It is absurd that something as naturally available as water has become a thing to fight for. Hyderabad-based architect-turned-environmentalist Kalpana Ramesh has a back-to-basics solution for it — use the rain water. Founder of The Rainwater Project and one of the seven women Prime Minister Narendra Modi selected to take over his social media account on the occasion of Women’s Day, 2020, Kalpana tells us how simple and convenient it is to harvest rainwater
When my husband and I moved back from the US, we lived in different communities across the city and faced water scarcity everywhere. Tankers became a part of life. What really triggered me to think about harvesting rainwater was the fear of the quality of tanker water for my family. I had old parents living with us. That’s when the rainwater harvesting idea surfaced up.
I first implemented it in my house back in 2011 and in some years my house became a tanker-free home. Progressively, I started engaging with the members of my housing society. Initially, people did not welcome the idea, however, during the scorching summer of 2016, a major part of the city was constantly asking for tankers and rationing water while the communities I engaged with the idea of rainwater harvesting pits didn’t need tankers during the summer or after it. Several activities followed since then, on rainwater harvesting and now I also work towards restoring and conserving the lakes of Hyderabad and drive ‘Live the Lakes’ initiative.
Studying architecture helped me in understanding building technology.
Say if a house is already built, is it possible to accommodate a rainwater harvesting pit in it?
It is very easy. Rain water harvesting system primarily comprises collection of rainwater, transporting it through pipes or drains, filtration, and storage. Every building structure includes a terrace and drains that could be used to collect and transport rainwater. For filtration there could be mechanisms or something as basic as stone and coal also helps.
Is it an expensive affair?
Not at all. Even the initial set up isn’t expensive. The amount of money one spends on sourcing tankers in a year will be the amount to set up the water harvesting systems. And in the end, it works out much cheaper and doesn’t demand recurring cost on water.
All you need is the desire to want to install a rainwater harvesting system. Drums of Rs 800–850 could also help.
Help me understand something. We all grow up reading and learning about the importance of rainwater harvesting pits, why then, as a society and culture, we fail to incorporate these ‘pits’ in our building structures?
Why do you think so? You help me understand. Even you grew up learning about rainwater harvesting in school.
I studied without being aware of what I was studying.
Exactly. We don’t connect with water the way we should. While we grow up learning of its importance, we fail to implement ways to conserve water.
You handled the world’s one of the most important Twitter accounts, that of the Prime Minister, Narendra Modi. Tell me something about that.
It was a great feeling that the Prime Minister chose a common citizen to create an awareness on the occasion of Women’s Day. Tweeting from his handle made a lot of difference and it reached a much larger audience. My tweet “Be a water warrior” has now become a tagline.
Do you have any tips for people that they could follow to conserve water?
Well, what is the source of water that comes into your house?
That is one thing that I urge individuals to know; that will be the beginning of understanding the usage of water in urban landscapes. And then could follow the ways to conserve water.