Wednesday, March 26, 2008

A little History on Rain Water Harvesting: Policy and implementation

Rain water harvesting is not new in India. It has been in practice from the days of Indus Valley Civilization or going by some evidence as early as 4500 B.C in the Thar desert. Post independent India in 1980 for the first time during 6th Five Year Plan, Indira Gandhi had come with a Water Policy that involved apart from various schemes, development of rain water harvesting schemes enabling people to have water supply in India by 2005. 20 years have passed and the solution proposed has not reached everyone. In Vajpayee's governance, the same policy was revised in 2002 and included phrases "community participation" and "people" for achieving the same. The policy fell short of giving definite ways of achieving the same. It also failed to answer what government is going to do in this, what role NGO's will be playing, what financial assistance will be given etc. As a usual rhetoric, the amount of money earmarked for this was increased and announced. One good thing was that the Policy made Centre directly involve money transfer to groups interested in implementing the rain water harvesting techniques. Role that will be played by "local communities" was largely unanswered.

Many states namely Haryana, TamilNadu, Gujarat, some parts of Kerala, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh had already experimented with rain water harvesting scheme where simple techniques were used to conserve rain water for future usage when monsoons fail. The schemes were very successful. It helped poor farmers conserve water, save on electricity and reduced the dependence on monsoons. Some schemes were sponsored by Central Govt, State Govt and NGO's. Together, Karnataka and Andhra had taken lead in 1983-84 and 1995-96.

In 1999-2000, Chandrababu Naidu introduced "Neeru-Meeru" scheme and made it a campaign. He sent government offices, NGO's, scientists etc and made people aware of the mechanisms they can adopt to conserve water, help replenish water table, continue to make soil fertile. The scheme was a huge success. Of course, government alloted money, spread awareness, raised water table levels and there are many success stories of the same.

However, it must be noted that the scheme was largely dependent on government, although it did achieve success only because of the leadership of Naidu and the I.A.S. officers he chose.

The impact of this (followed by Gujarat having even better model to achieve the same) today is Haryana, Karnataka, TamilNadu have made rain water harvesting management mandatory in homes/buildings.

In TamilNadu, rain water harvesting center was opened in Chennai with the personal intervention by Jayalalitha after leading economist Prof. Swaminathan insisted on having one as Chennai was prone to heavy downpour every year. She was keen on opening the same in her residence, but finally agreed to have it in the center of the city. This center is a live laboratory that explains how people can conserve water through demos. It is free for people to go and see.

In Karnataka, Heggadadevanakote in Mysore district has the maximum number of rain harvesting systems installed. In Bangalore, it is mandatory for houses to have rain water harvesting systems.

In Haryana, you cannot have your house plan approved without a proper rain water harvesting scheme in place

It is largely left to people as to how they will utilize this simple, yet, powerful way to manage and store water.

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