Rainwater harvesting is weapon to battle drought in state, says city engineer

Mumbai: The drought situation in Maharashtra is grim, with most districts having been declared drought-affected. Groundwater levels in the state have fallen, and officials fear that these will soon dry up. In Marathwada and Vidarbha, the continuous scarcity of water has left the farmers in severe distress for over five years and these areas have also seen largest number of farmer suicides. The government has failed to provide constructive alternatives to the farmers and has made them dependent on water tankers.

An electrical engineer who lives in Sion, Ashok Patankar has researched this topic extensively and has a plethora of suggestions. While urban dwellers view heavy rains as a nuisance, Patankar sees them as a heaven-sent opportunity. Patankar suggested citizens should collect rainwater in building terraces or other holding areas and when a sufficient amount is collected, it can be sent to the drought-stricken areas.

“Once the rains begin in Mumbai, the water can be collected in tankers and transferred to the drought-affected areas, instead of letting it run into the gutter,” says Patankar.

Building terraces should be considered catchment areas, says Patankar, a suggestion the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation has been consistently making to housing societies and builders. Patankar says, if this is done consecutively for at least three years, it might improve the groundwater levels as well.

He bemoans the waste of all the water that runs off platform roofs at railway stations and gets deposited on the tracks, leading to waterlogging. This leads to disruption in services. Instead, Patankar says, the railway engineering department could position open railway wagons below the roofs and yet again, a significant amount of water could be collected in tankers.

When asked about the potability of this water which he suggests be conserved, he says, “The water might not be potable but it can be used for bathing, washing and irrigation.” Patankar says the BMC could implement a 15-20 per cent water cut in elite societies of South Mumbai, Juhu and Pali Hill, where there is uninterrupted water supply for 24 hours. His grouse is that despite writing to the authorities with these suggestions time and again, they have not shown any interest. However, the Pune Municipal Corporation has forwarded his letter to the chief engineer for water supplies, who is yet to reply.

- Pratip Acharya

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