“It takes a crisis to wake up a city” – Water Management Workshop Chennai

ADDA Water Management Workshop, Chennai, June 2019

As we write this, Chennai is still battling one of the most eye-opening environmental crisis in recent times. The water scarcity in Chennai was not an unforeseen event. The symptoms had been showing itself as early as 2004. Citizen Matters reports on June 21, 2019 edition,” The 2017 CAG report had pulled up the Government of Tamil Nadu for the 13-year delay in the notification of the Second Master Plan 2011, a loophole that the CMDA used to permit construction converting agricultural land and wetlands based on the proposed Second Master Plan. The unplanned development lacked the necessary infrastructure to mitigate population pressure on water resources.”

With the water crisis breaking upon the citizens of Chennai like a landslide, ADDA, in collaboration with Citizen Matters, presented the Chennai edition of the Water Management Workshop on June 22, 2019. The event was supported by knowledge partners Eco365 – Sustainable Living and Rain Centre, Chennai and presenting sponsors Smarter Homes and WeGot with FOMRRA as Community Partner.

The Workshop Begins

The event opened with introduction and context setting by Meenakshi Ramesh of Citizen Matters. She laid the ground for the workshop to follow. The gathering of 70 representatives of gated communities in Chennai had to face some hard facts. With 54% deficit rainfall from the North East Monsoon this year, and Chennai having lost water bodies large and small that add up to ten times the size of the Velachery Lake over the last four decades, the water scarcity was inevitable. Citizen Matters set the tone of the take away from the workshop – the philosophy of reducing, reuse and recycle. “We have always been recycling. The common sense practices followed by our ancestors must be embraced again”, reminded Meenakshi.

Rainwater Harvesting

The Jayalalitha government had passed a state-wide ordinance in 2003 making it mandatory to install rainwater harvesting systems in all structures. However, surveys have shown 27%-52% of structures that did not comply with the instructions of the government. Disorganized planning and inefficient execution, rendered a strong initiative futile and fruitless. Apathy towards environmental problems has resulted in unaware citizens who are trying their best to be dynamic, fail. Most structures with Rain Water Harvesting (RWH) systems, are only collecting runoffs from the terrace. A huge chunk of the water falling in the open spaces get lost due to perfunctory installations. 

“Harvesting rainwater and then setting up borewells is akin to putting money in one bank and trying to drawing from another bank.” With this statement, Shekhar Raghavan, director of Rain Centre, Chennai highlighted the significance of water management and to trap in our renewable natural resources to battle the environmental crisis staring at us. Mr. Raghavan, an eminent authority on Rain Water Harvesting, proceeded to explain the various methods of rainwater harvesting, stressing on open wells – “Open wells are the insurance for the future.” Mr. Raghavan ended his note on the true spirit guiding environmental crisis mitigation,” Rainwater harvesting is a community effort. You should knock on the doors of your neighbor and tell them to start harvesting and then enjoy the fruits of the efforts as a community.”

ADDA Water Management Workshop, Chennai, June 2019

Grey Water Recycling

If there’s anything, the Bangalore edition of the Water Management Workshop had taught was, any water that can be used should not be allowed to go down the drain. The Chennai Water Management Workshop took the lesson a notch further and discussed about grey water recycling by Indukanth S. Ragade. Busting myths of stench and concerns about hygiene, Mr. Ragade educated the gathering on the steps to recycle and reuse grey water. 

“People might think there are too many chemicals in the water used in the kitchen and for bathing and washing but it is not true.” He presented the working of the three compartment overhead tank to recycle grey water. The sections include potable or drinking water, water for general use and water for flushing. Having a hierarchy of water purity helps in getting these divisions done faster and easier at home or apartment setting. Hierarchy of water purity refers to the conscious decision to determine the level of pure water needed for each use. For instance, the water used for drinking and cooking and mopping floors need not have the same intensity of purity. Grey Water recycling for gated communities is indeed a possibility with the availability of a common garden within the premises. “Any local, water-loving plant, soil space and a moderate amount of sunlight is the minimum requirement for greywater recycling in your premises”, says Mr. Ragade.

ADDA Water Management Workshop, Chennai, June 2019

There’s Nothing Called Too Much Conservation

Meera K of Citizen Matters took the Water Management Workshop further presenting her tips on conserving and managing water in apartment units. She advised budgeting the use of water on a daily basis in our personal lives. She further suggested an understanding that not all activities require potable water to be accomplished properly. So certain water can be reused. For instance, houses with RO purifiers can use the discharged water to water plants or clean the house or wash the utensils. She presented the closed-loop zero-waste recycling model followed by T-Zed of Bengaluru as a sustainable model. 

ADDA Water Management Workshop, Chennai, June 2019

Peeyush Kothari of Eco365 and Kasturi Rangan of SmarterHomes made the audience aware of products available in the market that will assist them in economizing water usage in their homes. 

Harsha Koda, the member of FOMRRA, shared his experiences of implementing RWH in his community. “We were able to save 5000 liters over the last 25-minute spell of rain this week”, he said referring to the short spell of rain that hit Chennai recently.

The Workshop ended with Angshuman from ADDA informing the audience about how the ADDA App can be used to track and monitor water tankers and prevent pilferage.

ADDA Water Management Workshop, Chennai, June 2019

Water, once gone, will never come back. This is not something we are unaware of. Apart from sharing useful takeaways, what the Chennai Water Management Workshop taught us was how avoidable this present water crisis was if only the right steps were taken at the right time. Perhaps nothing can best sum up the objective of the Water Management Workshop in Chennai than the words of Mr. Indukanth S Ragade, “A time will come when the water tankers will not be available no matter how much you are willing to pay for it. Water is a very critical resource and we must value it.”

Also, read Water Workshop Bengaluru Edition.

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About the Author: Karnika Roy

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