s rainfall and (sic) consequent floods.
In case you do not have it already, please conserve rainwater falling on your roof and land. Simple measures are available for homes, small buildings, housing plots and large areas. Take a look at the web page, http://www.iccwindia.org/…/one-day-interactive-session-rai…/ for more details.
The RWH program of Karnataka State Council for Science and Technology has produced a fine document called Amrutavarshini, written by Mr A R Shivakumar, giving every possible detail on how to do RWH at home. It is freely downloadable at, http://www.kscst.iisc.ernet.in/amru…/amruthavarshini_eng.pdf
There are numerous resources available on the Internet. The union and state governments, voluntary agencies, societies and individuals have programs on RWH. There are also practical support groups available, which offer turn-key solutions.
In this lockdown period, this will be a great self-help that you can do to yourself, to help the country and the world. Walk around your house, apartment complex, building, etc., and see if rainwater is harvested. If not, do it. It is as simple as taking a pit and putting some gravel to fill it so that water runs into it and percolates underground. There are of course details as to how to do it better. But this is a good starting point, especially when resources and time are limited.
It is an unbelievably large amount of water we are losing if we do not harvest. In rural India, 70 litres of water per day is taken as the need per person, that can be provided by the state. Therefore, for a five-member family, we need 127750 litres of water per year. If you are in the state of Kerala, the average rainfall is 310 cm per year and if the whole of it is collected for ten cents of land, which most people have in that state, it is about 1254000 litres. This shows that for essential needs can be met with just about one-tenth of that quantity or water collected from one cent of land! A good storage system is needed, or you can let mother Earth take all of it so that neighbours and the ecosystem too get its benefit.
Can this be done? Yes, of course.
This will not only solve our water crisis but also floods. Availability of freshwater can lessen the burden of people, make more time available at home for productive activities and as a result contribute to the overall well-being of the country.
As a first measure, we can ensure that every school collects rainwater. We have about 1.5 million schools in the country and all of them are under lockdown. The parent-teacher associations can ensure that rainwater is collected in the school compound. This can happen in the next couple of weeks before the rain arrives. Every public establishment can do this. There could be a national directive to ensure that this happens during lockdown.
In India, average rainfall is about 65 cm per year and that would translate to about 1550 cubic meter of water available for each one of us. This number suggests that India is water-stressed. But a state like Kerala is water-rich with average freshwater availability of 3400 cubic meters, just about double of the Indian average. There are other states even richer in water availability. But one thing is certain, with an efficient plan for RWH, India need not be thirsty at all.
Good thing to know is that resources are available for this right now, if only we plan it well. Our Finance Minister has just announced an additional package of Rs. 40,000 crores for Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) to increase employment opportunities in villages. Part of this money may be used to ensure that every government establishment has efficient RWH methods established before monsoon, Prof. Anil Gupta, Founder of the National Innovation Foundation (http://nif.org.in) suggested recently. That will also be a great relief for migrant workers, many of whom have come back to their native villages and governments are hard-pressed to find resources to support them. Here is a win-win situation for the states, the nation and its people.
Let us store every drop of rain.
This article was written by Professor T Pradeep,
Institute Professor and Professor of Chemistry, IIT Madras; Secretary & Professor-Incharge, ICCW