Does India take Rainwater harvesting law seriously?

Updated: Aug 20, 2018

Many major states in India have already taken action to ensure rainwater harvesting is compulsory. For example, West Bengal, Chandigarh and Himachal Pradesh have made rainwater harvesting compulsory. And, cities like Mumbai and Bengaluru have also passed the specific laws to enforce rainwater harvesting.

India is a water stress-nation. Over a million people don’t have accessible drinking water and over 54% of India faces a serious problem of decreasing groundwater wells.

The Potential of Rainwater Harvesting

Making water harvesting compulsory is an obvious decision. A study conducted at Dahiwadi College in Maharashtra revealed that it required 6,418 liters of drinking water per day. Even though Dahiwadi College was located in a drought-prone area, it has a rainwater harvesting potential of 16,49,000 liters - this could easily meet 70% of the college’s drinking water demand. This is just an example of the power of rainwater harvesting at play.

And, yet while many states and cities have made laws regarding rainwater harvesting, there is a question whether these laws are being taken seriously. In the Indian context, it is always a challenge to implement laws.

Water Harvesting Laws

In 2002, Mumbai’s BMC mandated that construction projects of 1000 sq mts were required to have water harvesting system. Again in 2007, the BMC mandated that construction plots of 300 sq mts should include rainwater harvesting. However, the BMC does not have any reports showcasing the number of structures having rainwater harvesting systems in the city.

Similarly, the Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Regulations mandated that residential and commercial estates harvest water. However, only an estimated 77,000 properties have installed rainwater harvesting devices.

Failure to Follow Water Harvesting Laws

This leads to the question - despite the legislation why aren’t people installing rainwater harvesting systems? There might be three possible answers to this.

One is that people may not be aware of these regulations. It’s not surprising that any construction project has to jump through an innumerable number of hoops. So, it’s understandable how people aren’t aware of such green legislation. Second, is the lack of government support. The government should create several programs to help facilitate inclusion of rainwater harvesting.

Another reason is that the designs of current rainwater harvesting systems are not vibrant. Most rainwater harvesting systems require a large open area for rainfall catchment. We need to rethink rainwater harvesting designs. Rather than stand out, they should blend in a location and provide multiple benefits. This brings me to my next point. Sustainable technology has progressed in leaps and bounds in the last few years and there are innovations that facilitate rainwater harvesting. However, this technology still has to profligate to the mainstream market.

All of this takes us back to the main topic of whether India is taking the rainwater harvesting laws seriously or not. I am reminded of traffic signals in Mumbai which are never adhered to. Rainwater harvesting laws seem to follow the same vein. The situation grows direr. The average water consumption in Delhi estimatedly requires 3,324 million liters of water a day (MLD) but receives 2,034 MLD; a far cry from the water it needs. The lack of water results in groundwater reserves getting depleted quicker than they can be replenished.

So, to answer the question. No, India does not take rainwater harvesting laws seriously. It’s not just implementation that is to blame, but also unawareness. If everyone knew how daunting India’s water crisis is, more definite steps would be taken. Furthermore, simply creating awareness is not enough. We must give people innovative tools to take action and begin their journey into rainwater harvesting.

It’s not about following the law, it’s about ensuring India does not go dry.

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