How do you tackle a water crisis in your area? Find a solution yourself. At least that's what the residents of Naigaon police quarters have done, with help from an NGO. Where they once received just 15 minutes of water supply a day from the BMC, woefully little for the 10,000 residents of the area, now, thanks to rainwater harvesting, they have 33.8 million litres of water, enough to last them another year.
Dr Rashneh Pardiwala, founder director of CERE, shows where the rainwater harvesting project was installed in Naigaon. Pic/Bipin Kokate
2,335 families affected
The police precinct houses 2,335 families of the constabulary, a municipal school and a police hospital. It also serves as a base for three battalions and many special units. There are three large training grounds and national level sportspersons practising at the hockey maidan. Despite this, for the past 15 years, the locality has been receiving less than 15 minutes of municipal water supply each day. "Every summer, delegations of cops' families come to us begging for a solution. Also, whenever training camps were held, which happens at regular intervals, we had to arrange for water tankers, as we never had enough drinking water," said Additional Commissioner (Armed Police) Aswati Dorje. "And, during the monsoon, the ground would get completely waterlogged. We wanted to fix all these problems permanently," said Dorje.
NGO to the rescue
Then, the Centre for Environmental Research and Education (CERE) came to the cops' rescue, suggesting a solution. "For the past three years, we were working with the Mumbai police to plant 500 native trees in Naigaon, under the Urban Afforestation Project. During one of those visits, we learnt about the acute water shortage and flooding problem in the area. We asked the administration if we could do rainwater harvesting here, and after a survey, gave them a presentation. We received the go-ahead immediately," said Dr Rashneh Pardiwala, founder and director of CERE.
"We got approval in March and literally worked day and night for three-and-a-half months to get the system up and running," said Dr Pardiwala, beaming.
Mumbai Police Commissioner Dattatray Padsalgikar inaugurating the rainwater harvesting system last week
Seven defunct borewells
During the survey, CERE found that there was one open well and nine borewells in the area that had been drilled to supplement water supply. But, the well ran dry soon after the monsoon, while seven of the borewells were defunct. The remaining two yielded water intermittently.
Dr Pardiwala said, "People think rainwater harvesting only involves collection of rainwater from the terrace or other ways and storing it in an underground tank. But, it can also be done by creating a water basin under material that will help water percolate through the soil into the water table under the ground."
As part of the plan, each borewell was re-bored to remove soil and debris that had choked them. New boring and casing pipes were fitted and an entire new set of submersive pipes were installed and a new system was placed to control the borewells.
"When rain arrived, the very first change we noticed was that there was absolutely no waterlogging. Earlier, one rain shower was enough to flood the grounds," said Dorje. "The water, which accumulated underground, recharged all the borewells giving enough water to the police colony and the ground," said Dorje.
According to estimates, the project that cost Rs. 31 lakh and was funded by Corporate Social Responsibility, has harvested 33.8 million litres of rain water, benefitting 2,335 families living across the colony. "With each family comprising at least four members, the beneficiaries are around 10,000 people, plus recruits, trainees and sportsmen, who use the grounds. When the ground water gets recharged it impacts at least 5km of wells, recharging them with new water. When the water was tested in the lab, we were told it was not potable at the moment, but over a period of time when the soil starts its own filtration, it will be potable," said Dr Pardiwala.
Much-needed, says CP
The project was inaugurated after the monsoon by Police Commissioner Dattatray Padsalgikar. During the event, when one of the outlets was opened, a 10-foot-high water fountain gushed out showing the amount of water collected during the monsoon. "This initiative was much-needed as it was getting difficult for us to manage the water crisis in the area. This project has been a great success and we are considering taking it up in other police grounds, too," said Padasalgikar.
Eye on green precinct
"The Naigaon area is looking at creating a 'Green Precinct'. We are working on putting solar panels in the community hall, to make it self-reliant for energy. Also, we have a vermicompost initiative, which produces compost every week. We are also thinking of taking this water harvesting initiative on different police grounds across the city," said Dorje.
How it was done
Around 1,150 cubic metres of percolation trenches were created and filled with stones to allow rainfall to seep into the ground water. Trenches were dug around the grounds and filled with boulders and stones of different sizes to facilitate percolation. Above it, green netting was laid to ensure no dirt choked the trench.
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