Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Groundwater harvesting in states

It is a well known (and nightmarish scenario) that the groundwater levels in cities and the rural parts of the country are declining. In rural parts of the country, the promise of free electricity, and agriculture that is not well fed by canals (along with some wrong crop planting policies in which heavy water seeking plants have been planted) has caused a tremendous decline in the water levels. In some parts of Uttar Pradesh, there were recent reports that in some parts of the state, there has been a sudden cracking of the surface land crust due to a total absence of water underneath, causing a drying up of the surface.
In cities, the groundwater is pumped out by various authorities as well as individuals; all of this is done for satiating the growing water requirements of cities. On the contra side, water levels would normally get replenished through rain water seeping in from the normal watersheds and lakes inside a city, as well as through water seeping in from river-beds (most cities have some form of river running through them). However, both of these methods are in great decline. Rivers in cities are like drains, and water bodies are in a state of decline (recent reports from Delhi point to many of these water bodies being coveted by builders, or being used as a means to dump trash).
One possible solution that is being increasingly touted for cities is the use of groundwater harvesting by buildings. The reasoning goes that if each new building is forced to do rainwater harvesting all over its compound, then the water levels of the whole city will rise. Towards this end, the Bangalore Government is trying to bring in a low to enforce water harvesting in the city:

BANGALORE: Ensure your building is equipped with rainwater harvesting technology in the next few months. If not, local authorities will install one for you and collect the expenses later.
Even though the Act is applicable to the entire state, the government is concentrating on making rainwater harvesting equipment mandatory for all new buildings — residential and commercial — in Bangalore. Aimed at replenishing groundwater, the Act, once it becomes operational, makes it mandatory for users of groundwater through well or borewell to register with the Ground Water Authority within 120 days of its establishment.

This sounds very good, but in principle. In reality, this is already law in many places (including I believe in Delhi), and it has been a spectacular failure. Why ? Because builders do not do it, and they are hardly ever caught for it. Even if at some point they are asked, they do the great India money appearance trick, and presto, no more problems. This sort of law is only good when either people genuinely believe in this sort of welfare, or when inspection procedures are strict.

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posted by Ashish Agarwal @ 3:39 AM