CITIZENS FOR THE CITY – Lessons in saving as water politics on the boil

24×7 Supply Tops Agenda For Parties
For a decade since 2006, the city has faced recurrent water crises every year, even if the monsoons have been plentiful. Last year, water cuts stretched for 11 months, and experts said this year too will be no different.Water has topped the agenda of all political parties and the promises they continue to make about water to push for their gains in the civic polls next month are overflowing.

While politicians keep up the tempo on demanding more water quota for the city, many citizens’ groups, individuals and housing societies have taken steps to meet the challenge in becoming water sufficient.

Last year’s water crisis, depleting groundwater tables and mounting bills for water tankers have forced citizens living on Baner-Pashan link road to draw up and implement plans.

More than half the 55 residential societies in this area have installed rainwater harvesting structures. The committee members of BanerPashan link road Vikas Samiti visited societies to convince them of the importance of groundwater recharge.

The societies deployed dif ferent strategies, from chan nelizing the rainwater co ming down the nearby hills in to recharge pits to recharging borewells with rooftop rain water and even using the downward slope of the area to direct potential surface rain water deep into the ground.

Storm water lines within the ir premises were also diverted into the borewell pits.

Many other housing socie ties in the city are managing their water supply through rainwater harvesting. For Vimannagar society Lunkad Greenland, it was the rising maintenance costs for tankers which motivated the society members to initiate rainwater harvesting.

“We were tired paying for water every day . It was then that we decided to find solutions on our own rather than look at the civic body or anyone else. Through this rainwater harvesting we were able to collect enough water and from 2003 onwards, we never had to order a tanker,“ Col SG Dalvi (retired), a member of the society, went on to add.

With guidance from their teachers, students of Rashmi English Medium School in Yerawada, instal led a rainwater harvesting system. Students from this school co me from the nearby slums and the school’s management thought that this project would help them learn about saving water. As many as 13 students of standard VIII came together for the project.

Societies which have not yet opted for rainwater harvesting are learning skills to use water judiciously. Archana Terrace society in Kondh wa has mana ged the water timings.

“We store water in the tank and rele ase it for two hours a day. We have been following this routine all through summer and winter and we are used to it,“ Pushpa Chavan, the building’s representative, said.

The members of this society would earlier shell out a lot of money to order tanker water. They are now convinced that a good water management system is any day better than poor quality tanker water.

“It was difficult to convince the members, but they realized that we have to make judicious use of water and can’t go on using it excessively ,“ she added.

When elected members have been debating the 24×7 metered water supply for the last five years, citizens in Nagpur Chawl in Yerawada have meticulously drafted a detailed project report to implement a 24×7 water project in their locality and will have a separate water tank.

“It was the citizens who insisted and forced the civic administration to take up the plan. It will be the first area in city to have 24×7 metered water supply ,“ corporator Siddharth Dhende said.

In Sahakarnagar area, citizens pursuing a grey water pilot project with the PMC hope the project work will start soon.

Corporator Aba Bagul said, “It is not necessary that po liticians and citizens are always in conflict. In fact, citizens in my locality have played a proactive role to put pressure on the administration to speed up the approval procedure.The grey water project will be a first in Pune. If corporators don’t work, citizens must push them to perform.“

At an individual level, many citizens like Mohan Ketkar and Madhav Patil are doing their bits. Ketkar, a city-based researcher, developed an ecofriendly toilet which can convert dry human faeces into humus (organic matter) and utilize urine for vermicomposting in an odourless, pollution-free manner and needs minimum usage of water.

Patil, an electrical engineer, has been running a campaign across the city telling people to save wastage of water while bathing.

While citizens conscious and aware of the necessity to find solutions, politicians keep up the blame-game.

“Pune Municipal Corporation has delayed several projects. The state government has provided all assistance and help to the PMC to resolve the water crises. The ruling party in PMC has politicized water during summer instead of finding a solution,“ guardian minister Girish Bapat said. He insisted that it was because of internal differences within the ruling Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), the 24×7 water project was being deferred.

Mayor Prashant Jagtap refuted Bapat’s allegations.“The state government has held citizens to a ransom on the water issue. The irrigation department is not ready to accept PMC’s request to reserve additional quota of water for the city in the dams,“ Jagtap said. The NCP and the BJP are gearing up to make water a political issue in the civic election campaign.

(With inputs from Rad heshyam Jadhav, Nisha Nambiar, Tarini Puri and Swati Shinde)

Source : TOI