Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Rainwater Harvesting

Last year, while working on a World Bank project on reforming Water and Sanitation Agencies (WASAs) of Punjab, I came across this astonishing fact: Groundwater in Lahore is being depleted 3 metres each year due to pumping for household and commercial use. This was a shocking revelation since Lahore received ample rainwater in the past few years. Further research highlighted that the water level had fallen 60feet from 1993 to 2012. Not only does the fall in water level make it harder to pump water out, it also exposes the citizens to arsenic waste that is found deep underground.
While working on the same project I met Dr. Nasir Javed, the geriatric but focused CEO of the Urban Unit. Mr. Javed is a big critic of the WASAs and their service delivery. He blamed the attitude of WASA higher ups for the fall in the ground water level. The overpumping of groundwater with tubewells seemed to be the problem. Moreover, WASAs had to buy extra equipment to remove water from flooded roads in monsoon season, which flushed water into sewers without recharging the ground warer. Mr. Javed was also working on a project known as "Rainwater harvesting". This entailed using the water from rains in Lahore - which is quite abundant in the summers - and using it for non-potable measures such as toilets and washing. Moreover, this harvesting also recharges the underground water aquifer. This project would also prevent flooding of roads since the water would seep underground in the artificial ponds.
More research helped me look at other places this practice had taken place. In Chennai, India, a law was passed to install rainwater harvesting equipment in all homes and offices in a period of one year. This practice helped raise the water level from 50feet to just five feet. Moreover, the water qualify improved. 
Dr. Javed's appeals to the government finally bore fruit in 2014 when an amendment was proposed to the LDA zoning and building regulations requiring "all buildings to be constructed in future in Lahore should have provision for rooftop rainwater harvesting. Collected rainwater may be utilised for all purposes other than drinking." A similar law was passed in Chennai which helped the municipal government raise water level.
As of 10th June 2014, LDA plans 39 water catchment points to be used for Rainwater harvesting. Two of these are underconstruction at Qaddafi Stadium and Lakshmi Chowk.