Rainwater harvesting, half-hearted effort

Rainwater harvesting, half-hearted effort

A building with rainwater harvesting facility. (DH Photo)

With the onset of summer, the pressure on the already depleted water tables is mounting and the situation is compounded by the deteriorated quality of water. And those who make the most of the situation are water traders. From private suppliers to big companies, they are thriving on groundwater exploitation.

By ignoring the traditional rainwater harvesting methodologies mandated by the municipal bodies, the citizens of the state, in spite of being heavily dependent on water tankers and borewells, seem to have not understood the gravity of the situation.

After Bengaluru Water Supply and Sewerage Board’s (BWSSB) regulations came into being in 2016, the civic body has collected around Rs 30 crore as fine until 2019 from those who have not installed rainwater harvesting systems. According to BWSSB officials, as many as 1,12,375 connections have implemented RWH while 76,231 connections are yet to implement and are levied penalties. 

New structures to be built on 30-40 sq ft area and above and old buildings built on 40-60 sq ft area and above should instal RWH, as per a gazette notification issued in 2016. But the citizens seem to be more comfortable paying penalties than installing rainwater harvesters in their houses. The BWSSB has also failed to meet the demands of water in the city. Anjaneya Reddy, an activist from Kolar, questions that when about 90% of the government buildings themselves do not have RWH, how can they expect private buildings to have? The callousness of civic bodies and ignorance of citizens are the reasons for the situation, he told DH

Penalties are low

“We are imposing penalties on those who do not have RWH facilities as per BWSSB guidelines but it is not making any effect as penalties are too low. And this is why many apartments have taken RWHs for granted,” said Tushar Girinath, chairman, BWSSB.

Meanwhile, the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) claims that it has not issued occupancy certificates to those newly built houses without RWH as per the civic body guidelines. Manjunath Prasad, BBMP commissioner, told DH, “Once the building plan is approved, BBMP engineers go to the building spot and inspect if the structure is being built as per regulations. If not followed, we will write to BWSSB and BESCOM not to give water and electricity connection to the respective building,” he said.

Some residents felt that RWH is a costly affair. “We have to invest Rs 30 to 40 thousand to get the entire RWH structure prepared in my house built in 40-60 sq ft area. The BWSSB is providing water at affordable rates, and why do we need RWH?” asked a resident from Bommanahalli, who wished to remain anonymous.

Experts said that the regulations cannot be forced but can only be implemented with a participatory approach. “There is too much consumption of water in the city. There are about 22 lakh taxpayers and BWSSB supplies at least 10,000 litres per family per month charging Rs 14 for every 1000 litres. But some families consume more than 10,000 litres per month. The BWSSB should charge more to any family that consumes more than the basic allocation. Doing this may force or encourage them to instal RWH,” said AR Shivakumar, senior scientist, Karnataka State Council for Science and Technology, Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru and a RWH expert. He had advised the BWSSB about this sometime back but the board denied to do any tariff revision, he said. He added, “The BWSSB should make installation of water level controllers mandatory for overhead tanks. They should fine Rs 2,000 for violators. This can save a lot of water.”

The BWSSB chairman mentioned that the tariff rates are revised periodically as per the rules. “We find our penalties reasonable. We will now focus on creating awareness about RWHs and other storage methods,” said Girinath.

Situation no better in other cities

The situation is even worse in other major cities of Karnataka. In many cities, there is no separate department to oversee the implementation of RWH regulations. “There is a clause where clearance certificates will not be issued if RWH is not installed in new buildings but nobody is overseeing it, no penalties imposed,” said Shakeel Ahmed, commissioner, Hubballi-Dharwad Municipal Corporation.

In a city like Kalaburagi where rainfall is scarce, the residents feel that rainwater harvesting is not of much use. RWH is effectively practised in Mangaluru city after the municipal body made it mandatory in 2016. There is also a move to allow a discount in property tax of the buildings with RWH structures. There are many takers for RWH in Mysuru as well.