GOA, India, October 7, 2004 (ENS):
Rainwater harvesting means catching and holding rain
where it falls and using it. It can be stored in tanks
or used to recharge groundwater. From this seemingly
simple idea, India is learning some great lessons.
If you search for the term on Google, the Internet
throws up around 64,000 links. Out of these as many
as 23,200 links are related to India in one way or another.
Citizens can harvest rain right in their own homes
by making use of a dried up bore-well, a row of soak-pits
or tanks hidden below the ground, or even a traditional
well from which water is drawn. Open spaces, like rooftops
and ground, can be used as the catchment surface - to
catch the rain. Costs vary; but rainwater harvesting
does not require major construction work.
The New Delhi based Centre for Science and Environment
(CSE) has worked on this for many years. "Our ancestors
harvested rain just as naturally as they tilled the
ground to grow crops," CSE says. "We lost
touch with these local solutions. But now, as the taps
dry up, more and more people are reviving this age-old
system and practicing it very successfully."
In a country like India, where life is dependent on
rainfall in large parts of the country, a lot of work
is being done to raise public awareness of rainwater
harvesting. Centers have been set up in places like
Meerut and Chennai, formerly known as Madras.
Marches have been held around dry desert regions like
Jodhpur to promote awareness of the importance of water.
Pioneers who protected traditional water harvesting
systems have been given recognition and respect. Seminars
have been held on rainwater harvesting. Rainwater harvesting
is also studied in urban housing apartments. rainwater
harvesting traditions from diverse parts of the country
are studied and appreciated.
New tools are being used to augment ancient skills.
The Internet is proving to be a great place to spread
and build awareness over rainwater harvesting.
People can go to www.rainwaterharvesting.org and calculate
the "runoff" for specific localities in India
- the water they could save if rainwater harvesting
was in place.
India, like other countries in the Third World, is
facing a serious water crisis. In Delhi, the groundwater
level has fallen as much as 32 feet in the last decade.
In North Gujarat, it has gone down down 1,500 feet;
in Saurashtra western India it is 500 feet.
Six of India's federal states face severe drought.
Even Cherrapunji - the spot in northeastern India, once
called the wettest place in the world - with its annual
12,000 millimeters of rain - faces an acute water problem
The Malnad areas in South India with 3,000 mm have
started experiencing drinking water problems. A study
by the Sri Lanka based International Water Management
Institute (IWMI) states that South India will be among
the worst hit areas for water shortage by 2025.
Roofs are the biggest catchment opportunity for a city
dweller, and roof-water harvesting can be deployed in
A rural farmer has many other areas where he can harvest
water. He can even afford to ignore the roof-water.
But in smaller rural towns, houses or poor people's
colonies, roofs are major sources for harvesting.
Farmer, writer, rain-taker
From the farm to the pen. That's the story of Shree
Padre. He calls himself a farmer by profession, and
journalist by obsession. He has authored five books
on the subject of rainwater harvesting. Most are in
the regional language of Kannada, while one is in English,
"Rainwater Harvesting," Altermedia, Kerala,
For the last six years, Padre has been collecting success
stories and information on rainwater harvesting from
around the world. "Rainwater harvesting now is
knocking out so much of my creative time that my farming
gets a blow," he half-complains.
Before that, he worked to set up "Adike Patrike,"
a popular farm magazine that he edited for 12 years.
This means Padre has become a pioneer in coastal South
India for spreading farm-journalism, or farmer-to-farmer
His slogan is "pen to the farmers." Through
many workshops, his team has helped farmers to write
for their fellow-farmers.
Padre has been instrumental in showing ordinary men
a simple way by which they can increase their water
supply. Using this information, hundreds of farmers
in six districts of South India have been harvesting
Padre has built up a collection of slides and photographs,
and has put up some 200 slideshows on rainwater harvesting,
mainly for farmers and students.
He has done studies on surangas, man-made caves for
water, a unique traditional water harvesting system
of Kasaragod in South India's Kerala state. He has studied
madakas, traditional percolation ponds, of coastal Karnataka
and Kasaragod, which have by now almost vanished.
He emphasizes in-situ, low-cost methods of harvesting
rain that can be implemented even without subsidies
and external help. For example, in an urban house, if
there is a dug well, the groundwater can be re-charged
using the service well. Or even a dry, abandoned well,"
Over the years, Padre says has been able to use his
communication skills in fighting the aerial spraying
of endosulfan pesticides that foul water supplies.
"Farmers, city-dwellers and people from all walks
of life have been experiencing worsening water shortages
year after year," says Padre. "We, at the
farm magazine 'Adike Patrike,' put the subject of rainwater
harvesting on top priority in 1995."
From September 1996, they started a feature series
in the subject. "Once we got in touch with the
nongovernment sector, the small groups and messiahs
of rainwater harvesting, we were lucky to gather a mountain
of information," says Padre.
He believes in catering to the "information-needy."
He points to experiments from across India undertaken
by "rainwater harvesting achievers" like Shyamjibhai
Antala and Rajender Singh from remote North India.
Rainwater harvesting is possible in most areas. "The
principle is the same everywhere," says Padre.
"But the methodology has to be applied to studying
local geographical situations, soil type, rainfall,
slope of land and many other aspects."
One of the best sites explaining what rainwater harvesting
is all about is located at: http://www.rainwater-harvesting.org
Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2004. All