Solutions for a rainy day
Enter Rain Centre, a non-profit making and non-governmental organisation, which is on a mission to help people, across the city, to set up a rainwater harvesting system at their homes.
CHENNAI: As the deadline for science projects neared in school, most students would have experienced the rush of transforming cardboard into a ‘working rainwater harvesting model’. In 2003, Tamil Nadu was the first Indian state to pass a law urging every private and public building to set up a rainwater harvesting system. But outside the pages of our textbook and policy, how many of us have implemented these systems in our homes?
Enter Rain Centre, a non-profit making and non-governmental organisation, which is on a mission to help people, across the city, to set up a rainwater harvesting system at their homes. Since 2002, the NGO has been aiding households in restoring open wells and digging recharge wells.
“Every house is different in terms of size and soil. Looking into the two, a specific plan is formulated to meet the requirements,” explains Sekhar Raghavan, a director who handles a team of three and outsources the fieldwork of digging and maintaining wells. The Rain Centre works like a vendor that connects clients to residents and the contractor who works on locations.
After inspecting the area, the team assesses if an area requires an open well or a recharge well. They dig up an open well, which is used to extract shallow water from existing groundwater. Recharge wells — measuring 15 feet deep and 3 to 4 feet wide — sustain groundwater. In today’s world where buildings are constructed close to each other, recharge wells prove to be modern solutions. For these wells, the team revives and maintains them every two years.
In July, the Rain Centre’s team helped set up two wells in a villa at Sholinganallur. Initially, the villa used the water for gardening and now, they hope to utliise it for cooking and drinking purposes. Previously, two wells were added to an existing four at an apartment in MRC Nagar.
Apart from setting up wells, the NGO works closely with schools and architects, builders, and civil engineers to raise awareness. To popularise the long-forgotten practice of water harvesting, the team held a workshop recently at the Velammal School. “Water is a free resource, but we have commercialised it now. There is no need to pay and purchase water when the same can be done by investing in a rainwater harvesting system,” says Sekhar.
Double the benefit
These wells not only increase groundwater levels but the water stored here is rich in iron, helps retain essential oils in the hair, and moisturises the skin. The lack of proper rainwater harvesting systems leads to flooding on our streets, the director claims. He adds, “Rainwater harvesting is not an individual effort but it is for each community. Water should not be taken for granted rather have a sense of pride in saving it.”
As monsoon season inches closer, the director urges Chennaiites to set up rainwater harvesting systems in their homes along with a driveway runway so that rain that pours around the house is also collected. “The usual practice is to have systems installed on the terrace of every apartment, but the area surrounding the plot of the house is left. This is where the water clogs and floods,” adds the director. As the organisation’s slogan suggests, ‘catch rain, it’s free’.
Cost and number of days taken to dig a well
15 feet deep and 3 feet wide: Rs 25,000 and work is completed in a day
15 feet deep and 4 feet wide: Rs 36,000 and the work is completed in two days
15 feet deep and 5 feet wide: Rs 56,000 with completion of work in three days