It appears to be yet another wasted monsoon for the State. The State government and local self-government institutions have done precious little to conserve the monsoon rain received this year.
The State government and civic authorities seem to be going slow on enforcing the provisions for rainwater harvesting in the Kerala Municipal Building Rules (KMBR). Chief Minister Oommen Chandy had said that rainwater harvesting would be made mandatory for all buildings and a Cabinet sub-committee comprising Minister for Urban Affairs Manjalamkuzhi Ali; Minister for Panchayats M.K. Muneer and Minister for Water Resources P.J. Joseph; was formed for framing the rules in this regard.
Town and Country Planning Department sources told The Hindu on Sunday that rainwater harvesting was made mandatory for all buildings and provisions were incorporated in the KMBR since December 2004. The rules specified that “workable rooftop rainwater harvesting arrangements shall be provided as an integral part of all new building constructions” unless otherwise specifically stipulated in a town planning scheme. This clause is applicable to buildings constructed for residential, educational, commercial, and other purposes too.
Buildings with thatched roofs have been exempted from the rules. The local bodies concerned should enforce workable artificial groundwater recharging arrangements as an integral part of all new buildings through collection of rooftop rainwater.
Exemptions can be granted in exceptional cases such as water-logging or impermeable subsoil conditions to considerable depths. The Local Administration Department issued the guidelines for enforcing the rule on March 17, 2004. The government had taken a cue from a system in vogue in Tamil Nadu.
Though the State had been witnessing a boom in the construction sector, the civic bodies which issue all mandatory clearances for building construction have not imposed the provisions so far. Almost all areas in the five corporation limits, 53 municipalities and the majority of the panchayats faced acute drinking water shortage. The Kerala Water Authority had initiated punitive measures to prevent pilferage of drinking water during the summer season, but to no avail.
Official sources told The Hindu here that instead of forming a Cabinet sub-committee to frame a new set of regulations, the government could have well enforced the provisions laid in 2004 for conserving the water during the current monsoon season.