Delayed monsoon this summer has set the alarm bells ringing across the country with reports of acute water scarcity in Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Rajasthan. The travails of the residents of Chennai to get a few cans of water hit the headlines. Cautioning that it could be the likely scenario for several cities across India, NITI Aayog released a report recently.
It said at least 21 cities, including Delhi, Bengaluru, Chennai and Hyderabad, would run out of ground water by 2020 affecting about 100 million people and that 40% of Indians would have no access to clean drinking water by 2030.
An official report released by the Telangana State’s Ground Water Department said over-exploitation of ground water and deficit rainfall last year have resulted in depletion of water table in 26 out of 33 districts in the State.
These reports of a bleak scenario brought the focus back to rainwater harvesting that was taken up a few years ago in the combined State. Back then, directions were issued by the Municipal Administration and Urban Development Department to make rainwater harvesting mandatory at residences, apartment complexes and institutions.
However, it turns out that many structures have just become ornamental or dysfunctional in the absence of maintenance.
Kalpana Ramesh of Society for Advancement in Human Endeavour (SAHE), a not-for-profit body working towards improving ground water situation in the city, says, “Ever since the recent Chennai scare, people are willing to take suggestions to improve the water condition. The appeal for proper maintenance of RWH structures and setting up new ones is getting traction in their social media campaign”. The city imports water from 200 km away plugging Godavari and Krishna water as it does not have enough to sustain any more. It is because people and communities remained indifferent to water conservation for long. Earlier, water was available at just 40-foot deep and now, even at 2,000 ft, one is not sure to strike potable water. At the same time, ground water contamination has become a huge concern. Of 3,000 water bodies that existed once, there are mere 400 lakes in the HMDA limits, including 185 in the jurisdiction of Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC).
The city is losing 13 lakes a year adding to the dismal ground water situation. Thus, SAHE has been approaching communities asking for their participation in water conservation efforts to slowly reverse the trend of depleting ground water level.
“Without conserving rainwater, the growing population of the city, 1.2 crore now from 17 lakh in 1970, would soon lose its most precious finite resource – water. The struggle of our own children for water is going to be much bigger. Sadly, even big gated communities lack proper rainwater harvesting structures. At least 80% of RWH pits/structures do not work in Hyderabad or rainwater flows over clogged and neglected structures,” says Kalpana.