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Chennai Harvest

How some residents in Chennai are successfully conserving water.

Chennai Harvest
Dry Days
People queue up for water in Chennai
Photograph by PTI
Chennai Harvest
outlookindia.com
2019-07-26T12:02:48+0530

While tankers ferry water to meet the daily needs of the residences of Tamil Nadu’s ministers and high court judges on Greenways Road in South Chennai, there is a ­colony of more than 100 flats across the road that is self-sufficient in its water needs. The residents of Hiranya Apartments make do with a well that they have assiduously protected, ­maintained and recharged over three decades.

“We have two borewells too, but they are used only after making sure that every drop of rainwater gets ­recharged into the ground. We have kept the water level in the well above five feet, even during the current ­crisis, by cutting the daily supply by almost 40 per cent,” says Raghunandan, secretary of the Hiranya flat owners’ association.

The almost six-acre area of the complex is pockmarked with recharge pits of varying depths. There is a cement grating on the two main gates that traps the water and sends it to another set of recharge pits. “Not a drop is wasted,” says estate ­manager Rajesh. “This is possibly one of the few ­complexes in the city that is not visited by tankers.” This inspired a neighbouring ­complex to adopt massive rainwater harvesting, and dig three shallow wells, which have yielded water for over a decade. “Though there is a law that makes harvesting mandatory in existing and new complexes, it is not ­enforced. Many flat ­promoters do a shoddy job too,” says Shekar Raghavan of Rain Centre, which has ­pioneered water harvesting in the city.

Indrakumar, a resident of Pammal, a Chennai suburb, has successfully conserved water for more than three decades. Every Sunday, he educates ­whoever comes to his house on how to save and reuse water. “The soap water that every house discharges is the most harmful. I treat it in a bed planted with canna indica, which converts the phosphates in the soap into ­phosphorus and absorbs them. The filtered water is good for plants,” says the 69-year-old. Sustained rainwater harvesting, with much of the water passing through ­medicinal plants located on his roof, ensures a steady ­supply of ­drinking water. The groundwater recharge ensures an unhindered availability of water in the well in his backyard. His home is a field for green concepts, ­including ­composting and natural cooling. “He is a true green ­warrior of Chennai,” says M.B. Nirmal, founder of Exnora, a citizen network involved in waste ­recycling and water conservation.

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