CHENNAI: The #Rainwaterchallenge kickstarted by S.P. Velumani, minister for municipal administration, rural development and implementation of special programme seems to have gathered momentum with Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev, founder, Isha Yoga Centre, extending his support to the novel cause.
The minister had released a 52-second video on his twitter handle on Tuesday in which he can be seen appealing to the people of Tamil Nadu to “harvest every single drop of rain”. A part of TNWaterWise initiative, the challenge encourages people to take a pledge to save rainwater and post videos/photos using #RainWaterChallenge and #TNWaterWise. The minister had also tagged Sadhguru to partake in the challenge, as a start.
Accepting the challenge, Sadhguru posted a video on his twitter handle @SadhguruJV today. The 2-minute video also showcases visuals of rainwater harvesting systems adopted at Isha Yoga Centre, Coimbatore. “Rain is the only source of water we have. When it rains, we need to collect water and ensure it stays in the soil for a long period of time. Tamil Nadu receives rainfall for only 45-60 days in a year. To hold down the rain collected in 60 days for 365 days, we need to do water harvesting at all levels” he says in the video. He also highlights the significance of agroforestry in villages and talks about how future generations might suffer if we don’t adopt harvesting practices in the present.
However, water experts and NGOs feel that the initiative though ‘much-needed ‘is merely an effort by the government to steer away from the actuality of the issue. “Late chief minister Jayalalithaa was a great visionary. She understood the importance of
rainwater harvesting as early as 1994, almost 25 years back. It was made mandatory in 2002. This was at a time when other chief ministers in the entire nation had little to no clue about such a practice,” says Sekhar Raghavan, Director, Rain Centre.
“But can you tell me how many government buildings in the state have rainwater harvesting structures?” he asks. “If they have duly followed the law and implemented harvesting structures, they should be open to an audit conducted by a third party organisation”, he challenges adding that their NGO Raincentre is open to run a survey on the government structures.
“ The government is now going around conducting ‘audits’ in two lakh houses in the city checking for rainwater harvesting structures. But what about the remaining households? Does it not matter that rainwater is being wasted by the remaining 6 lakh households in the city,” he questions. “While urging people to harvest rain, the government by itself is busy constructing stormwater drains,” he says pointing out the government’s double standard.
“Stormwater drains are unarguably necessary but the same effort should be invested in setting up harvesting structures,” he concludes. Notably, the construction of stormwater drains last year on first cross street in Besant Nagar, a sandy area (which will allow water to percolate easily) faced severe criticism from the residents who had demanded that the funds be used to implement rainwater harvesting structures instead.
“The initiative is commendable as it can potentially bring about mass awareness among people. But NGOs equipped with knowledge of proper rainwater harvesting should be roped in to assist the people and government,” says Ram Shankar, founder Swaran. He also says setting up a ‘rainwater cell’ in each zone of the corporation will be efficient in the endeavours to harvest rainfall.
Considering the earlier stand of the government in which it outright denied the prevalence of water crisis, ‘TN WaterWise’ initiative, though regarded by many as an ‘attempt at damage control’, is a sure step forward. It is also the first-ever mass movement after the 2001 rainwater harvesting rule, which remotely addresses at least a few issues related to water management in the state.