U.S. Water News Online
MEERUT, India -- NGOs in India are taking the lead in
promoting, and educating people about, rainwater harvesting as a
viable means of replenishing the fast-depleting groundwater resources
in the country. Most recently, the Centre for Science and Environment
(CSE), a New Delhi, India-based NGO working on environmental and
developmental issues, set up the second Rain Centre in Meerut, Uttar
Pradesh, India. This was done in association with local NGO Janhit
Rain Centre is basically a permanent exhibition that helps people
easily understand the process of rainwater harvesting -- explained
simply, it means catching and holding rain where it falls. One can
store it in a tank or use it to recharge groundwater. The first Rain
Centre was set up by CSE in the south Indian state of Tamil Nadu in
India's water crisis has deeply aggravated in the past few years,
with hundreds of farmers being pushed to suicide by a consistently
failing monsoon. Farmers who depend solely on natural water bodies
for farming are the worst hit. Scarcity of water for domestic use has
also made day-to-day living a struggle. The situation makes mandatory
promoting water conservation on a war footing. Rainwater harvesting
is perhaps the most crucial element of this strategy; according to
experts, 85 percent of rainwater currently flows into the sea.
CSE is currently collaborating with local NGOs for setting up such
rain centers across the country. The idea is to make aware and
involve locals in issues that are of immediate concern to them.
Sunita Narain, Director, CSE, said during the opening ceremony, "Our
main aim is to make people of Meerut district...aware of the 'real'
scenario in the region they live in. We want to drive home the
message that they now need to come forward and play a leadership role
in conserving this resource, and managing it well and wisely."
The city of Meerut well represents the worsening water scarcity
situation in the country. Situated on the banks of River Ganges,
Meerut once boasted of a large number of irrigation canals. The
population explosion the city witnessed did, however, take its toll.
The increasing demand for water gave way to tube wells, which, in
turn, fast depleted the groundwater table; today there are 45,065
tube wells in Meerut. Unlike four decades ago when water came
brimming even in a pit just two meters deep, the water table has now
fallen down to 20 meters below the surface.
The depleting water table is not the only problem; groundwater
contamination is another area of concern. The abuse of pesticides and
chemicals in agriculture is the primary cause for groundwater
pollution in rural areas. A survey conducted by Janhit Foundation
clearly revealed that people are compelled to drink polluted water
containing high percentage of nitrate and fluoride. Instead of
solving the problem, the government just constructed some hand pumps.
Another damaging factor has been the increasing demand for land
area; innumerable water bodies have been filled up to construct
multi-storied structures. Over a 1,000 ponds have vanished in Meerut
In this scenario, it is the locals that the NGOs are prompting to
come forward. Initiatives like the Rain Centre work best towards this
aim. Rainwater harvesting is a simple and affordable procedure, with
benefits that, literally, last for generations. It costs between
Rs.14,000 to 16,000 to set-up a water harvesting structure in an
average sized house.
If every city, town and village adopts and implements
rainwater-harvesting techniques, the water crisis can be tackled
easily. Even the failure of monsoon for a year or two would not
create a catastrophe, as the groundwater resources would be
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