Amid the ongoing water crisis and declining ground-water levels in Tamil Nadu, the state administration has directed all the government, commercial, educational and residential complexes to set up state-approved rainwater harvesting (RWH) structures on their building premises within three months. The government warned that building owners failing to adhere to the order will be liable for legal action.
Speaking at a review meeting at the Greater Chennai Corporation, the Minister for Rural Development and Municipal Administration, SP Velumani said, “All the buildings including Chennai Corporation, commercial complexes, industries, educational institutions, and residential complexes should set-up rain-water harvesting structure on their premises area within three months. We have organized a committee for this program; the local bodies will issue notices the owners of these buildings within a week.”
According to the minister, 14 corporations (including Chennai), 122 municipalities, 528 Town Panchayaths, and 12,524 Village Panchayaths were surveyed in the state. The government had found that close to 5 lakh buildings in the state do not have rainwater harvesting systems.
In Chennai, 2.35 lakh buildings were surveyed for compliance to the 2003 order and also to verify whether the RWH structure has been built in accordance to the norms prescribed by the corporation. Of these, 1.36 lakh buildings were found to have installed the harvesting systems alongside 3,850 new buildings.
Rainwater harvesting structures had already been installed in 37,131 buildings in the city which need maintenance. However, residents of 60, 461 buildings in Chennai Corporation have not installed harvesting systems on their premises. They have been instructed by corporation officials to install them before October.
The minister added that in 528 town Panchayaths, 14,000 government buildings, 2,412 lakh residential complexes and 2.34 Industrial and commercial complexes the rainwater harvesting structure will be set up. “People are aware of rainwater harvesting. We had already started this process, now we are fast-tracking it. We invite everyone to contribute to this initiative so there won’t be a water scarcity in future,” Velumani said.
Jayaram Venkatesan of Arappor Iyakkam, a civil-rights activist, says the government should raise awareness about this initiative. “The government should set up call centers where people can clear their doubts; they should create all these logistics and Infrastructure without which this cannot happen within three months,” he said.
He added that a building completion certificate is provided by the Chennai Metropolitan Development Authority (CMDA) only if it has a rainwater harvesting structure. “In an existing building, the residents can set up an RWH structure by having just a pipeline from the roof-top and connecting it to the recharge pit. A rainwater filter should be attached to the pipeline which will eradicate the dust particles. Given the amount of water-scarcity we faced, it’s the responsibility of every citizen to install RWH on their premises,” Venkatesan said.
How to install and how much would it cost?
Agricultural Engineer X Britto Raj from Dindigul said: “In every premises depending on the size of the area, one to maximum four structures of rainwater harvesting pit below ground-level has to be implemented. It has to be four meters in length, three meters in breadth and five feet in depth. It has to be filled with boulders for three feet and for another one and half feet, they have to fill 40 MM Jalli (Sett) and the remaining half-space can be left as it is. Also, the pit should be set-up six feet away from the existing bore well and in the Chennai condition, 1200 square feet household should have one RWH structure and close to 2400 square feet households should ideally have two RWH structure set-up,” he said.
Raj further adds that the RWH set up won’t affect the basement of the building. “Due to gravity, the water circulation will drop down vertically. So it won’t cause harm to your basement. Approximately, for residential complexes, the whole set-up would cost around 3000-4000 rupees. The cost and size of the rainwater harvesting structure might differ for commercial complexes. Once the residents intimate the local municipal office, the engineering unit from the sector will inspect and provide the certificate that their premise is equipped with RWH structure,” he said.